Looking up at a tree

Many tree “care” practices are harmful. It is often fear and the need to control that determine the work that is performed. No plant on earth, all trees included, is designed with extra, unnecessary branches. The same can be said for the height of the tree; no thirty-foot tree was designed to be twenty-two feet high.

A big problem in Calgary is frequent planting mistakes. People often are not aware what size the tree they are planting will grow to be. So we have a forty foot Blue Spruce planted under the eaves, banging on the roof with every gust of wind.

Before planting a tree or shrub, do a little research. What is the expected mature height? Look at some trees of the same species and see what they are doing. Planting mistakes can make for a lot of heartache and hacked trees years later.

Every tree is a balanced living being. There is a delicate balance among all of its parts. A tree is a body just as your body is. Topping a tree is the same as thinking your teenager is too tall. There is no extra unnecessary height on the teen. The same is true of your tree. There are no unnecessary branches. The tree’s roots—the thousands of them the size of your hair, the trunk, major branches, minor branches, and the thousands of leaf bearing twigs are—all one piece, one tree, one teenager, and designed to function as a whole unit, a whole being. Until this idea of the whole tree is common knowledge, trees will remain in trouble.

Of course, trees need to be pruned occasionally. Dead-wooding is a real boost for health, a branch rubbing on the roof should go, diseased branches should go—but the thinking “that tree needs a good knocking back” is dead wrong and will shorten the tree’s life. Learn to think of your tree as a balanced whole living thing and your ideas about its care and pruning will also change.

(Continued in Botany 2: What do trees eat?)