How can we reduce a columnar white oak's height and width safely? How will...

Asked June 3, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT

How can we reduce a columnar white oak's height and width safely? How will they respond to such drastic pruning? I have to reduce the height about 10-13 ft. and width by a few ft. Any advice on exactly how to do this without damaging the look of the tree? There are 7 that are larger than they need to be which obstruct my vision and are too close to the veranda. I need them to remain healthy and removal his advice to take them down is currently not an option. My arborist is beginning this process June 4th; however, he's never really dealt with this type of tree before in his 35 yrs. experience. Plus, someone used hedge trimmers prior to him beginning this project, and it wasn't working. What can we do? We wish we knew about this website sooner, or I would have included pictures.

Franklin County Ohio

4 Responses

Hi Franklin County, You have a difficult problem to deal with here. I would think that just letting the tree grow as it would normally would be the best way to go but you have limits on the growth. A Certified Arborist would probably tackle the job to try to overall shape the plant using hand held pruners. It would take a lot of patience to get the job done right. It would all be hand work and he or she would charge accordingly. The best way to proceed is to do the plunge cutting to remove some of the growth but trim back inside the heavier growth. It is the same that they used to teach on how to prune a Taxus plant to make it look proper instead of sheared off at the same level every year. You take the pruners and extend your arm inside the growth and get to a side bud and trim off. Then you do it again and again until you have the growth back as far as desired. It is definitely an "art" to getting it right.

I think it is the same with a haircut. They don't usually just hold the scissors up to your head and cut off a strip and then do it again and again. They use a comb or other device to give a staggered effect to the cut. That way it looks like you took each hair and gave it a cut at a different level and ending up with a shortened amount of hair but looking like you hadn't cut it at all. That is what a person with skill can do.

If you don't think the person can do this or it isn't looking the way you want, then you'll probably have to look in the phone book or ask around to find someone with enough patience to do the job.

As for the tree, it will set the tree back some. There will be a response to that much pruning. That response will be a lot of leggy growth -- you'll have to have it done again. It might be every other year to keep it in bounds. That is a normal response to heavy pruning.

I hope you find the right person to do this and they have enough patience to complete the project. Don

The trees turned out better than expected! My arborist did exactly what you suggested, and he executed your strategy and finished before we got your response. He was relieved you and he were on the same page. Thank goodness for 35 yrs. experience! I've enclosed a before and after picture so you can see the work. He said he wouldn't want to do this again any time soon as it took a lot of patience and balance, but mostly, it was hard to perform due to the location of the 7 trees. He had to use a tall step ladder since you can't climb them. Thank you immensely for your thorough response and help!

Hi Again, I'm glad you found someone with a lot of patience and skill to get the job done. Hang on to his name and company for future reference. I keep telling people that they should check out the people they are dealing with before they get a chance to mess things up royally. Usually they let the guy with the pickup and a chainsaw do their work and regret it forever after. Sorry for the delay but the question was passed to several people before I got to look at it. They had no experience with the question. Glad we could help. DON

No delay! I thought you got back to me fairly quickly, but if only I knew of this site prior, I would have sent it in plenty of time. This arborist works for himself and is very good. I totally agree with you. Many do not know what they are doing! At least he does. Thank you again, and I will make sure I use this site and the gardening site in the future. This is an invaluable service. I appreciate it very much.