I want to “Shape” My Tree

climbingmonkey24

Branched out member
Location
United States
What do you say to people who call wanting to shape a bigger sized tree as in trim back all around the outside of the canopy top to bottom and take it in more? Essentially like shaving an ornamental or shrub, you’re taking it in and tightening it up.

I typically understood this to not really be a good pruning practice for more mature trees, and will not do it. I usually recommend instead people focus on pruning deadwood, maybe trimming lower hanging branches if needed to raise canopy and any other pruning I think should be done.

If you want a shaped tree, plant an ornamental or smaller sized tree and trim it regularly to keep it shaped.
 

TreeVB

Branched out member
Location
Boise, Idaho
I’m my experience, the client does t understand what they need so “shaping” is what comes out of their mouth. They don’t always mean a perfect lollipop shape, just more of a uniform canopy. When they use that word, I just explain that we will reduce limbs that stick outside of the canopy profile as necessary/possible and that will usually set them straight. A little education with the right words that don’t go straight over their head will really help out. If they are dead set on what they want vs. what can healthily be done, I kindly give them names and number of company’s that will take care of their needs.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Walking your client through a clarification of their goals and desires then translating that into accepted practices usually gets them to understand that we don't sculpt trees into perfect gum drop shapes. @TreeVB is saying the same thing.

Over time my goals were to prune for structure over any other desire. A lot of time doing subordination to an over-length limb will result in a tighter canopy which is what our clients see all of the time. They are unlikely to ever remember out chatter about sub-ordination but we've give a two for one.

In a blank spot on the estimate sheet I'd write 'subordination', Trees Are Good, Dr. Ed Gilman for them to google and validate what I'm saying.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
What did we do before Google?

I remember a search engine called Dog Patch

There are some things about Google that aren't all good. But the ability to get reasonable information quickly sure does make life easier.

By using the local land-grant college and ISA as a validation it takes my potential bias out of the sales process. Clients hear some pretty wild stories from sales reps.
 

OasisTree

Participating member
Location
Central Missouri
And what was their response when you said that? Did you end up talking them into proper pruning techniques?
Yes I recommended side pruning for deck clearance, and raising the lower branches to 8'. His response? "Well if that's all that needs done I can do it myself. Thanks for the advice." And I really think that that is what they will do.
 

DSW

Location
Midwest
Around here you could have Ed Gilman himself talk to the client and it wouldn't make two bits of difference.

It's not just poorly structured Maples that were planted in too small of a spot or Bradford Pears, neither of which I get emotional about. It's everything. Small trees in HUGE yards that will never outgrow their area, topped before they ever reach 25 feet. Makes no sense whatsoever.
 

colb

Been here a while
Location
Florida
Like @Tom Dunlap said, structural considerations almost always have first priority before aesthetic considerations. Implicitly, health considerations figure in somewhere as well - usually immediately and slightly before or after structural considerations. This balance between the three changes with respect to the size the tree can be expected to attain, how much damage it can do to targets when it reaches that stature, and the desire of the tree manager to prioritize one or more of the three (structure, health, aesthetic).

Lastly, trees can be kept below their emergent stature indefinitely, so if the tree manager intends to do that, you can forego structural considerations entirely.

When they say "shaping", they may mean that they want it mushroom capped, "cloud" pruned, etc. It's up to you to interview them in a manner that coaxes out their true goal/s. Then, you have to consider whether you have developed the skill set to work on the tree in that manner. I am very straightforward with occassional clients about my nascent ability to work on garden pines in the Japanese tradition despite studying every scrap of English language available on the topic. I might be one of the best in my region, but that work is truly bottomless and I pale in comparison to garden pine tree technicians in Japan.

We're all where we are at, so identify your place and the place where your client wants the tree to be and make explicit expectations with them about what can happen in that space.
 

Chaplain242

Branched out member
By the time it is of size that needs "shaping" it is too late to pollard.
It still happens a little, but the ongoing maintenance burden usually dissuades most, unless unscrupulous ‘loppers’ do it without informing of the ongoing requirements
 

Stumpsprouts

Branched out member
Location
Asheville
When they say "shaping", they may mean that they want it mushroom capped, "cloud" pruned, etc. It's up to you to interview them in a manner that coaxes out their true goal/s.
Yes. It’s like a therapy session. Shaping, topping, these both are terms a client may use when they aren’t exactly sure what to say. It may take a while to find out their true pruning objectives. They may say they want the tree shaped, but what they want is, for some examples

More light
Less nuts hitting their roof
More clearance from house
Deadwooding
General fear mitigation (something more achievable by conversation, cabling, tip weight reduction on overextended limbs)
View pruning
Less height

And some of those things I’ll try to talk someone down from. And sometimes just say ‘no’.
 

colb

Been here a while
Location
Florida
Yes. It’s like a therapy session. Shaping, topping, these both are terms a client may use when they aren’t exactly sure what to say. It may take a while to find out their true pruning objectives. They may say they want the tree shaped, but what they want is, for some examples

More light
Less nuts hitting their roof
More clearance from house
Deadwooding
General fear mitigation (something more achievable by conversation, cabling, tip weight reduction on overextended limbs)
View pruning
Less height

And some of those things I’ll try to talk someone down from. And sometimes just say ‘no’.
I had a "nuts hitting the roof" client a few months ago. The pignut hickory was in a 10 foot wide recessed area between two rooms and they wanted me to prune it to keep the nuts from boinking the roof... The funny thing was that another arborist had subbed me to work with him on it, so I couldn't talk anybody out of it except to tell the arborist that nuts would still boink the roof when we were done, lol. He's used to commercial consulting, but doesn't climb or deal with single residential clients as much... I had a great day working with him and I am sure that nuts are even now getting nicely seasoned to boink that roof.
 

Chaplain242

Branched out member
I had a "nuts hitting the roof" client a few months ago. The pignut hickory was in a 10 foot wide recessed area between two rooms and they wanted me to prune it to keep the nuts from boinking the roof... The funny thing was that another arborist had subbed me to work with him on it, so I couldn't talk anybody out of it except to tell the arborist that nuts would still boink the roof when we were done, lol. He's used to commercial consulting, but doesn't climb or deal with single residential clients as much... I had a great day working with him and I am sure that nuts are even now getting nicely seasoned to boink that roof.
In some cases the nuts get worse - I am often asked to remove a smaller tree under a much larger tree that both drop nuts. The smaller actually decreases the severity of impacts, and it takes quite a bit of explaining to convey the understanding...
 

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