Help! My beloved fern pine tree was overpruned!

PipdogAugust 9, 2011

Hi GW friends,

We had a fern tree (Podocarpus gracilior) in our front yard that provided a ton of shade and was a lovely focal point of our front yard. The tree was starting to encroach on our roof, so we called a trimming service to come out and "shape" the tree.

Unfortunately, they hacked the tree up. Not only did they top off every single branch, most of the foliage in the middle is now gone. They cut almost all of the interior branches. I was so upset that I nearly cried when I first saw the tree - it looks so naked and puny compared to its previous beautiful, imposing presence. And we've lost most of the shade in our front yard.

Can anyone tell me how quickly these guys grow? I know there's generally nothing we can do, but is there *anything* I can help to stimulate re-growth? The tree is in full sun, and we're in Southern California.


Sad in SoCal

x-posted with trees forum

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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Don't you worry a bit. It will be filled back in before you can blink.

Give it a long cool drink of water.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 12:26AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It will likely regrow, but it might take up to 5 years or more to fully recover. This should serve as a lesson to everyone hiring a tree pruning company without a good referral or recommendations. You'll need to communicate better about your wishes, and stick around and observe the progress if you have doubts. Topping of all branches is never a preferred or recommended method, and a sign of a noncertified arborist.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 1:33AM
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Anyone can be a tree trimmer, just claim to be. If you have an important tree it is worth hiring an ISA certified arborist. Al

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 9:11AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Pipdog, I have over a dozen of these as hedges and two as trees. They grow fast in our climate if given water, and they recover well from butchering.

I'm sorry the ends of the branches got cut off, that's going to cause the ends of the branches to sprout out many shoots, which can make the ends of the branches too heavy.

Here's what I would do, in addition to giving it water.

When you see the new growth at the tips of the branches and all along the length of the branches, make sure that growth is somewhat balanced. If you can get on a ladder and pinch off or rub off unwanted fuzz/sprouts to allow the tree to send energy into chosen sprouts that would be ideal. You can consider this an opportunity to remake the tree into a shape you like. If necessary, you can get an arborist out in the spring to choose which baby branchlets to save and which to trim off. They may charge the minimum, since there will be no real waste to dispose of. It is best to do this in the spring, since our summers are too hot for pruning most trees.

Good luck, and if you think the guys in the Tree forum are bad, for God's sake stay away from the Landscape forum.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 2:11PM
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haha, thanks Renee, that is very helpful info to know. I gave the tree a nice drink of water this morning. I'm hopeful the tree will recover, but yes, I learned my lesson!

And thanks for the advice about the other forums -- I think I'm going to stay over here in the California forum, where it seems a little more mellow. :)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 4:10PM
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They will "recover" fine. But,form wont be what you were used too..just suckers everywhere. It might be two years or so before you can selectivly prune it into a natural shape again. I feel your pain..its almost like starting over. I 've had it happen from frost to large tropicals.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:54PM
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