Designs, Tricks, and Schemes

Crimes Against Horticulture, Pruning Division

I can’t help but steal my post title from Billy Goodnick – the term is just too apt, in the case of these two juicy examples of bad pruning.

On the left, the power company seems like the obvious culprit but once homeowners plant trees too close to the power lines, what’s a company to do?  I shot this from my car last winter but I bet it looks just as ridiculous now, with leaves on that poor tree.

And on the right is the foundation planting in front of a gorgeous Capitol Hill townhouse, where two Euonymuses (Euonymi?) aren’t just horribly shaped, but pruned to completely block the windows.  This is the garden of a new client of mine, who impressively hired me to give her landscape suggestions even before she and her fiance had moved in!  I happily reinforced their intention to get rid of these hideous blobs, as soon as possible.  It’s a south exposure, so the choice of better alternatives is huge.

Posted by on May 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes.
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23 Responses to “Crimes Against Horticulture, Pruning Division”

  1. name and shame the bad haircuts!!

  2. Those euonymus blobs were certainly an easy call, Susan!

  3. Susan says:

    After the huge ice storm we had in Rochester in 1991, the power company went through and did so many trees as you show in your photo on the left. I found a real classic about 20 miles south of me a few years after that – they had actually pruned a hole through a tree canopy! The wires ran through surrounded by leafy branches. Thing looked like a bagel……..

  4. Riva says:

    Sadly, we have one of those power company pruned trees in our yard. To make matters worse, it’s a particularly weedy kind of maple, so the branchless side has what can only be described as beard stubble.

    In our defense, it was here when we bought the place and it’s healthy and gives us some much needed shade.

    Periodically, one of neighbors points and laughs. She says that the old woman who planted it knew it grow up into the power lines…”Not my problem. I’ll be long gone by then.”

  5. Jen. says:

    In Cleveland, those poor powerline trees abound; so much for “Forest City”. They don’t hire arborists to trim but rather butchers to hack.

  6. Thad says:

    Do you want more photos of those trees? Maybe we can have a contest because there are a couple of sure winners in my neighborhood!

  7. Siah says:

    Doesn’t the county (MoCo) actually plant some of those trees? We have one in our yard right under the power lines and I was told it was planted by the Street Trees program and that I could not remove it.

  8. anne says:

    I guess the previous townhouse owners valued privacy over aesthetics? Or maybe the pruning was a security tactic (who’d want to climb in those windows?). Or maybe they were vampires, trying to keep their place dark…whoever pruned those blobs did it intentionally..

  9. Laura Bell says:

    Trees pruned in such a manner are a universal fact where horticulture or wilderness meets with utility lines. It can get pretty comical. I’m not sure whether it offends my eyes more to see the one-sided shave or the trees that have had their central leader removed and are growing up on either side of the lines.

  10. Lisa-St. Marys ON says:

    My father butchered some old junipers in front of our house when I was a child. Thank goodness we moved not long after.

  11. Deirdre says:

    The city of Seattle just planted maples directly under half a mile of power lines. It doesn’t seem like a very good idea.

  12. KM says:

    Ooh I went to meet a new client a few weeks ago and every tree on their acre property had been horribly topped by her husband and his chainsaw. I’m not really about being diplomatic in such a case so I told her we needed to have an intervention for him.

  13. Ellen W. says:

    When I moved into my house last year the japanese maples, which had been planted under the eaves of the house mind you, were pruned into boxes. Yes, the classic gracefully arching airy tree of the Eastern West, had right angles. It made me sick.

  14. Laura says:

    Yep, we have two of those power-line pruned trees in our neighborhood. Interestingly, in our City’s Grow Green Landscape Plant guide, they designate certain smaller trees as “UA” which equates to “Utility Appropriate” and means they can be planted beneath a power line without causing a problem.

  15. Sally in SC says:

    You haven’t seen bad pruning until you’ve seen crape murder in the south… every spring the butchers hack our beautiful crape myrtles into hat racks and homeowners copy what they see the street crews doing.

  16. Peter in MoCo says:

    @Siah: unknown but I would surmise that most of them were planted when certain tracts were built up 40 or so years ago. Generally the newer developments in Montgomery have their electrical/phone/cable all buried underground (and in older neighborhoods, the teardowns generally have their pole-to-house connections buried also when the new house goes up).

    You would think for our taxes (county, state, and utility) that there would be sufficient resource for hiring a couple of arborists to drive around and do some CYA on Pepco. Apparently not though. And I am not sure what gets me more peeved, (a) weird tree trimming shapes; (b) no tree trimming at all; or (c) lack of stump grinding.

    Having lived in DC also, I would say though that the tree trimming situation in the city is 100 times worse than it is in Montgomery.

    Unfortunately I think everyone or -thing involved here (homeowners, Pepco, the county, and the trees) is stuck in an almost-no-win situation.

  17. DC Lacy says:

    The City of Seattle did the same thing this past winter. We have (or had) a lot of beautiful old oaks as street trees and now they look butchered. We have the ‘L’, the ‘U’ and the ‘bagel’. Every so often a conifer and a Big Leaf Maple took a hit. This not only ruins the shape, but creates problems down the road with adventitious growth.

    I think it’s a State or Federal law that mandate that trees can’t interfere with power lines for safety and of coarse, financial reasons. If you look, the cable and phone lines still go through the branches.

  18. Monica Felt says:

    Check out Plant Amnesty out of Seattle:
    http://www.plantamnesty.org/home/index.aspx

  19. Li'l Ned says:

    Thanks for the link to Plant Amnesty, Monica Felt. Torture and Mutilation is about right. IMO people who do decapitate trees should suffer a similar fate: perhaps not literally losing their heads, but at least a few fingers. Really. How do the trees feel about this?!

  20. Jason G says:

    Doing yeoman’s work on this front is http://plantamnesty.org

    PlantAmnesty was founded in 1987 to “stop the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs.” The nonprofit group uses a unique blend of humor and controversy to raise public awareness of “Crimes Against Nature” committed in our own backyards.

    There are some fine trees that are well suited for planting under power lines, among them:
    Wireless® Zelkova Z. serrata ‘Schmidtlow’
    http://www.jfschmidt.com/introductions/wireless/index.html

    Golden Raindrops® Crabapple Malus ‘Schmidtcutleaf’
    http://www.jfschmidt.com/introductions/goldenraindrops/index.html

    Winter King Hawthorne Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’
    http://www.halkanursery.com/Crataegus_viridis_Winter_King.htm

    Forest Pansy Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
    http://treegrowersdiary.com/forestpansyredbud.html

  21. Mr. L says:

    Pruning is hard to do! I have some raspberries, lavender and sage, and I’m never sure if I’m pruning them like I’m supposed to.
    I love trimming my shrubs though. An electric hedge trimmer easily is one my favorite toys.

  22. Tony Salmeron says:

    Why would you plant a tree right under a powerline when we all know that they’ll chop and cut through whatever they need to to sustain the power? Your client should practice pruning, practice makes perfect.

    -Tony Salmeron

  23. Gail says:

    I had a client whose home was foundation plants were arbor vitae’s about 6-7 ft tall and she wanted be to chop them down to 3 feet and paint the stubs green so they wouldn’t be obvious! I told her I couldn’t do that, either live with them or remove them (hmm I should drive by and see what she did). Other clients want shrubs pruned to reduce height or width and if I did that there would be only limbs left. I wish as others said the correct plant was planted in the first place!

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