December 22, 2021 – Memorial Tree Update

before and after pruning

Winter pruning happens in, well, winter, which began with the solstice on December 21. The little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park got pruned and groomed on the day after, which was December 22. It was already sufficiently dormant for the process. I did not want to delay it any longer than necessary.

Lower stems were removed both to improve minimal clearance for pedestrians, and to direct growth upward next year. Growth had gotten obtrusively low through summer; but pruning was delayed until dormancy. A few more of the unobtrusive lower stems that are substantial enough to compete with desirable upper growth may be pruned away later. Smaller lower stems will likely subordinate to more vigorous upper growth, even if not pruned away later. Only a few stems that crossed over primary limbs were removed, but probably did not need to be, since they likely would have eventually subordinated.

Binding of the main trunk was finally removed. The tree was bound from the beginning because it was so young, with irregular structure. As it matured, taller new binding stakes replaced the shorter old binding stakes, to straighten and direct the main trunk. Although the main trunk was sufficiently tall to not require binding last year, it remained bound for straightness.

Binding is typically performed while trees are developing in nurseries, so that trees do not need binding once installed into landscapes. Such procedures are performed by nurserymen, but neither arborists nor gardeners. I was therefore pleased to remove the binding from the landscape. However, and embarrassingly, because growth had been so vigorous through last year, two main limbs were temporarily bound to direct their growth away from each other! They would otherwise develop a detrimentally narrow and consequently structurally deficient branch union. Their binding should be removed next winter.

Although the binding stake was removed, a stabilizing stake was replaced, and should remain until next winter, and might remain, perhaps with minor adjustment, until the winter afterward if necessary. Because the stabilizing stake is coincidentally directly behind the tree trunk in the picture, it is not visible. A larger and older wooden stake that broke at the base, but remained attached between the tree trunk, binding stake and newer stabilizing stake through most of last year, after the newer stabilizing stake was installed, is now gone.

The little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park is doing quite well.

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