Tree pruning leaves a lot to be desired

We need to plant thinking of how a tree will grow, but do we need trees on northern B.C. roads to be cropped straight up one side?

Columnist questions the style of tree pruning around hydro lines.

Too often we plant a tree with no thought to how tall or broad it might grow to become if it survives 40 years.

By then, what started as a short, spindly seedling can be 50 feet tall with lower branches reaching out 20 feet from the trunk.

That’s how my current problem began. In 1975 we planted a blue spruce well in from the front fence that runs along the street side of our property, incidentally under the power line.

Now the trunk has grown so broad little space remains between it and the wooden fence.

A month ago a two-man crew driving a cherry picker equipped with a mulcher, worked their way along our street trimming upper branches for installation of a fibre optics cable.

I watched them nip six inches off this branch, ten inches off that branch, not enough in my estimation to do the job they likely had been assigned.

Last week they returned. This time they aimed for drastic pruning – on one side.

They tackled the upper 20 feet of the blue spruce with a vengeance.

By the time they were satisfied with their lopping, they had sliced off every branch protruding from the street half of the tree, leaving an imbalanced skeleton.

All the weight of branches is now on one side of the trunk.

What will happen if a monster wind whips the tree back and forth during below zero temperatures?

Will the spruce snap off and the one-sided top section topple on my fence? Smash cherry trees below? Maybe even crush one corner of my roof?

I’m no horticulturalist – and obviously neither are the two men who butchered my tree – but the law of gravity suggests to me that a major wind could spell disaster here.

If that happens, who will be responsible for my repair bills? Rebuilding the fence in mid-winter? Mending the roof with new rafters, insulation and steel roofing?

Will it be the contractor who employed the crew who butchered my tree? Or Telus who hired the contractor to clear a path for their fibre optics cable?

In addition, the men denuded the center of a birch. Its smaller branches once they had been severed from the trunk drifted down, tangled among the lower branches and now drop out like dandruff at unexpected moments such as when I’m opening or closing the gate. Each day I pick up more strays.

At another yard corner, my  neighbour’s tall spruce has also been stripped clean along its outer half, like a cob of corn at canning time, reminiscent of the Group of Seven painting of a lone jack pine clinging to a windswept cliff.

Property owners have no say in these matters; no, making way for modern upgrades will proceed without consultation or our cooperation.

I wonder though, why  they need to saw off the entire upper portion of the tree in a way that leaves  the property owner with the expense of trimming the remaining tree to a safe shape and height?

For now, I have asked a qualified tree trimmer for an estimate to properly shape the tree to eliminate any risk of damaging fence, cherry trees or roof in case of stormy winter weather (perhaps combined with iced branches). I also hope that they can restore some aesthetic balance to the remainder of the tree and the boulevard.

In recent years I’ve planted four maples, a cherry, a magnolia, as well as a forsythia and lilacs but ten to 15 feet from any fence and well away from power and other overhead lines.

Claudette Sandecki surveys our forest from her home in Thornhill, B.C.

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