The top 10 situations arborists often encounter | Dennis Tompkins

Top 10 lists may have been popular in the past, but with David Letterman's retirement we hardly see them any longer. In an effort to prolong their ultimate demise, this arborist has created one for the end of the year.

  • Saturday, December 12, 2015 3:03pm
  • Life

Top 10 lists may have been popular in the past, but with David Letterman’s retirement we hardly see them any longer. In an effort to prolong their ultimate demise, this arborist has created one for the end of the year.

The following Top 10 list has been developed from situations I often encounter. Many serve as warnings when addressing our landscape concerns. Unfortunately, some of the these are repeated year after year to the dismay of arborists.

So here goes, in no particular order of importance.

No. 10: Beware of the lawn service or overly ambitious husband who threatens your small trees and shrubs with hedge trimmers. They may be appropriate if a sculpted appearance is desirable. But certain popular shrubs like rhododendrons, azaleas and small trees such as Japanese maples should be hand-pruned to maintain a more natural shape.

Unfortunately, it is a common practice to fire up a machine by landscape services because it is a fast and easy way to finish a job.

No. 9: The winter storm season is upon us. If a tree has fallen during a severe wind, it is wise to determine whether a root rot was involved. Fallen trees should be checked by a knowledgeable and experienced professional to closely examine the roots for signs of a root disease. If so, nearby trees may also be infected since these diseases can travel by root to root contact.

No. 8: Be respectful of neighbors who wish to preserve their trees when view issues arise.

Remember who actually owns the trees.

No. 7: If tree problems arise with a neighbor, try for a peaceful settlement without involving attorneys and lawsuits. Cool heads can lead to win-win solutions when various workable options are considered.

No. 6: If worried about your own or a neighbor’s trees, have a hazard evaluation done by a professional. If a dangerous situation is discovered, the investment will have been worthwhile to remove the risk and contribute to everyone’s safety and peace of mind – particularly that of a tree’s owner.

No. 5: If a “doorbell arborist” encourages tree removals or windsailing a tree, consider a second opinion from a certified professional for an objective assessment. Do not be afraid to question credentials and whether a commission is to be paid on the amount quoted for the job. If so, does the individual truly have your best interests at heart?

No. 4: Do not top trees. Unfortunately many trees are unnecessarily butchered. The results are ugly, often create maintenance nightmares and can shorten a tree’s life. Overpruning usually stimulates fast growing sprouts as trees attempt to replace the removed leaves and twigs that served as the food manufacturing plant.

No. 3: When considering using pesticides later in the spring, have a problem properly identified, select a legal and effective treatment and apply it at the right time. Otherwise, a treatment will have been ineffective. Be certain to follow the labeled instructions.

No. 2: Remember that the best tree pruning jobs are those that appear as if very little has been done. Butcher jobs are all too obvious – especially when the tortured skeletons of trees are revealed during the fall and winter.

Finally, No. 1: A big thank you to all the readers who hopefully have learned a bit from the columns. I look forward to another year of informing you about tree issues. Feel free to continue to contact me with your questions.

Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist, certified hazard tree assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides small-tree pruning, pest diagnosis, hazard tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or email at Website:

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