Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pruning Help Needed: Inquire Within


I'm taking a break from my Holiday Blogging Break to ask for help with a pruning problem. I have a very large 'Heritage' river birch that is planted too close to a large crepe myrtle. Planting large trees and shrubs too close is particular talent of mine. Yes, it's true: I am a garden genius!


Spring 2012

The branches on the left side of the river birch are growing more horizontally than the branches on the right. You can see the foliage of the crepe myrtle mingling with the river birch foliage in the top right hand section of the picture.


Spring 2012

When these were planted nine years ago I was eager to establish garden structure and create a pseudo privacy screen between myself and my too-close neighbors. I never dreamed they would grow so quickly!


Early Spring 2011

This picture is almost two years old but gives a great perspective on how tall the river birch is. It was planted to solve a problem with standing water created by an incompetent patio installer. It did an excellent job and is now massive.


These pictures were taken today and show how close the two trees really are. Removing the crepe myrtle isn't an option.


The vertical branch under the text is driving me crazy. Should I prune it? Ignore it? River birches tend to drop branches easily in storms and I worry that this entire branch will be ripped off in crazy weather, damaging the trunk. What should I do?

21 comments:

  1. Hey, Tammy, I just jumped over from my blog, per your invite. Nice problem, fast growth, but I'd cut back that entire branch under the text. Annnd, the right-most part of the one next to it, leaving a slimmer birch. OK, now for visual appeal, take off the birch's lower branches of the left side.

    Moving on, if you want more separation, take off the leaning left side of the crape myrtle – if you're willing to sacrifice some of that beautiful exfoliating bark.

    My suggestions stop here, but there's no telling what more I'd do if I were there.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do. Cheers.

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  2. Thanks, Lee! It looks like I'll be breaking out my pruning saw soon! Actually, I have removed the branches on the left since the photo has been taken. :o) They were driving me crazy one day so I went out and chopped them off. The birch looks much better without them.

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  3. Tammy isn't it great to get a quick response to our gardening problems when we need an answer STAT... It really makes blogging fun! I have been away for quite a while as a blogger but I'm still here. I just haven't the time to post since I got a new Job in a new city last October.

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  4. P:S.... LOL! I did do a recent post about a good Samaritan in New york city.

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  5. Hum....I too would cut the one vertical branch, but leave the horizontal. I think more needs to be done to the crape myrtle than the birch. I would remove about half of it, all the part on the left of the photo. And then cut it down to about half the height. That is just me. Not a huge fan of crape myrtles!!I keep mine very small because in winter they really are not attractive. The lines are all too vertical on crape myrtle, so the branches are not as attractive as the birch is.

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  6. Even thought I love a crape myrtles sculptural attributes you are just putting of the inevitable: the birch will completely shade out the shrub. One needs to go or move for long term success. Or just prune the crape to the ground every year and just enjoy the blooms.

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  7. Yep, I agree ... take out the entire branch. Seems we went to the same school of tree planting design ... I have several that are too close. Somehow we all manage to get along.

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  8. I'm no expert on tree/shrub pruning, but I found myself agreeing with all the answers here. First, yes, I would prune out the entire branch. And, second, perhaps the Crepe Myrtle would be happier in a different spot? Or maybe prune it shorter so it complements the River Birch as an understory tree? Nice problem to have, though. :)

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  9. Tammy, I think you have to prune the entire right (last photo) trunk of river birch. Why? When a tree has 2-3 or more trunks making the angle of the main trunk, they must be pruned. A birch is growing about 20 years and then its trunks are getting old, and can fall down. If you only prune the branch then many small branches will grow around cut down in next spring.

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  10. Definitely the whole branch goes, but it's still going to overshadow the Myrtle at some near time in the future. Although lovely, if I wanted the Myrtle most I would also look to taking out the Birch while it's still smaller and not too expensive to remove.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  11. I love seeing trees blend into each other, closely planted. But having said that, the whole branch on the right of the birch goes, as others have instructed. I was glad to hear you shaped the left side of the birch and it looks nicer, that was a needed move.

    I'm no expert on crepe myrtles, as I don't grow one, but it seems the crepe myrtle needs some stems removed too, especially the awkward one leaning toward the birch. And maybe thin out some more, give this a more vase like shape?

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  12. Can you call on a Master Gardener in your area?? They have been taught pruning do's and don'ts. Or call the extension office. Always prune back to a branch junction --- don't leave stubs. Shaping a tree should be done gradually over a couple years.....taking no more than 20-30% of the existing tree or you will get suckers at the base of the tree. Hope you get some guidance/help.

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  13. I am happy that you received some helpful answers above. I'm no expert, but when I prune, I use my third eye to help me make decisions on what goes and what stays....smile.

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  14. Well, if they were all growing in a forest they would be intertwined as they are in your yard. Each seeking the light they need and growing as they were meant to be. Or, if there were a problem I would only prune anything that was rubbing the other. You did say you wanted a screen.

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  15. I don't know much about pruning these types of trees but I like the sound of Lee's advice. I generally tend to take entire branches off than try to remove portions of them. Too much possibility of disease and further problems when a partial branch is left behind. I would take off part of that myrtle as well, seems like it's multi trunked so could stand to lose a large section off the side closest to the birch. Love the bark on that birch by the way, what a beautiful tree to have.

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  16. They're planted too closely? You should see how close I plant! :O But, if it were driving me crazy, i would probably prune off the one horizontal branch of the birch and the one stem of the crape that's leaning toward the birch. But, since I usually do a bad job of pruning trees, you probably shouldn't take my advice. Good luck!

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  17. Hmm, I wasn't going to comment on this one as I have a teensy little reputation for going to far when pruning. "No tree is safe" is a phrase used by unkind people to describe my vigorous style. I only have to stand in front of a tree, simply admiring it I tell you, and a family member will yell,"Stay away from that tree." I really wish I could come over and help but perhaps not...

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  18. Hope the pruning gets resolved! Good luck.

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  19. Hi, I would take out the entire branch that leans to the right in the last photo. Hopefully it won't resprout from the bottom. You'll want to keep an eye on it. ...That said, I'm no arborist so I don't have any expertise. :)

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  20. Hi There,
    How have you been? I have been away from the blogging world for a long time due to some reason which can be found in my blog. Sorry, I won't be able to offer any advice as I have no such knowledge :-(. But, I can tell you this - that they look beautiful and your garden pictures look awesome. Or perhaps you are also a photographer genius, especially in taking good garden pictures ;-)..
    Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it),
    KL

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