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Prospective pruners in Westmoreland get tree-trimming tips



by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Portland Parks & Recreations Urban Forestry Supervisor Larry Maginnis indicates a feature of a newly-transplanted tree to the group of volunteers gathered around him. “The worst thing one can do when planting a tree, other than put it in ‘green side down’,” said Portland Parks & Recreation's Urban Forestry Supervisor Larry Maginnis, to the interested faces before him, “Is to plant the tree too deeply. The top of the root knot should be right at ground level.”

That was one of the many tips and techniques shared with a cadre of budding “Community Tree Care” volunteers, a new branch of Friends of Trees, at a training held in Westmoreland on the morning of August 10.

After an hour-long formal classroom presentation held at Moreland Presbyterian Church, the class of about 30 volunteers walked up and down S.E. 18th Avenue, looking at recently-planted and mature street trees. Experts pointed out both good and bad examples of pruning.

“Transplanting a tree – which is what our volunteers do – is the most stressful thing you can do to tree,” commented Friends of Trees Neighborhood Tree Specialist Andrew Land. “This does not happen in nature – where seeds fall and trees grow where they land. But, we’ve learned how to successfully transplant trees.”

Mostly, Land said, newly-planted trees need to be kept watered and mulched, especially during the first two summers after they’ve been transplanted. “And, proper pruning ‘early in their lives’ is an excellent way to prevent problems in their futures.”

Supervisor Maginnis pointed to a clipped branch on a young tree. “This wasn’t done for the health of this tree, but it appears to be for the convenience of the resident who didn’t want branches scratching their car parked at the curb. This promotes extra branch growth in that area that will likely become an ‘arm and a thumb’ – a stub with a small branch shooting upward.

At another location, Maginnis showed the group a tree with “included bark” that he said prevents strong attachment of branches, often causing a crack at the point below the point where the branches meet.

Another topic of discussion included dealing with “co-dominant stems”. Removing some of the lateral branches from a co-dominant stem, Maginnis said, can reduce its growth enough to allow the other stem to become dominant.

City of Portland Urban Forestry Inspector Ned Sodja, an arborist with four decades of experience, also walked along with the group.

“With mature trees, look for changes,” Sodja told THE BEE. “I start at the ground, looking for any movement or cracks. Then I work up the stem (commonly called the trunk) and look for any cracks or fungus. And then I look at the branching – how the branches attach to the stem.

“Trees will ‘tell’ you what’s wrong, if you look at them,” Sodja said. “Just looking at them will help you catch problems early.”

Sodja’s advice for newly transplanted trees: Put a two- inch layer of mulch around them, and give them seven to ten gallons of water a week. His tip for pruning new trees: “Please hire a qualified arborist!”

To learn more about Friends of Trees “Community Tree Care” program, see their website: www.friendsoftrees.org