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Huge Southern Magnolia Against Power Lines

MagnoliaGrandiflora

MagnoliaGrandiflora

New Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2020
Messages
4
Location
Northern VA / Washington DC
Hi experts! New to this forum and very much need your advice!

We have a 70+ year old gorgeous and huge Southern Magnolia (the evergreen one) that is the centerpiece of our front yard (see google image for perspective - the street is along the top and it's the big tree in the top center).
Screen Shot 2020-12-22 at 3.36.03 PM.png

Unfortunately it lives under power lines so every bunch of years it has to get hacked by the Asplundh guys (no offense to them) who work with the local power company (Dominion Power). Every time it looks terrible because they cut a huge 'L' out of the thing right it in it's most visible spot from the street. Well, today was apparently the day and they started out on the gruesome task again. I had a friendly chat with them (in which the guy said he wished every customer was as friendly as me about their trees) but end result is they are coming back tomorrow and they seemed open to whatever I wanted to ask but I therefore urgently need to know from both an arborist's aesthetics and health of the tree perspective:

-Should I have them leave it in as minimal a trim as possible (i.e. the dreaded and ugly "L" shape)
-Should I ask them to cut it more straight (or angled) down the street side) all the way down as it sticks out too far into the street anyway
-Should I see if they would cut off any portion of the top
-Should I ask them (if they'd be willing) to even out the tree in any other way

I was reading these things don't take a pruning very well, especially a hard one. But I do know this tree is pretty old for a southern magnolia, and it's taken this same power line trimming lots of times in the past (including several since we've been here). I just happened to be around this time with the ability to potentially wield some influence and special requests.

Please help! They are expected to return tomorrow and I need to give them my best request for the health and good looks of the tree!

See photos of current state

IMG_9739.JPG IMG_9738.JPG IMG_9737.JPG IMG_9736.JPG
 
ElevatorGuy

ElevatorGuy

What are you doing with the wood?
Joined
Sep 2, 2020
Messages
557
Location
Maryland
I trimmed my bil’s two massive magnolia trees 4 years ago and they’re doing great. I wouldn’t worry too much but imo you’re lucky they don’t remove it completely.
 
ElevatorGuy

ElevatorGuy

What are you doing with the wood?
Joined
Sep 2, 2020
Messages
557
Location
Maryland
They’re not going to do anything special, Maybe you can contract someone to shape it up once they’re done. I would imagine they are going to remove it completely eventually as it continues to encroach the right of way. They could top it to remove the hazard to the power lines but that will probably kill it. The power company is only worried about the power lines which are at the top of the pole. They don’t care at all about the cable and phone lines below. Where are you in NoVa? I’m in Somd and work in DC.
 
MagnoliaGrandiflora

MagnoliaGrandiflora

New Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2020
Messages
4
Location
Northern VA / Washington DC
Thanks, that's a good thought (if I'm ready to fork over the $$ for a real arborist to do the right pruning job of course). I'm hoping it's far enough set back (since it's not exactly underneath the wires) that they won't eventually want to remove it entirely, though. We're out westward in Loudoun County VA.
 
ElevatorGuy

ElevatorGuy

What are you doing with the wood?
Joined
Sep 2, 2020
Messages
557
Location
Maryland
It doesn’t have to be underneath for them to take it. They would just assess if it fell towards the lines what kind of damage it would do. That’s where they would like top it but removal would be best at that point. (If) they tell you they’re going to remove it and you fight and they end up topping it, once it dies it will be on you to remove it it.

my situation was different, my tree guy actually told me the power company would remove them for free if you said it might be a hazard. He was right, I called and was told to mark the trees. They said within 2 weeks they would inspect them and make the call. I came home 3 days later and the only evidence of the trees was the stumps and sawdust. They did one hell of a job at no cost to me.
 
capetrees

capetrees

Tree Freak
Joined
Jan 6, 2008
Messages
13,568
Location
MA
Thanks, that's a good thought (if I'm ready to fork over the $$ for a real arborist to do the right pruning job of course). I'm hoping it's far enough set back (since it's not exactly underneath the wires) that they won't eventually want to remove it entirely, though. We're out westward in Loudoun County VA.
Trim it out and reduce the height. The power company isn't going to take that tree down, they'll just continue to hack it back from the upper power wires. The other lower wires are the responsibility of the phone and cable companies and they never prune. Here, the power company is responsible to cut back the branches 10' and remove if its over the wire which yours is not. If it was, the tree would come down. Power company is coming to town this week to take down 290 trees over the lines. Trimming was already done. Should be interesting.
 
Raintree

Raintree

Penguins are tasty
Joined
Jun 3, 2012
Messages
3,302
Location
TN
Wrong tree wrong location. Ongoing hacking/maintenance with no end in sight. Start a replacement tree now.
 
mike515

mike515

ArboristSite Operative
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
248
Location
The magical cow kingdom
I don't know if this is too late or not but ask them this "Is it possible to just trim it out so you have a few feet of side clearance on the phases and then maybe go a foot below the neutral?" Say it just like that. They will know what that means. It's your best case scenario.

Edit for your info...the phases are the "hot" lines up top and the neutral is the single line below the phases. The rest of the lines don't matter to the power company.
 
ElevatorGuy

ElevatorGuy

What are you doing with the wood?
Joined
Sep 2, 2020
Messages
557
Location
Maryland
Trim it out and reduce the height. The power company isn't going to take that tree down, they'll just continue to hack it back from the upper power wires. The other lower wires are the responsibility of the phone and cable companies and they never prune. Here, the power company is responsible to cut back the branches 10' and remove if its over the wire which yours is not. If it was, the tree would come down. Power company is coming to town this week to take down 290 trees over the lines. Trimming was already done. Should be interesting.
See, The power companies here will. They’ve been blasted for reliability issues in the last handful of years and it’s too expensive to bury the lines. They’ve been very aggressive in trimming and removals in the last few years.

We had a farm a few miles from my house that had some very old trees close to the road. I forget what type of trees they were but they came home one day and they were gone. They don’t ask permission or tell you when they’re coming. The family was pissed but nothing they could do.
 
MagnoliaGrandiflora

MagnoliaGrandiflora

New Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2020
Messages
4
Location
Northern VA / Washington DC
It's the middle of winter and the tree is full of leaves?
Yes, it's an evergreen southern magnolia (magnolia grandiflora - http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c117) and it's a gorgeous tree year round, huge one of a kind white waxy flowers spring into summer, after which it drops alot of leaves as new ones are being replenished. Grows roughly zones 7-9. Definitely doesn't like heavy snow or ice (and sometimes loses branches in those storms as a result) but otherwise is a happy tree.
 
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