Heartwood Tree Care LLC – Tree Service, Tree Care, Tree Removal, Pruning, Tree Planting Caldwell, Nampa, Boise, Kuna, Eagle


If you are going to hire someone to prune your trees, it will be helpful to become familiar with some of the terminology used in the industry. Be prepared to ask the contractor what type of pruning he will be performing and why. Beware of the contractor who gives vague generalizations or is unable to clearly articulate his objectives. The following descriptions will hopefully increase your understanding of what we provide, as well as help you to make informed tree pruning decisions.

Crown cleaning This is the most common type of pruning and can be performed any time of the year. For a mature tree with ample growing space, this is the only routine pruning that is needed. Crown cleaning involves the removal of dead, diseased, or defective branches from the crown. A few dead branches here and there on any given tree is a normal occurrence. It is the tree’s natural way of pruning itself. In a domesticated context though, dead branches become hazardous and unsightly. The ideal frequency of this type of pruning is dependent on the species of tree and its environment. In a manicured setting, yearly touch up pruning might not be a bad idea. Ordinarily though, crown cleaning can be performed less frequently with little or no adverse effects.

Dead branch removal and pruning or old treeCrown thinning The objective for this type of pruning is to improve the tree’s vigor by the selective removal of live branches to increase sunlight and air penetration. It can be harmful if overdone though. For most trees, crown cleaning alone provides sufficient crown thinning. Removing very much of the live crown may deplete the tree’s food manufacturing ability. Also, in climates like ours, where there is little humidity and intense sunlight, exposed bark on young branches (especially thin-barked species) can quickly become damaged from too much direct sun. This is known as sunscald, and can be very harmful, both to the vigor, and to the structural integrity of a tree. Remember that more is not necessarily better when it comes to pruning. Homeowners understandably want to get their money’s worth when they hire someone to prune their trees, but may not realize the great loss they are incurring if they convince the contractor to remove an excessive amount of live crown. Generally, more than 25% of live crown should not be removed without a good reason, and less on mature trees.

Structural pruning The objective of this type of pruning is to improve poor branch structure. An arborist can prevent future branch failure by recognizing and correcting poor branch structure. Again, the necessity of this type of pruning depends solely on the individual tree. Large branches with structural issues are best to address incrementally over a several year period, rather than all at once.

Training This type of pruning is for young, established trees to develop healthy structure. A young tree that receives proper training cuts will require much less maintenance as it matures. The difference between structural pruning and training is simply that training tends to be more proactive in developing good structure, whereas structural pruning tends to be more corrective.

Clearance pruning This type of pruning becomes necessary any time there is competition for space. We simply call this clearance pruning, and a number of factors contribute to the need for it. It could be that branches are encroaching on a building, shading understory plants, interfering with utilities, blocking a view, or hanging too low over a street. Terms we use that fall under this type of pruning are “crown raising,” “side reduction,” and “vista pruning.” Sometimes the desired amount of clearance is not compatible with proper pruning, and removal becomes a better option. We contend that it is better to entirely remove a tree than ruin its beauty and function by over pruning.

Topping We don’t do it. We get asked to from time to time, but it is known to cause more harm than good. We understand that many homeowners use the term innocently, thinking it is an interchangeable word for pruning or trimming. Some folks believe that cutting a tree way back will reduce its maintenance needs. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Cutting branches way back, or heading them off reduces a tree’s food manufacturing ability, and destroys its ability to defend itself against pests and decay. The rapid growth of waterspouts after topping is an emergency response that depletes a tree’s energy reserves, and should not be interpreted as a sign of appreciation from the tree. Topping destroys the health, function, beauty, and long-term safety of any tree. If safety is a concern, much better alternatives include proper reduction cuts possibly combined with a supplemental support system, or removal. Beware of tree service companies that advertise topping. It is a sign of un-professionalism. Many companies know better than to advertise topping but would do it if you asked. You will be able to easily convince many contractors to top your trees, even ones who are “against” topping, but realize they are making a compromise with industry standards, local city regulations, and their own integrity.

Restoration pruning- This type of pruning is necessary for trees that were damaged in a storm or (as is unfortunately more often the case) topped purposely. Restoration pruning seeks to restore the natural structure and beauty of the tree.

Fruit production pruning Fruit tree pruning is necessarily more aggressive and routine than shade tree pruning. When you are seeking to produce quality fruit, the tree must be kept open and maintained. If you are not interested in large, tasty fruit, pruning your fruit tree like a shade tree would be perfectly acceptable. Just don’t be in fruit tree mode when you are pruning a shade tree.