Tag Archives: shaping trees

Garden Lore: Another tree falls

Poor old Picea omorika

Poor old Picea omorika

Behold, a fine example of why most trees are best kept to a single leader. A short, fierce storm 10 days ago brought down part of our Picea omorika. This tree is several decades old – five or six maybe  – and is over twelve metres tall.

It reached about four metres before it forked into three trunks so it would have needed a good ladder to deal with the issue then but it is one of those jobs that nobody ever got around to doing. The first trunk was broke out a couple of years ago, having been exposed to wind after damage to a nearby tree. The second trunk has just fallen. Fortunately, while tall and dead straight, the only damage caused was to the flashing on the side of the shed roof. The third trunk is still in place but precariously swaying. It is highly likely it will snap off at some point in the future though we have ascertained the direction it will likely fall and it won’t be too problematic. The loss of the other two trunks leaves it one-sided, exposed and vulnerable.

Some trees have the shrubby habit of branching from the base and putting up multiple leaders. Magnolias Leonard Messell and Apollo are examples of this. Trying to keep these to a single leader is fighting nature. But most trees grow up on a single leader for maximum strength. In terms of long-lived garden specimens, they are stronger structurally and look better if the trunks are not allowed to fork low down. It is a great deal easier to do this when the plants are young than to clean up at the other end of several decades of growth.

The folly of allowing trees to develop multi leaders

The folly of allowing trees to develop multi leaders