radical tree surgery

In August, I decided that several hardwood ornamentals I planted about 6 years ago were getting a little out of hand. Pretty much way out of hand as they are reaching wires, obstructing views, etc.
I moaned and groaned a while coming to a decision, which is to wait until the sap falls and the leaves fall and then do some major surgery on them. Since the major branches are out at 10 feet up or less but others and the main trunks go up from there, I am thinking of cutting them back until they are not much more than 10 feet tall, and a fraction of their current spread.
I guess I will end up with some relatively thick-trunked, short thick-limbed trees.
The other option is just cutting them down.-- something I wish i could do with several of the 80 foot wonders around here.
Knowing what arborists ya'll are, this is the list:
Washington Hawthorne Radial Crab Sargentii Crab Dogwood (at teast 15 years old) Bradford Pear Japanese Magnolia Chaste Tree
And the kicker -- an evergreen:
Lebanon Cedar. (I have no idea how to prune that one shorter without ruining the shape, but it is already a coupla feet above the main electric line, and in it....wasn't supposed to get that tall!)
Any comments?
FACE
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A little radical for several of them - you might need to consider removal. It is not recommended that you remove more than a third of a tree's total canopy in a single year - it is too stressful for the tree and can cause considerable harm, depending on the genus.
The hawthorn, crabs and dogwood are not large trees to begin with. You can take the hawthorn and crabs down a bit easily, but dogwoods resent pruning and react with a production of medusa-like, twiggy growths at most cuts. And if the tree is affected by anthracnose, heavy pruning will aggravate the disease.
Chaste tree is actually a shrub and will respond to heavy pruning relatively well. Not sure exactly what species you are referring to with Japanese magnolia - it is an applellation applied varyingly to M. kobus, soulangiana or seiboldii, of which the heights can very considerably, however most deciduous magnolias respond well to pruning.
I'd remove both the pear and the cedar. The natural growth habit of ornamental pears is upright and somewhat narrow in profile - a substantial reduction in height will drastically affect its form and I doubt you will be happy with the result. Depending on where you are located, Bradford pears are becoming invasive and are considered inferior to other ornamental pears due to weak wood and narrow crotches, anyway. Topping the cedar is just plain not a good idea and keeping a tree that wants to grow to 40' or more at around 10 feet is silly and will ultimately negatively affect its long term health.
FWIW, unless you are considering hedging and suitable hedging material, pruning to control height is not an ideal situation or expectation. In general, pruning should be done to enhance form, to remove dead, diseased or conflicting branches, to encourage fruiting or to open the canopy for penetration of sunlight and for air circulation. In the future, you might want to do a bit more research on what to expect on mature sizes and growth rates of trees before you select and plant them and carefully consider siting. How big did you expect the cedar to get?
pam - gardengal
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in rec.gardens wrote:

Thanks for the reply. I am aware of the 1/3 rule. My first thought was to remove them and my second thought was what did I have to lose by this radical pruning attempt.
I know that the cedar can go to 40 feet. I was not going to try to get that one down to 10 feet, just manageable, more like down to 18 feet where it is currently about 24 feet. Grew faster than i thought.
Before I planted them i knew the other's as well, in general they should max out at 25 by 25, with some variation...the bradford says it can hit 50, though i've never seen one that tall. The sargentii was supposed to be 10 x 10 but it has exceeded that.
I may have to take down the bradford if it shows sign of brittleness which does affect other Bradfords around here. To maintain it's shape will be quite a chore since it is prettily pear-shaped which is where it gets it's name rather than from any fruit.....or so I understand.
I have to say that "ultimately negatively affect its long term health." is pretty silly when the alternative is cutting it down completely.
I do thank you for your comments.
FACE
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FACE wrote:

If I may jump in, it's not as silly as it may sound. A sick tree is a liability: it may come down or lose limbs in wind or ice storms, which could damage property or other trees. It may be prone to bug or fungus infestations that can spread to other specimens. So the point (from my view, anyway) is not that "the poor tree will be sick"; rather, that you may be in for unintended consequences, worse than losing the tree.
Mike Prager Beaufort, NC (on the coast in zone 8a) (Remove spam traps from email address to reply.)
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worse than no tree at all.
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in rec.gardens wrote:

I can understand that aspect. Of note, the power company contracts a company to come through and slash as they feel necessary those trees that are up to the street lines. There are some funny looking trees that have been topped by them (big tree company, named Asplundh) and they definitely don't follow any "1/3" guidelines. Two of the ones I am talking about are in lines and i want to be the one to determine "as necessary".
FACE
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Asplundh, hmmmmm?? Boy, that company, which calls itself Asplundh Tree "Expert" Company, sure gets around. I think they have the powerline clearance contract with every utility company in north America. PlantAmnesty is trying very hard to get their contract revoked in my area, but they have a lot of clout and the battle has been waging for years. They also offer residential service including tree "pruning", hazard assessment, fertilizing and insect and disease control, but I'd avoid them like the plague - anyone that goes around loping off and butchering trees they way they do would never get my business. Nor do I think they have any idea of what basic tree care is. Much better you should take your trees in hand and prune them, even to remove more than 1/3, than to let them get hold of them.
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Yea, they're everywhere, all over the Northeast, too.
--
Ann, Gardening in zone 6a
Just south of Boston, MA
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Don't attempt to cut that one yourself. If it falls to touch the power line, and earths it, you could be seriously hurt. When we had that situation the power company's contractor did the job, with the power turned off.(It's done free, here. YMMV)
They also showed me evidence that even when a tree does not touch the line, in some weather conditions the current can jump several feet from the line to a tree that's too close. Branches within arc-reach of the line were stunted from that happening. IOW, your cedar tree could be a safety hazard right now.
Janet.(Scotland)
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On Sun, 3 Oct 2004 19:24:02 +0100, Janet Baraclough..

Thanks. I'll keep that in mind. Yes, it is free here too if the tree is touching the line. In the past I have taken advantage of that. :-)
This line is carrying either 440 or 880 AC from the street which is stepped down to either 220 or 110. The wire is heavily insulated and twined around a steel cable. Those are serious voltages.
FACE
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Some of the trees on your list are not going to grow much taller - hawthornes and dogwoods top out at around 20 feet or so, usually - and the top part of their canopies are thin, light branches, so should not pose a real threat to wires that are, say, at 18 feet above the ground or so. However, some of your other trees will get bigger than that - any kind of a tree that can form a heavy limb above the wires should be cut down rather than topped. Cedar of Lebanon is a massive tree, although it is usually broad rather than tall. A Lebanon cedar tree of any size should be quite valuable, since they are usually quite slow growing. (Apparently yours is an exception). It's possible that you could get a landscaper in your area to buy it and remove it for some large property that has the space for such a majestic tree.
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in rec.gardens wrote:

I agree that they should be near topping out.
The cedar was quite a surprise. I bought it for the ridiculous price of $2 at the nursery and it was about 24" and in very bad shape. It was in what I came to call "death row" of the nursery where they put the things "not up to snuff" on markdown and each week marked them down further and moved them one section closer to the dumpster if not sold. Obviously the last stop was the dumpster. This tree was in the last section right next to the dumpster. I really coddled it and when it reached about 10' it really went into Zoom! growth mode.
I expected it to be slower growing -- even stunted perhaps because of it's early misfortune (parasitic leafworms I think they are called which was why the nursery did not think it saleable). I cut off the bad foliage parts, planted it in full sun which I understood the parasites to not like, and watered it well the first two years. Yes it is a beautiful tree.
FACE
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FACE wrote:

Sure it wasn't mislabeled and it's actually something else? Like a Leyland cypress or Deodar cypress? Leylands can be particularly aggressive, as you probably know. Cypresses are also very often difficult to ID, especially when neglected and scrawny. The nursery might have made a mistake...not that it's relevant, really--too big is too big whatever the species.
k
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On Mon, 11 Oct 2004 17:43:11 GMT, Kelly Houston

You are correct. But the nursery did not mislabel it.....I did.
When I saw the name it jogged my memory.
It is a Leyland Cypress.
(you get it, both names are LC monograms.............oh.)
Gawd it looked pitiful, way past upfront saleability. Now it looks like it has been on high protein and vitamins since seedling.
I just looked back over my list and the only other mistake I made was to say "radial" crabapple. That should be "radiant"....as in radiant flowering crabapple, 25 x 30 at maturity. Come to think of that one, it has been planted 4 years and has not bloomed. It is in 1/2 to 3/4 sun, lower zone 7. Any crystal balls out there know how long till it blooms? The 2 sargentii's are in full sun but bloomed in 3 years. In fact, there were so many of those bright red "ornamental" crabapples this year that we made a quart of preserves out of them (Nice tang!) and still have enough to do it again -- except that it will take a stepladder to get to the higher branches.
FACE
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Wow - that's a very different tree, Face. Have no qualms about removing Leyland Cypress - extremely fast-growing, not a good tree for under electric wires, and definitely not valuable enough to try to transplant.
in rec.gardens wrote:

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