Tree Surgery and Arboriculture

The words ‘Tree Surgery’ probably conjure up in your mind visions of tall dangerous trees, with men hanging off ropes high up in the air and wood chippers whirring away in the background. And sometimes it can be like that. However, that side of it is just a part of a discipline known as Arboriculture.

Arboriculture is the care and maintenance of Amenity trees, and Tree Surgery can sometimes be the dramatic title for what is just a part of it. Although the amazingly fearless climbing and practical skills of Tree Surgeons is very much to be admired – and not copied !!!

The thing about trees is that they ‘know’ what they want to be. And the problems that are caused by trees exist in many cases because people don’t recognize that a tree ‘knows’ what it wants to be. And as is true in many areas of human endeavor, we often act first without checking to see what the potential outcome might be. In other words, it’s not the tree that causes the problem, it’s the person who either chose to put it there or who didn’t know what it was when it was young and let it stay there! So it serves all of us well to accept that you cannot reason with a tree.


Not that wisdom after the event helps very much either when you have a dangerous branch hanging above a set of traffic lights at a busy road junction. Hence the need in some cases for the skills of Tree Surgeons. So the thing is to be aware when it is your time to choose.

So how can you go about finding out which might be the ideal tree for the spot? Overwhelmingly these days people tend to leap to the internet for everything, and that’s fine, but it’s a gamble. Regrettably the internet often gets it wrong, and we need to know absolutely that we are not going to get it wrong. The decision we have to make is tied  to one thing and that is the correct Selection of Species. After all, hopefully the result of your correct choice will be there for anything from 30 to several hundreds of years, depending upon species.  So how do you go about that?

If we were talking about buying a car, you would consider what you will need it to be able to deal with. It’s got to fit in my garage, or on my drive. I’ve got to be able to pull my caravan, it’s got to last for at least the next ten years.

Where would you go? Who would you talk to? and most importantly, who would you trust? You could try the Garage around the corner, or the one off the Bypass, or that nest of car showrooms in the local Retail Park. But who is going to give you a totally unbiased opinion and not just try to sell you a car? Who is going to tell you the truth?

I well remember receiving a catalogue in which there was a glossy photo of a ‘Blue’ conifer’. The text told me that it was suitable for planting in a rockery and would only grow to 6 feet tall – just under 2 metres. The tree that was illustrated was a Blue Atlas Cedar which in truth would grow to over 10 times their advertised height. So sometimes it is possible to be misinformed. 

And I know this is the dilemma we face for many decisions we have to make. But trust is the key.


So what’s so special about trees, and what problems can they create? At the beginning of all this I said that a tree ‘knows’ what it wants to be. So lets check that out next. 

In the scheme of things, a tree is a woody perennial with a straight and upright leader. And whilst pretty much all trees have that in common, that is about all that they have in common.

Different species of tree will grow to different ultimate heights. Some will top out at 6 or 7 Metres and some at 36 Metres.  Similarly the spread of their crowns will vary. Some are upright growing with narrow crowns, some are ‘weeping’ varieties with broad ones, some shallow rooted and some deep. Some prefer only one soil type and others are more flexible. Flowers, Catkins, Seeds, Nuts, Berries, Thorns, Evergreen, Purple Leaf, Variegated Leaf, even what size tree to but – all things to consider.….

However, in conclusion. Reader beware. In todays modern small gardens, there is a very good case to support the view that there really isn’t much room for any potentially regular sized tree, and in general terms it is good advise not to plant any tree closer to a building that 1.5 times its ultimate height. Having said that, there are many varieties of dwarfing trees available to enjoy, and there will be one out there that suits your situation. ‘Cause after all, Tree Surgery is a little like Dentistry, if you look after your teeth properly the incidence of seeing the Dentist greatly reduces.