Your Small Business: Some Love It and Some Just Don’t Understand

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Crown reducing a tree is an art. If done improperly, it can kill a tree. But, if you’re forced to choose between removing and replacing an existing tree, or reducing it to keep it alive and safe, then crown reduction becomes a necessary option. As any tree man will tell it to you, crown reduce it or cut it down. Simple as that. Crown reducing trees was not a widely known technique outside of tree care companies; however it is gaining popularity among homeowners and management companies. The technique has drawn a large amount of criticism, but if fully understood, it may save a tree’s life and an owner’s pocketbook.

The technique itself can be visually startling. But once property owners have it performed and they witness their trees rejuvenated foliage and health, they are hooked. Its color is more vivid, if it blooms, then there are more of them, and its structural symmetry is stronger and more balanced. I believe the reason that people are hesitant about the technique at first is because it appears radical and there is so much confusion on what exactly the method entails. Crown reductions are mistaken for improper pruning practices. And most importantly, if a homeowner has an uneducated contractor perform it on their trees, the trees will most likely die. It can be a risky venture with an unknown contractor.

According to some arborist’s standards, crown reducing a tree isn’t a preferred pruning technique because it distorts a tree’s natural structure and causes it to be susceptible to wind shear, or tearing. This is true. But, if an owner wants to keep their tree, there is no other option to save it. Reducing it will allow the tree to be more conducive to its environment and prevent it from causing bodily injury and extensive damage to homes, foundations, and utility lines.

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When performing a crown reduction, the entire tree, from the bottom of the canopy to the very top, and the entire 360 circumference of the tree, is reworked. It is a process of pruning that requires an approach methodically planned out before the climber even enters the tree. It is effective for restructuring a damaged tree and / or acting as preventive maintenance. It also serves a double purpose. First, it reduces the tree’s overall size. Second, reducing the tree will actually promote growth. If the method is done properly, it will help the tree to retain a sound limb structure.

Factors of crown reductions are:

  • Crown reductions can be performed every three to five years. When to do it is determined by the tree’s rate of growth.
  • In regions where the temperatures can get below freezing, this technique should only be performed during the milder seasons and never after the ground has frozen.
  • It is argued that only certain species can be reduced. This isn’t true. Every species can be reduced, but for each tree, the technique is performed differently to accommodate the unique aspects of that particular tree and the nature of its species. For instance, Silver Maple trees will take longer to grow back; therefore, the climber cannot cut too heavily into them. On the other hand, Bradford Pear trees are an exceptionally hardy species and grow at a fast rate. They can be crown reduced aggressively.
  • Crown reductions are often times confused with hat racking a tree. Crown reductions do not remove all of the foliage in a tree, whereas hat racking strips the tree bare.

In normal circumstances, crown reducing a tree will retain your tree’s natural limb structure and help it to grow so that it is strong and well-adjusted to its environment. Or as mama would say, “shape them when they’re a sapling.”

Last modified: March 18, 2013
Nikki Hall
Nikki is the co-owner of Aspect Tree Service in Alexandria, VA. Learn about her business at

This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

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