It's OK to prune your own tree if you take the time to educate yourself before you go out and start whacking away.
One way to educate yourself about proper pruning techniques is to attend a free hands-on demonstration at the Fullerton Arboretum, which is off Associated Road on the northeast corner of the Cal State Fullerton campus. Pruning demonstrations are available at the arboretum on the third Sunday of every month.
To participate, wear gardening clothes and bring some tools, such as clippers and pruning saws.
Members of the Tree Society of Orange County conduct the demonstrations to promote good tree care. The organization's goal is to increase tree cover in the county by the year 2000, according to Jack Heninger, executive director of the nonprofit organization.
Demonstrations at the arboretum on the first Saturday of each month address selection of trees and planting sites. Demonstrations on the second Saturday show planting techniques for trees. The demonstrations are free and are taught by Alden Kelley, Ph.D., an Orange County certified arborist, or tree specialist.
For more information on the Tree Society and monthly demonstrations, call (714) 449-7170.
A brochure from the U.S. Forest Service also provides tree care and pruning tips. The brochure--"Homeowner's Guide for Beautiful, Safe and Healthy Trees"--is available free from Knapp Associates, a tree maintenance firm with offices in Fullerton and Riverside. To receive a copy of the brochure, call (714) 447-8811.
Area arborists also cite the work of Alex L. Shigo, Ph.D., a retired Forest Service chief scientist, as offering the most current information on pruning and tree care. Shigo has written a variety of books and brochures on tree care, including specific instructions on pruning.
The publications range from $3 to $52. For a brochure on these publications write: Shigo and Trees, Associates, 4 Denbrow Road, Durham, N.H. 03824.
It's also OK to hire a tree-trimming company. But make sure you get someone who is qualified to do the work and is knowledgeable about current techniques--someone whose credentials go beyond having a truck and a chain saw.
Jeff Peterson of Peterson's Tree Works in Orange says references are very important. Talk to former clients of companies you are considering and look at trees those companies have trimmed.
You want to make sure the trees haven't been butchered by topping (a practice of removing most major limbs and foliage) and other poor pruning practices.
Peterson also suggests checking to see if tree trimmers have a contractor's license for tree pruning. He also says selecting the lowest bid is often not the right choice because a qualified trimmer is likely to charge more than an unqualified one.
Bruce Wegner, a landscape architect and manager of Parks and Recreation for the city of San Clemente, often gives seminars on proper tree care and pruning.
During those seminars he hands out material from the city of San Clemente titled: "Arboriculture--Why Tree Topping Is Dangerous and What Can Be Done to Protect Your Trees." According to Wegner, you should take these steps to select a tree-trimming company:
Avoid companies that advertise topping of trees.
Consider a company with certified arborists (people with specialized training in tree care) on staff.
Ask for price quotes in writing.
Agree on exactly what work will be done and how.
Make sure the company has workers' compensation insurance. (Remember that having people climb up in trees does involve a certain amount of risk.)
Pollarding is a practice used on young trees to dwarf them. This practice requires skill and intensive maintenance since it involves severe pruning of certain ornamental trees--such as sycamores--back to the same main branches every year. Don't let someone try to persuade you that topping a 15- or 20-foot tree is pollarding, say the experts. It's not the same thing.