Are these trees trimmable?

Asked August 12, 2018, 3:14 PM EDT

Situation: I have what is probably a common problem: Planted 3 flowering pears and apricots about 20 - 25 yrs ago in an area i thought could accommodate them always. Things have changed - branches spread more than expected and have become a nuisance for neighbor; the trees have become MUCH taller than expected (30+ ft); I have gotten older and am tired of all the leaves each fall. Background: These trees are placed across the top of my yard wide wall to block the view onto our house from our neighbors. I did a what seemed like a lot of research prior to purchasing the pear trees. I liked their spring flowers, and that they were often the choice for municipalities for narrow spaces next to sidewalks, etc. A couple years later I added 2 flowering apricots. All the trees have thrived over the years. Over the past 5 or so years, winter wind storms have led to several of the large main branches snapping off. Fortunately no damage, but a lot of work to clean up on my part and my neighbor's. The spread of branches has also become a problem. They have been a real nuisance for my neighbor, who brought in a service the other day to whack off all the branches on both the pear and apricot extending over his yard. He is tired of the leaves, the flowering apricots produce hundreds of walnut-sized apricots that drop in both our yards, and he is planning on putting in a new lawn and wants to get rid of my over hangs. I don't blame him. I have done some trimming of the limbs over the years too. But now due to their height, many of the remaining branches have become top heavy, increasing the likelihood of blow down this winter, esp with no counterbalance on my neighbor's side. I have become pretty fed up with all of these trees myself and want to get rid of them. In addition to the branches, the maintenance, and the leaves, I would also like to replace them to give me more light in the back yard to have a veg garden. These have gotten so tall, the shade they provide does not allow for adequate sunlight for veggies. One last problem: the roots of both, esp the pears, sprout dozens of shoots each spring summer that require me to cut them off, which seems to only encourage greater shoot growth the next year. And the roots in general are problematic -- pretty extensive and large. In fact, a portion of my rock wall has collapsed. Would like to attribute that to the roots, but that just as easily may be poor drainage. The distance from the top of the wall to my neighbor's fence is 6 - 7'. the pear trees are about 12" in diameter, and about 18" at ground level. Apricots are about only 5" in diameter. See attached images. Questions: 1. My wife is willing to replace them, but has nixed the obvious choice -- arborvitae. Doesn't like the look of them. What other options are there? Criteria I am looking for - very vertical w/out a crazy spreading branch structure (I originally liked the spread as I didn't have to purchase as many trees, but didn't appreciate how much overhang would develop over 25 yrs), can fit in a narrow space, a mature height of 20 ft or so, no super aggressive root structure. Ideally a replacement tree would not be deciduous, but i would be willing to tolerate that for the right tree. I also don't mind if eventually the tree would encompass much of the width between top of wall and fence. For example, arborvitae (even tho not an option) can get pretty wide. I have thought about cypress - but gets very tall and they are expensive; the pencil boxwood, tho at some point years down the road probably require a fair amount of grooming (again, an acceptable option). 2. The other option my wife has suggested is trimming the trees, maybe even topping them. I consulted an arborist once about this, and he said the pear trees at least (being the more prominent) aren't really the type of tree that is conducive to trimming in a manner that i am looking for. And while we could top them, i personally think that would be really ugly, and my wife wouldn't like it once she saw it. which might help be accomplish my real goal which is to get rid of them altogether. :) But probably not a good way to get there. But if we did top them what would happen? Would the small branches below just continue to grow upward? 3. What is the life span of the flowering pear. I thought I once read about 25 yrs. Is that right? Can you help? thanks very much.

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

The main thing I see is that the trees were planted too close together which resulted in considerable vertical growth. I agree that, at least several of the trees don't lend them selves to easy pruning. You may want to start over. If so, know that attractive trees begin with early training.

The basics are in these publications:

That said, consider requesting on-site evaluations from at least 3 different Certified Arborists. (Such persons must pass a test and acquire continuing education credits.) Use your zip code to search at

When it comes to integrity of the wall, the tree roots may, or may not, be the problem of the collapsed places. Someone should be able to evaluate that issue when on-site.