Summer is a great time to prune. Pruning spring blooming trees and shrubs soon after they bloom means you can prune without cutting off new flower buds that are about to form for next year. On many trees, such as birch, the sap has stopped running and you will not risk "bleeding" the tree. Summer pruning is also good for shaping a tree or shrub since it does not promote the vigorous growth that happens in spring. Since we couldn't work with soils this past wet Friday, we took advantage of the time to prune.
Our first line of attack was to shape up the paper birch trees we planted in front of the Performance Hall two summers ago. They are growing rapidly and the trunks are starting to change from reddish brown to the distinctive white we are waiting for!
Trees in this young stage of life are as awkward as teenagers and they need a bit of discipline and training. Add to this the deer that have been randomly pruning, especially the stump sprouts at the base of the trunks, and there is quite a bit of unruly behavior to manage. Our goal is to have multi-stemmed trees, so managing the sprouts to be future trunks is important. We thinned these sprouts, but left more than we ultimately need to have choices in the event future deer nibbling continues to disfigure some of them. We then focused on the canopies.
The prevailing winds and the angle of the sunlight are causing the trees to lean away from the building. We lightened up the south side of the canopy to create some balance, and further thinned the canopies to direct growth upward, reduce clutter and improve the overall shape.
One tree closest to the pathway, the tree that was the tallest, had been leaning dramatically for some time and our efforts to apply a splint to the trunk had failed. We took what may seem like a drastic measure and cut the entire leaning trunk down to the few sprouts at the base. Our experience has shown us that a birch this size will have a root system that will push out new growth quickly. Before long, there will be a decent size birch in its stead. Knowing complete removal of the tree trunk was a distinct possibility we used this opportunity to experiment with a lot of smaller cuts first, to see if less drastic cuts might produce a better form — it is great to have the chance to experiment when tree pruning, but one doesn’t often have that luxury and we happily used it.
The yellow birches in the hollow areas beside the Performance Hall needed some work too. Avy worked on removing stump sprouts and some of the lower branches to raise up the canopy on the largest tree on the right side of the path from the Performance Hall to the Library. In the process we decided to remove a 5” diameter red maple that was growing into the yellow birch’s canopy. This will allow it to develop a better shape. We also decided some of the other red maples in that area will need to go, but they were beyond the ambition of Avy and her 7” pocket saw! Meanwhile Cathy was busy with the pole saw and removed branches from a yellow birch on the left side of the path that were leaning on the Performance Hall roof.
When gardening under a canopy like we have in this area, pruning needs to be a regular activity, both for aesthetics and to manage the amount of shade cast by the trees for the dappled light desired by the many lovely woodland plants below.