Tom’s “Too Tall” Tree story continued – lessons learned

Last week we learned that Tom and Mary’s shade tree had grown above a utility wire. Unlicensed and uninsured A-1 Tree Expert Company had badly mis-pruned their favorite shade tree. This week we learn just how badly the tree was pruned.

After complete failure in locating the fraudulent tree care company, Tom and some of his neighbors either did additional pruning work themselves or hired local companies to do correctional pruning.

As the trees grew after the pruning in March, Tom and Mary noticed that there were dozens of new branches growing straight up from the ends of the branches which had been stubbed off at an arbitrary height. There were also dozens of sprouts growing on all of the lower branches, including the trunk of the tree. After checking with local nurseries, extension specialists and other experts, Tom was advised to remove many of these branches while they were still small. Tom and some of his neighbors were diligent in snapping off many of these lower sprouts while they were still soft and pliable in June and July.

At the end of one growing season the new branches growing from the stubbed ends had reached a height almost equivalent to tree height before pruning. These small, slender sprouts were badly connected and easily broken by the wind so they constantly littered the ground. Owners were concerned about possible injury to children and pets playing under the trees.

Tom and Mary were reluctant to have more pruning done on their tree. After the second growing season one of the now larger upper sprouts broke and severed the utility wire leading into the home in December. After waiting two days to have the wire restored, they then received a bill from the utility company, explaining that the utility company was not responsible for damage to individual home wires.

Reluctantly, Tom and Mary had the tree removed and began looking for a replacement tree which would mature at a height below utility wires.

So what did Tom and Mary learn from this experience?

It is better to deal with local companies or branches so they can be easily contacted if problems arise.

If a bid comes in much lower than others, check to make sure the company is qualified.

Deal with licensed contractors who are properly insured. The most qualified arborists are also certified by the International Society of Arborists.

Topping trees always causes more problems than it solves. If a tree needs to be reduced in size more that 20 percent it is probably time to replace the tree.

Check the mature size of any tree or shrub before planting. Check for overhead wires or other restrictions before planting. If the tree had been planted a few feet away from the utility wire, it could have been allowed to grow much larger and continue to shade the window.

Allen Wilson can be contacted at