Landscape experts ease household battles | Evergreen Aborist

“Thank you. You saved our marriage!”

With tongue in cheek, a homeowner recently expressed the above feelings to me regarding spousal differences about landscape questions. She stated that divorce was never really an option but, at times, murder was considered. However, the long-term consequences ruled it out.

Thinking back over the years, I recall a number of comments from homeowners that hint that the services provided by certified arborists may have been helpful to marital relations.

For example, there have been a few calls where a wife complained that her husband attacked a favorite shrub or tree with a chainsaw or hedge trimmer. Could I come out and assess or repair the damage?

Or, a husband will express concern that a spouse wants to have a coveted tree cut down. Could I check out its condition?

Landscapes can create emotional reactions that may overshadow what is best for the plants, shrubs or trees. While these issues are important, the concerns of the parties involved are often even more important.

I have found that once an assessment and recommendations have been made regarding a landscape issue, a calm discussion usually results in a win-win solution.


A Typical Issue

Perhaps the most common concern is the condition of tall conifers like Douglas fir or hemlock trees.

We often experience severe storms that cause trees to fail. Unfortunately, many homeowners overreact and cut down trees that would have safely existed for many decades. Such actions are sometimes encouraged by tree services or doorbell arborists soliciting work.

Hazard assessments by professionals that have a homeowner’s best interest at heart will provide objective recommendations. A tree may be given a clean bill of health or its condition and safety issues may dictate removal.


Ice Storm Aftermath

Debris cleanup, damaged tree removal and renovation pruning has largely been completed in most landscapes.

However, many weakened branches that are still drooping may never straighten. This problem has been successfully addressed where careful pruning has reduced the weight of the foliage and branches have partially turned upward.

Broken or damaged branches have stimulated massive sprouting in many trees. This is a natural reaction when a tree has lost a significant portion of its crown.

Flowering plum trees are the most striking examples. Sprouts have grown up to 5 feet in length as trees struggle to re-establish the leaves that are the food manufacturing plant that provides nourishment.

Many damaged trees will begin to regain normal appearances after a few years. However, some misshapen trees may require careful pruning to rebalance their canopies. Those that remain eyesores may be candidates for removal after another growing season or two.


Drooping Branches

Birch trees and arborvitae are two of the most noticeable remnants of the January storm. It is not too late to consider renovative pruning by qualified individuals.

Some of the leaning arborvitae branches can be removed without severely altering the appearance of the trees.

Taller trees are another matter. In some instances, trimming an entire hedge to a height below which most of the droopers occur makes sense. Eventually new growth will begin will grow upward from the cut surfaces. But this can take a few years to begin to develop.

Damaged birch and flowering plum trees can still be carefully trimmed to reduce the weight at the ends of reachable branches. Most will return to a more natural upright position. Additional thinning often will help balance out a tree that has voids caused by lost branches.

Another technique to encourage new life for a valued tree is to manage the new sprouts. They may fill in voids created by the loss of broken branches during the next few years. Thinning out unwanted ones and favoring others will help re-establish a tree’s beauty.


Future Decisions

Some landscape trees may never regain their attractive shapes. If a tree is not measuring up to a homeowner’s standards, the hard decision to remove it may have to be faced.

However, if household opinions on removal are not on the same page it may be time to call in a certified arborist/marriage counselor. Sometimes they can help smooth out the decision-making negotiations.


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. Contact him at 253-863-7469 or email Website:

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates