Tree Topping

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I was asked to help a fellow Master Gardener today at a luncheion. She stood in front of the group and told them how you could control the shape of your tree by just cutting it back. I thought I was going to fall out of my chair.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh dear.
Well, I guess it is true. But of course there would be consequences...
Then you have to decide what to do-
Ask public question?
Ask private question?
Give her a website address to look at?
Give her a book?
Give her a talking to?
Ask "higher ups" to intervene?
Ignore it.
So what are you doing/not doing about it?

Caldwell, NJ(Zone 6a)

Topping off a tree should cause it to branch well below the cut if it is a young tree, but it must depend on the type of tree. some branch obscenely easily. Some hardly branch at all

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

I would be interested in the training regimen of someone who claims to be a Master Gardener, and who would then make that statement.

I would suggest that their title be suspended or rescinded, and that they be brought up before the institution which grants such titles. This person obviously does not deserve the title, and should not be in the position to transmit quality information to the public.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Yes, I just kept my mouth shut. I guess what bothers me most is she stood there and told a room full of people it was the "right thing to do".
And the other thing that bothers me is she is "hired out" to do landscaping in people's yards.
It bothers me a LOT. I HATE driving around and seeing topped off trees. It's tree abuse!
I hate the fact that she is a MG and then gives this kind of advice.

I haven't known what to do, but thought I would ask you guys what to do???
Also, does anyone have a document to give to her that clearly explains not doing this activity?
If I approach her w/o documentation, she will defintely argue with me. I don't want to go there.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Very good reference folks about tree pruning best practices are members of the International Society of Arboriculture. There, you will find professional guidance for proper methods and admonitions about poor and/or dangerous practices.

I used Topping Trees in their website search box, and got 228 hits.

I would think any of this information would be good for you to be familiar with in general, and to have handy if combat ensues with someone argumentative. Some of this information is open only to members, and some must be purchased. There are yet other links to public information. You should decide which level you wish to reach for.

These three are quite straightforward.

Go forth, and enlighten...

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Wow. On what planet was this person trained?

Prominent in the presentation on how to trim trees were hideous "don't do this" pictures of topped trees. Either this person was misrepresenting herself, or the extension from which she got her training should lose its certification.

I manage four gardens, and it is amazing the dumb things that people who present themselves as experts do. My current favorite is pruning viburnums and lilacs before bloom, and pruning forsythia in the middle of the summer for that yummy burned look.

People don't necessarily carry around their certification, so you can't ask to see it (and you shouldn't be expected to challenge this person) but I carry my University of Illinois badge around in my car at all times. Perhaps the thing to do is call the local extension office and ask whether this person is certified, or at least tell them that a person claiming certification in their state is presenting information that reflects badly upon them (and all Master Gardeners). I'm sure that they would take an interest, but you would not be put in a position in which you have to confront an ignorant person.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I am going to contact the county extension person. It's kind of tricky. She is the instructor of this gal. She likes this gal. So, I'm not sure how the extension gal will take this. Even worse, the person that gave the incorrect information to a group of 50 people is a friend. We are in the same MG organization. :( So, it makes it doubly bad.
I still want to do this. It bothers me a lot to have her:
1. One representing MG.
2. Giving false information
3. Going around abusing trees and creating an unpleasant landscape. She landscapes peoples' homes for a living. :-(
To me, topping off trees is like tree abuse similar to animal abuse.

Hubby has said leave it alone, but it bothers me. I think I will print some of the stuff VV offered and take it to the Co. Ext. person. It's a risky situation.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Hey Birder,

Why not do it anonymously? You would be doing a lot of good without getting abuse (because, given the way people are, you would get abuse). Put it in writing to the county extension individual her from "a concerned gardener". If they are anything like the equivalent at the University of Illinois Extension they will want to know.

Why don't people understand that getting to work on other people's yards is a privilege? I just got my fifth client (I am thrilled that they were all referrals from other master gardeners) and it bothers me that so many individuals who are given these privileges are wrecking yards. I would think you would need some kind of certification or training to landscape yards. But over and over again I am correcting the mistakes of people who are paid to design and install.

Please don't put yourself in a position to be abused. You want to do the right thing - I
just suggest you do it with no risk of revenge.


Pequannock, NJ(Zone 6b)

Why not just be straight and show her the fact sheet? All those links are nice but as a representative of the University of Missouri Extension, you are suppose to first give advice supported by the university's publications. At least that's how it is done here.

"Unfortunately, trees are often planted in places where they do not have room to reach their mature heights. Sometimes, such as when trees interfere with power lines, removal is the best option. It may, however, be possible to reduce the height of a tree while maintaining its health and visual appeal. Topping, a common approach in which tops of trees are cut indiscriminately to stubs, has many negative effects on tree health and appearance. This approach starves the roots of carbohydrates and causes proliferation of many poorly attached shoots that break off during storms. A better approach is to cut back some of the tallest branches to the points where they attach with large-diameter secondary branches. This approach can reduce the height of a tree significantly without weakening it and ruining its visual appeal"

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

The fact sheet. Someone put in one of those potentially splitting maples years ago on my property, and it was growing into the power lines. I was going to have it pruned, but the arborist spotted the initial signs of splitting. He also pointed out that the trimming was going to take place every three years or so.

So we took it out. And I put in my beloved paperbark maple for the price of a single pruning.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Thanks to all who are commenting. This way, I can see both sides of the argument before I approach the County Ext. Agent.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I talked with the Co. Agent. Her initial response was "it's wrong". Then, she said she wanted to check with Others at the University of Missouri Extension. She sent a brochure explaining the proper way to top a tree. It's called "drop crotching". For those who are interested here's the article:

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Good job, Birder!


Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I'm going to ask her if she will explain this "pruning" of trees in the future to prevent ugly tree topping.

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