Ugly Tree Work- The Good and the Bad
by Joseph Christopher on March 8th, 2015

I was driving through a Princeton neighborhood a few weeks ago alert for trees of interest. My eye was caught by a couple of examples of what I intially registered as nightmare tree work. I parked my car and knocked on a door. At this point I cooled my jets just a little a thought a bit, so I was not sputtering like an idiot when the homeowner came to the door. After introducing myself as an Arborist on a fact finding mission, I asked my first question: "Is that your tree there by the edge of your yard?" I was pointing to a 30 foot tall White Pine stump that had forlorn needles waving at its top. "No!" I asked if she knew the story of how it came to look like that. "Yes!" Then followed a tale of devastating storm damage followed by an acute lack of funds. Ah. Fair enough!

Next came the really ugly tree in her backyard. It was an Ash that had once been lovely and spreading wide, but now its crown was uniformly rounded over, each remaining branch end stubbed back and about six inches in diameter. I had a pair of questions already. "Was this pruning done for you?" "Yes!", and was it done to your specifications?"-again "Yes!" She followed with the story: "The tree was mostly dead and my arborist at the time recommended its removal. I told him that I'd prefer to keep as much of the tree as I can, even if it's all dead. I asked that the tree be pruned only enough to minimize the threat of it hitting anything. He did just that and now I love watching the woodpeckers and other wildlife as they visit my tree." There we have another good answer.

Now for the coda to this story, and it's absolutely true! As we were walking out toward the street, I noticed that a few of her trees had recently been pruned for simple deadwood maintenance. The Pin Oaks were at the edge of her driveway and not more than eighteen inches in diameter. A scuff on one of the trees lead me to look closer. I couldn't believe my eyes! Spike marks!  Some climber had mistaken these trees for telephone poles and used gaff hooks to ascend them. I haven't seen this kind of unprofessional behavior in years, and never before in my six years working in Princeton. I checked with the tree's owner, asking if she had been informed of the spiking of her trees either before or after the fact. A most emphatic "No!" You might imagine her unhappiness- she loves her trees! I suggested that she might call the tree company responsible for the damage and ask for an explanation...or maybe a refund! I haven't heard how that conversation went, but I hope she got through it without crying.


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