There should be no question of whether one ‘tops’ a tree. Trees should first be selected based upon a horticulturally educated basis. That is the right tree for the right place rather than a choice based on price. In practice generally – the shorter time a tree must spend growing in nursery to become a saleable plant the cheaper it is. Cheaper does, particularly in the case of trees does *not* mean better value.
However, when that tree you bought comes back to haunt you, the oirish thing to do is to ‘top’ the tree. No! I say.
The problem with this is that the auxins or the growth hormones will not not push to the growing point [tip] of the tree but down and then out the sides. Thus one ends up with a tree that takes up too much space and results in the appearance of an overgrown bush. That’s not bad practice, if you own the Phoenix Park…
When trees are quite young – I start pruning them early because I want movement of light through them. I want them [in theory] like a telegraph pole and then to start to produce foliage above that point. For fruiting trees this would be extremely different but they generally should not grow so tall and you also need to be able to reach the fruit. For a while they will look a little ‘scrawney’ but long term wise – it is the best thing to do.
The reality is also that if the mass/ weight above which the branches start – is greater than that below – then eventually it will not be supported by that below; the branches therefore will shed weight [more a theory of gravity] and the tree will naturally drop limbs. Imagine giving a ‘jockey back’ to ten people and trying to walk – they will start to fall off or you will be brought down! So in ‘crown raising’ early on, a thicker girth [the width of the stem] is encouraged; one which will support the branches above and inevitably less work of a chainsaw like nature will be required later on. It is I suppose training a tree rather than solving an issue.
I should therefore need nothing more than my secateurs for the first few years. Mine is a felco no. 30. The swiss [made] army knife of the horticultural world. Very deserved of a mention because with these you can replace every single piece individually – when the spring goes – one replaces only the spring. I have this one about eight years now… as you can see!
My advice: choose the right tree for the right place with a good idea of what type or style you like. Buy good healthy disease free stock ensuring that it has its plant passport where necessary. Take good sound advice – don’t mind Mary Maginity and the book she bought that says…. Garden Centres and gardening groups [et cetera] will give more relevant free advice that is probably more specific to you and your exact requirement.
Recently the gardens of Brackenstown got the ‘peace de resistance’ that [in my heart] it so much deserved. The gazebo was installed 2 weeks ago in the centre of the tranquility garden after almost eight months since it was first considered. The funny thing I suppose was that within three days it was fitted, installed and painted as if it had been there all its life. When it is found difficult to believe that the life of the structure is one of such youth, I suppose it could be said that the job has been done and done extremely well. It is bespoke, the only one in the world and hand made, the old style way.
Credit when taking on a project like this must go primarily to ‘any’ client who has that ‘je ne sais quoi’ and forward vision to trust in a designer to bring something like this to fruition. I shall rephrase, when one does not know what the final outcome will be [obviously] and one has never seen ‘one’ before, it can be, difficult if you chose; only in the sense that if you are a ‘I need to see it first’ kind of person. If not, bespoke features for a garden are one off, special, specific, of true splendour and yours [and yours only].
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