This page tells you how to ensure that you find a tree surgeon who knows about trees and tree care. When choosing a tree surgeon, follow this advice to find someone who will undertake your tree work in a professional, cost-effective and safe manner.

How to choose a tree surgeon

My daily routine can include the pruning, removal or planting of trees. The pruning of a tree requires very specific knowledge of Arboriculture (tree Care) and Dendrology (the science and study of wooded plants (trees, shrubs, and lianas).

When choosing an arborist, the following factors must be considered:

Check the Credentials of a Tree Surgeon:

It is possible for almost anyone to set themselves up as a tree surgeon. Therefore, it is important to check that the tree surgeon you hire is qualified. They also need good working knowledge of tree identification and tree dendrology. If not, you may end up having a valuable tree ruined and being felled years later as a result. To ascertain the credentials of a potential contractor, when choosing a tree surgeon:

  • Ask to see their NPTC (National Proficiency Tests Council) card.
  • Enquire where they studied Arboriculture (Tree Surgery).
  • Ask for the botanical name of the tree in question. (Most good tree surgeons in Manchester and elsewhere will at least know the genus of a tree).

Tree Species Identification

A tree surgeon must identify the species of a tree to ascertain to what extent they can prune it. They will also need to decide at what time of year the pruning would be appropriate.  Some contractors fail to negotiate even this first step. However, a good tree surgeon will do this as a matter of course.

Reasons for Tree Pruning

After the arborist has identified the species, they must ascertain the reason for pruning it. The most common reasons are that the tree has out grown its space or that it is blocking out light. There are pruning techniques to both contain tree growth and to allow penetration of light, which reflect the shape and character of an individual tree and do not spoil its shape. Again, a good tree surgeon will be able to achieve this.

Extent of Tree Pruning

Finally, it is very important that tree surgeon calculates the extent of pruning, so as not to exceed the tolerance threshold of an individual tree. This depends on many factors. Some of these include tree age, mass to energy ratio, location, vigour, species, health and time of year. The time of year directly correlates with the reaction a tree will have to the pruning. The best time for most trees to be pruned in our temperate climate is mid-summer as their energy levels will usually be highest at this point, giving them a greater chance to compensate for the loss of potential energy. This directly contradicts the outdated belief that you should prune in the ‘dormant’ season, which is a period of gradually declining energy resources, culminating in the spring when bud break and the onset of growth massively stresses a tree.

Why not Top a Tree?

Many customers who have previously employed unprofessional ‘old school’ tree surgeons will be unaware of modern ways of practice and may have succumbed to the suggestion to ‘lop the top off’ a tree. Usually this is the worst possible action. When a tree is topped, depending on its species and health, the following problems can occur:

  • Firstly, the tree may become so stressed that it will slowly die.
  • Secondly, if the tree is relatively young and vigorous, ‘lopping’ the top will encourage new reaction growth. If this occurs, the density of the tree could increase tenfold and become larger and more poorly formed within a relatively short period of time.
  • Thirdly, when disproportionately large pruning cuts are made on a tree, a pocket of rot recedes into the tree from this point, creating a potentially dangerous structural defect within the tree stem.

Unfortunately, many tree owners and contractors are unaware of these reactions to over-pruning. However, a tree does not heal. It can merely attempt to heal over a saw cut or broken branch and it does it at a very slow pace. This is why choosing a professional and experienced tree surgeon is important.

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