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Tree pruning focus of Arbor Day demonstration


Christopher Andersson

The elm tree at French Avenue and Division Street is one of Arlington's heritage trees and will be the subject of a pruning demonstration on April 12.

Although Arbor Day is usually known more for the planting of new trees, the city of Arlington hopes to remind people how to properly maintain their current trees this year as well.

On April 12, professional arborist Paul Wiltberger, owner of Blue Heron Tree Care, will give a free demonstration on how to prune large trees while working on one of Arlington's oldest trees.

The large elm tree, at the corner of French Avenue and Division Street, is one that Wiltberger called one of the "most amazing trees" in the area.

"The chances of an urban tree reaching that age and size are slim to none. You plant 10,000 trees and maybe one will make it that big," he said.

He said the current average age of an urban tree is 12 years.

The city of Arlington's storm water manager Bill Blake was looking to help prune the tree, and contacted Wiltberger who said he would donate his time. The tree has been pruned before for maintenance and safety, but he said there are better ways to prune for the health of the tree.

The branches currently hang over the road and a nearby resident's house as well, he said, and prevent that resident's Japanese maple tree from growing well.

Since it was near Arbor Day and the tree needed pruning, Blake thought a public demonstration would be a good event for the public.

"It's just a good opportunity to see how to properly prune a big tree like that and an opportunity to help save a heritage tree [a tree designated by the city's Tree Board as especially significant]," said Blake.

Blake said people should learn the proper methods to prune trees, said Blake. A cut in the wrong location can lead to rot which can work its way into the rest of the tree, he said, or cutting off too much can induce shock in a tree.

"It's important for the health of the tree. Your job is going to mean that tree gets to keep being around instead of dying," said Wiltberger.

A bad pruning job can also diminish the financial value of the tree, he said.

Wiltberger advises against trusting passed-down knowledge about pruning, because methods have evolved in the past few decades.

"Pruning is not something your granddad did properly. It's a science and an art. Get someone on your hands who knows what they're doing or go read a book," he said.

Bad habits about pruning sometimes get passed around, said Blake. "People will see an improperly pruned tree and think that's how it's done," he said, so part of the idea of the pruning demonstration was to make sure people had a good example of pruning.

Wiltberger said he will take questions during his presentation as well.

Blake hopes the presentation will help people keep their trees alive longer.

"Arlington being a tree city, we want to maintain the trees we have. Trees help with aesthetics, create wildlife habitat, absorb rainwater, absorb carbon, create shade ... and the larger they are the better they're able to do those things," he said.


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