Column, Tree Talk

There is a season, prune, prune, prune

By Gary Salmon

In early July I got a call from two members of the Northam Church concerned about the role a tree might play during the summer season on Sunday mornings. This sugar maple had been planted several years earlier, perhaps a little close to the church, but seemed to like it there and appeared to be thriving. Tree health was not the issue but the form.

Sugar maples not being trees to part with their leaves nor the branches supporting them, seemed to be causing some conflict among the congregation regarding their ability to enter this historic old house of worship. You see, in olden times women wore hats to church (Easter was the primo hat holiday of the year then) so there had to be a clear entrance into the church for obvious reasons. This sugar maple did not know that and had kept its entire crown, the lower part of which now hung low over the walkway into the church to the point that if you had a scalp itch it would be taken care of. Was there a cure for such a malady without damage to the tree? That became the question which caused us to meet at the maple with pruners in hand.

“Lifting” is the term for this cure and involves pruning the lower branches off until you reach a point where your objective is accomplished. In this case it took longer to overcome the reluctance of the congregant with the pruner, who had never done this before, than it did to perform the lifting. A few branches in a few minutes and the job was done with the added benefit of now being able to mow under the tree, perhaps even sit under it on a hot day, or have a congregational mingle after services under it.

Providential thinking may have played a role here as well, and as Linus used to say to Lucy, “the theological implications alone are staggering. Maples should actually be pruned in July and August to avoid the heavy sap flow from spring pruning. It is harder to prune when leaves obscure your view but, as this case shows, it can be done.

Stop by to see what a little work can do to resolve conflict and even increase tree use.

As for me, I am going to mosey up to Pierce’s store and prune out on apple tree branch hanging too low over a parking space. Then I am going back to sit under the sugar maple’s shade and wait for church to open.

Is there a tree in your life in need of a little work to improve either tree health, form, or the relationship between the two of you?

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