Tree Pruning: Less fear with practice

Pruning. The word strikes a certain terror in those of us who love our plants but fear doing anything that might harm, disfigure or discourage them, although we know it is good for maintaining the health, vigor and appearance of the plant. You know who you are.

Some of us who had tried pruning have discovered hidden talents: making branch cuts look like they were gnawed off by teeth or shaping a Picasso-esque lopsided pine tree. Others, frozen by fear of pruning, surrendered by letting that shrub that promised to ‘grow more beautiful each year’ on its tag look like roadkill.

In April, a tree pruning workshop covering basic cutting techniques and introduction to the required tools for the job was attended by a group of Master Gardeners and some spouses who were gently coerced to be there. It was hosted by Pat Plantenberg (seriously, it is his real name), the Montana Director of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (RMC-ISA) and 2017 RMC-ISA Arborist of the Year, who obviously knows trees and pruning tools. His lopping shears are called Cindi. Geddit? Cindi Lauper, haha.

tree pruning 2.pngAfter inspecting the tools we brought (my new lopping shears did not pass muster, my ancient hand-medown bypass pruners did), Pat introduced us to various equipment for successful branch cutting such as bypass pruners, lopping shears, pole bypass pruners and hand saws. Using sample trees, he then demonstrated proper cuts based on his ‘Deciduous Tree Pruning Steps’. We were then allowed to try each equipment to practice pruning skills while applying these steps on some of the trees around Chiesa Plaza at MetraPark. Sawsall to clear tree suckers? Heck yeah! Pole bypass pruner to cut crossing branches? Done!

Many thanks to Pat for this educational and confidenceboosting workshop: for sharing his knowledge on correct tree pruning techniques, best practices, opportunity to use the proper tools and the hands-on experience. Tree pruning may still be challenging but Pat convinced the attendees that with practice and common sense, any vigorous tree with a Napoleonic compulsion to take over the world, can be tamed.

So next time you see this gardener carrying a sawsall and a newer Cindi, be prepared to hear a gleeful ‘timber!’ yell.

~Submitted by Suri Lunde

Montana’s Biggest Trees Registry

The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation keeps records on the largest trees in the state. These trees have been cataloged as the largest representatives of their particular species discovered so far. From looking at past registries, it appears that most of these record trees are located in the northwestern part of the state.

However, many species of Montana trees have not yet been nominated and there is a special category for urban trees. There is no funding to support this program; its success is mostly dependent on the volunteer efforts.

Forms and technical directions on how to measure a tree for nomination can be found on-line

Biggest trees 3 2017 eedition/page-a/ page_64df6c88-bfb5-519c -a021-742ebfb67aeb.html



Maybe like me, this will perk your interest in becoming a “Big Tree Hunter”. Is there a “specimen big tree” in your yard or neighborhood? Or, will one of us find a tree to nominate in one of our outdoor adventures across the state?

(By the way, if you really get into this, there is also a national big tree registry. http:// )

An excellent reference book on trees: Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.

Submitted by Elaine Allard

A Note from Julie Osslund

In 1989, the State of Montana was selling 100 trees for $10. Who could resist such an offer?

We planted the buffalo berries, Shepherdia Argentea; Russian olive, Elaegnus Angustifolia; and cottonwoods, Populus Angustifolia wands into the ground that fall, 1989 or spring, 1990. They were barefoot beauties and about two foot tall!

Out of the 100 trees we planted, do you know how many are alive and thriving today? 1 cottonwood, 13 Russian olives and 10 dioecious buffalo berries (24%). Birds and bees love them. They no doubt prevented erosion, and we must have saved a few energy dollars over the years. I know that Russian olives are considered a noxious weed in riparian areas, but at one time they were thought of as one of the best solutions for our area: drought resistant, tolerating harsh conditions, and offering wildlife habitat, especially for pheasants and grouse.

In our world nothing is all good or all bad. Here’s an interesting fact: beavers won’t lay a tooth on them. Well, “rarely eaten or used” is how the July 2015 Department of Ag comment went during the public hearing comment section, which is another reason that native species are having a hard time competing with them. The good recommendations are still for buffalo berries – “good for wildlife, shelterbelt and hedges”, MT Master Gardener Handbook.

WIND BREAK 1989-1999

We planted the saplings in the parched rocky soil as soon as winter blared its last tenacious trumpet. We were newly married and planting 100 prickly trees in a rocky river bed had the fervency of a religious revival.

The fearless, spiny babies grew continuously throughout the baking sun, despite spider mites, lawn mowers, weed eaters and other would-be assassins. We watched them rise up and rejoiced! Mandy and Dave lugged endless, overflowing jugs to the field, day after day after day, like ants dragging battered insects to their waiting colony.

Now the trees are taller than the four of us stacked end-to-end. We seldom rejoice, but the trees diffuse the intense flat winds, not by blocking, but by listening, patiently entangling and releasing.

Submitted by Julie Osslund