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Lilac tree pruning advice needed

Discussion in 'Arborist 101' started by bsman36, Jul 26, 2018.

  1. bsman36

    bsman36 ArboristSite Lurker

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    I have an 18 year old lilac tree (see attached), that is in need of a radical pruning, without killing the tree. It is 9' tall, the top portion is 6.5' wide. The trunk is 4" in diameter.

    I've read somewhere on the internet that I can over the course of several pruning over several years, I can cut back a 1/3 of the length of the branches each year??

    I need some good instructions on how to safely decrease the size of the top portion of this tree, without killing it. I realize it won't be flowering while I'm doing this radical pruning, which I'm fine with. Ultimately I'd like to get the top back to a respectable 3' wide or so.

    Any detailed instructions are greatly appreciated!
     

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  2. PJM

    PJM ArboristSite Operative

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    Are you still looking to maintain that lollipop look? Proper technique to shorten height is reduction/drop crotch pruning. This method is used though for a more natural tree appearance. Very different than rounding-over, which is what you have been doing.

    http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/reducing.shtml
     
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  3. Jason Douglas

    Jason Douglas ArboristSite Guru

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    Slow and steady.
     
  4. no tree to big

    no tree to big Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I have done a few of these it is a majorrrr pain in the ass! It is easy to screw it up and make it look funky. Generally you start with a specimen like yours, looks great just too big, then when you cut it back it will look like crap in a lot of cases. It will fill back in but initially itll resemble a tumble weed more then your lollipop...
    We do these over three years generally starting with a tree that is crazy overgrown for the space so the initial trim is pretty aggressive. The then next two are a little less invasive. The idea is to virtually scalp it to force interior growth so the next time around you have something to cut back to

    Also make sure the wires around the trunk are not too tight.


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  5. bsman36

    bsman36 ArboristSite Lurker

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    I'm looking to keep the lollipop look. Question for "no tree to big"; if I do a pretty aggressive first year cut, how far back would you say I should cut it (thinking I would maybe trim the entire 'globe' back by a third?)? And what time of the year should I do it (thinking late winter, just before spring buds would start forming)??
     
  6. no tree to big

    no tree to big Addicted to ArboristSite

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    It's hard to say exactly how far you can take the initial cut because the thing has been sheered. the majority of the leaves may be on the outer couple inches of the ball if that's the case it kinda screws up a reduction. If there is foliage in side the ball maybe 12 inches it's hard to say without actually being able to stick your head into the belly of the beast.
    Since you want to keep the loli I'm not sure thinning it out would be good for your goal. that would help produce inner growth tho for your future cuttings.
    Several years of shearing may be required after the reductions to get it back to the solid ball it is now. This is definatly a long term project.

    When you start at it at go slow take only a little getting a little more aggressive as you find what the tree will allow then as you finish up you retrim your first spot taking just a little more off to even it up. You can always trim more off later you cant put it back!

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  7. bsman36

    bsman36 ArboristSite Lurker

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    So it sounds like I can reduce the size, as long as I keep green leaves (and NOT trim it all the way back to bare wood), correct? I just need to carefully determine how far back the green leaves are, going towards the center of the loli. If this is the case, I would need to do this pruning before all the leaves would fall off the tree in the fall (otherwise I can't gauge how far to cut it back).

    Do my assumptions sound correct??
     
  8. no tree to big

    no tree to big Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Trimming with leaves still on makes it a million times easier you can do it with out if u are experienced it is a challange. If you trim in the fall or winter shouldn't make much of a difference for the next years leaf production so feel free to do it in the fall.

    I've done them during all 4 seasons, for us it's when the customer makes the initial call and weather they need it done right this second or not..

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  9. bsman36

    bsman36 ArboristSite Lurker

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    Thanks for the advice, no tree to big! I'll give it a shot in the fall, before all the leaves are gone.....
     
  10. BC WetCoast

    BC WetCoast Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I would shear it back 4- 6 " all over in the fall as leaves are beginning to drop. Epicormic buds in the branch bark will open up in the spring. May look a little rough, but will fill in.

    Watch and see how it reacts next year. If its ok, then shear another 6" off next fall. If it looks a little sparse, then leave it for a year.

    Add some mulch to the base, dont let it get drought stressed and i would give it some slow release fettilizer (I'll get heat for that one, but I've done a ton of fertilizing over the years with no ill effects - climate and soils may be condusive)
     
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  11. JeffGu

    JeffGu Antagonist/Heckler

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    I need some advice on how to prune a lollipop to look like a tree...
     
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  12. bsman36

    bsman36 ArboristSite Lurker

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    Thanks for the advice, WetCoast! I'll have to work on that lollipop pruning to look like a tree. Might need a little help trimming that pop :chainsaw:
     

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