Lopping trees should not be done on a whim. With a few exceptions, this procedure causes significant trauma to a tree. It is therefore important to find one or two valid reasons for carrying out this maintenance task. As a guide, a tree under 10 years should be lopped once every two years and, when it exceeds 20 years of age, once every 10 years. 

Before proceeding to lopping trees, one should carefully weigh the consequences that could result from such action. Once decided, gather the tools best suited to the size and sturdiness of the trees to prune. The handsaw is used most often, but do not hesitate to use a chainsaw when confronted to larger branches. You can also resort to using a billhook.

Gathering information on lopping 

Lopping is actually a series of procedures. Topping consists of cutting off a portion of the tree’s crown with the primary goal of improving the growth of lower branches. To focus on shaping, it is necessary to reduce the branches’ length. This is called reduction. For those who do not have large spaces, lopping merely consists of trimming the branches as closely to the trunk as possible. Finally, pollarding involves cutting the tree’s top branches back to the trunk so that it may produce a dense growth of new shoots.

Lopping a tree can be done during planting in order to compensate for the roots’ size. Simply cut the tree’s top branches, taking care to keep at least 2 / 3 of the total aerial section. It is also customary to lop a tree to keep it healthy. To do this, remove dead or diseased branches in order to improve the plant’s bearing and eliminate any risk of disease. On older trees, remove a portion of the crown in order for the roots to be able to adequately supply the remaining branches. Security is also an important reason to lop a tree. Do not hesitate to proceed when, for example, the tree’s crown approaches high-voltage power lines, or when weakened branches may fall onto bystanders.

Do not compare lopping trees to topiary art, even though in both cases one objective is to give the tree a certain shape. In topiary art, the tree is given a predefined shape determined by the gardener’s inspiration. In lopping, it is rather the practical side that prevails. It consists of, for example, providing the tree with enough strength and vigour for it not to be swept away at the slightest gust.

Good lopping practices 

Lopping evergreen trees differs from lopping deciduous trees. For the latter, it is important to carry out pruning when they are dormant, preferably in spring before the resumption of vegetation. The absence of leaves greatly facilitates the work. In addition, wounds heal much faster in comparison to lopping undertaken in summer. However, this rule does not apply to elm, birch or maple. Spring lopping induces a significant loss of sap. It is best to act when these trees are fully active, that is to say in the middle of summer.

The pruning principle is simple: shortening the branches to bring them as close as possible and parallel to the fork or trunk. To avoid injuring the main trunk, proceed as follows: make an incision under the branch to be cut and near the trunk to which it is attached. Make a second cut on the branch’s upper part, ensuring that it is further away from the trunk than the first cut. In principle, the branch should fall under its own weight without damaging the bark. Remove the stub by pruning closer to the trunk.

For evergreen trees, pruning should be limited to a minimum. As a reminder, these trees are divided into two categories, those of which the branches grow around the trunk at the same level (development in whorls), like fir and pine, and others that do not have this characteristic, such as cedar and juniper. For the former, lopping can be limited to removing dead or diseased branches. Proceed in mid-June. For the latter, the new spring branches are cut until the month of June.

Related posts:

  1. Growing and pruning fruit trees in espalier
  2. Pruning and cropping
  3. Treating fruit trees
  4. Exotic trees
  5. Pruning fruit trees

Published in Trees and shrubs by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011