Can we trim a bush so it grows more like a tree?

Answer:  Very interesting question regarding shaping the bush into a tree. The answer is yes. What you will want to do is take a look at the bush and pick the largest branches that are currently growing. Basically you are going to pick the winners and cut the remaining branches away, down to the base and keep doing that each year or twice a year depending on the growth until the bush begins to look more like a tree. What will happen over a few years is that the energy created through photosynthesis will begin to transfer to the main trunk and the main lateral and structural branches and the growth of other smaller branches will lessen.   Keep in mind that when cutting off branches, the cuts should not be flush with the bark but should be a quarter inch out leaving a small stub so the tree can begin producing bark to heal that wound properly. 

Hope this makes sense as with many fairly simple techniques, it’s sometimes harder to explain than actually do! 

Question: What’s this hole in my tree?

from freeskithetrees comes this question:


“I have [a] 50 yr old maple. Is it safe? The hole is filled with water and goes about half way down. Should I cut it down or is it salvageable?”

Here’s what our arborist has to say:

“This is from an old pruning cut; to be safe I would cut it down. It’s at a junction where either side could fail. “

it’s key to remember that falling branches and split trees can be both hazardous and a huge liability issue! Thanks for your question, freeski!


I pruned too deeply. What should I do?


this reader question comes from beautiful Massachusetts.

I pruned two 3″ limbs off my October Glory Maple and am afraid I cut them too flush to the trunk and cut into the branch collar. I planted the tree about 4 years ago and it’s a very important and symbolic tree for us, so I am concerned improper cuts could open the tree up to disease. Any suggestions on what I should do to help minimize that risk? Most internet opinions say tree sealers do more harm than good. Tree is others is great shape. Looks healthy, has grown to maybe 25-30 feet, great shape. Thanks for your help!

Thanks for your question!

In regards to your maple pruning, it’s great that you’re being proactive about disease. Here’s your reply from our certified arborist team:
“If you’ve made severe cuts, the best thing to do is watch and wait. Definitely *don’t* use any “sealant” – whereas we humans may do well to slather a cut with anti- microbial ointment and cover it with a bandage, this is decidedly not helpful to a tree. Applying paint or tar or other dressings and fillers – while a great temptation to tree lovers everywhere – actually interferes with the normal progression of a tree’s wound response and should be avoided. Trees need to self-seal and close, and generally they do this much better without additives.
Thus, best practice going forward will to keep a sharp eye on the tree and play it by ear.  If you develop concerns, see unusual or unseasonal dieback, or crown thinning, seek a consultation from an ISA-certified arborist in your neighborhood – you can find one here: “
Further reading:

Tampa, FL Arborist Information

Website:  Arborists and Urban Foresters – Tampa. (University of Florida)

This is a very strong website that Tampa denizens can rely on for tree service information and care.

Three offices

5339 County Rd 579 | Seffner, FL.  33584  | Ph: (813) 744-5519

12520 Ulmerton Road | Largo, FL.  33771 | Ph: (727) 582-2100

1303 17th Street West | Palmetto, FL. 34221 | Ph: (941) 722-4524


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Is my catalpa tree dying?

Answer: It’s so difficult to diagnose without seeing your tree in person. Make sure to contact a local arborist for a full evaluation.

Note, but do not overreact to, any yellowed, withered, eaten or mildewed leaves. All result from treatable pests and rarely prove fatal.

Munched leaves might indicate that the catalpa sphinx moth has found your tree. Treat the tree with Orthene during the larva stage of this infection, when you first spot a caterpillar. If left unchecked, however, nature usually takes care of the problem; nectar dripping from wounded leaves attracts other pests that feed on the moth larva, eliminating the infestation.

Powdery mildew appears on leaves as a white powder; treat the leaves with appropriate fungicides. Perhaps the most dangerous pest attack is that launched by rabbits, which will completely devour the bark of a young tree, girdling the stem. Protect your tree with tree tubes or fencing.”

a beautiful Catalpa tree in white blossom
lush Catalpas are prone to a few -fortunately treatable – problems.

More general info about catalpa trees:  Catalpa trees can thrive in altitudes up to 7000 ft, making it an exotic tree for your Denver yard. Catalpas (also known as Catawba) are native to warm areas such as Atlanta and Houston, but are found throughout North America.

Catalpa are hampered by catalpa sphinx moth. The larva stage is the best time to treat this infestation, before it eats the leaves and robs the catalpa of energy reserves. Treat when you first see catepillars using Orthene.

Catalpa also is prone to fungus which might cause withered leaves. A trunk injection with ArborJet which contains an anti-fungal agent can help stop the tree from going into decline.

Powdery mildew is a common catalpa problem. It appears as a powdery substance on the leaf surface.

Should I remove a squirrel’s nest from my tree?

Answer: Yes, as squirrels can eat away bark and cause the tree to stress. They also can access your attic and create nests.

If you are trimming the tree it’s easy to cut the branch supporting the squirrel’s nest and it will fall to the ground.  This is a short term solution, of course, as they’ll build another nest.

What else can I do to prevent squirrel damage to my tree?

The arborist’s opinion is that there is no permanent long term solution to prevent squirrels.
Many of the short term solutions are inconsistent.  Squirrels’ natural habitat are trees,  they can jump six feet or more,  and they multiply like crazy. This makes them hard to prevent.##

Need a squirrel or other critter removal experts? Contact ServiceMagic and get a free quote today. Or call today. 866-338tree-squirrel-picture-1-9326. No obligation.


If you have squirrels eating away bark, it becomes a matter of constant prevention until the tree can recover. Here are six methods to try.

Six Ways to Deter Squirrels from Your Tree

1. Remove the squirrels nest. This requires trimming the branch where the squirrel nest sits. This is a short term solution.

2. Apply a taste deterrent. Apply this and when the squirrel takes a bite of the tree, it gets a mouthful of the “most vile tasting substance ever discovered,” according to a leading brand,  Ropel. Taste deterrents get good reviews from gardeners for small plant protection.  However, the label directions for Ropel, say to use the built in hand sprayer meaning to apply on a tree, you have to climb it or use a ladder. Ouch. And then do a second application 3 to 7 days later as recommended.  Ropel costs $49.99 per gallon which will cover 1000 to 4000 square feet depending on application method. Here are the full directions for use.

3. Wrap aluminum foil around the base of the trunk. This works better if a tree is on its own, away from the house and fence. Otherwise the squirrels just jump over it from another structure.

4. Trim trees above the house line. Trees close to the house can be trimmed above the roof and fence line. This breaks up the “squirrel highway” that the critters travel on.

5. Traps. “Trapping provides only short term relief.  Squirrels are prolific and mobile,”  Russ Carlson, President of Tree Tech Consulting out of Delaware.   “Trapping is sort of like bailing water out of a lake.  More just rushes in to take its place.”

Home Depot and Ace Hardware carry a wide range of squirrel traps.

6. Shooting them. Shooting a squirrel with a BB or pellet gun won’t kill the rodent. But certainly drive them away. Eventually, they may come back, but anecdotal evidence indicates that they get the message. Check city ordinances in your town before attempting this method.

A squirrel has to eat and is stripping away the bark on your tree in search of nuts, fungi and other high protein food sources. It will take a marriage of the above methods to keep squirrels at bay. Good luck.

Did this help? If not, then ask us.

Thanks to the University of Georgia Extension office for their input.

I have a Maple Tree that is dropping leaves right now with brown spots on the leaves. Is this due to drought or insect/disease?

Answer:  It’s likely both. Drought weakens the tree and makes it more susceptible to a fungus that is likely creating brown spots  and defoliation.

Because of drought restrictions in Atlanta, I suggest you call an arborist and ask for a quote for deep root watering and then a fertilization in early spring. Call 866-338-9326 if you need a quote.

Frequent and shallow tree watering only undermines the root structure. You need to pump the water into the root zone with a watering spike.

Finally, make sure to rake your leaves as airborne fungi travel on dead leaves.

Don’t wait too long, as this tree preservation job could quickly turn into a tree removal job – and getting a tree removed in Atlanta can be challenging. It can cost a thousand dollars for a tree permit review.

Tree news in Atlanta

Boy, Atlanta is really in the news right now because of these droughts over the past 10 years. According to the New York Times a huge percentage of the trees (such as the enormous population of Magnolia) were all planted 80 years ago and are all dying at the same time.

And the article adds that a tree removal permit alone costs a thousand dollars! Sure, not every tree removal in Atlanta costs of thousand dollars just to get a permit. We’d be curious if any of our readers in the area could chime in on this.

Full Question:

I have a Maple Tree that has been ’fine’ for at least 15 years. It is dropping leaves right now with brown spots on the leaves. Is this due to drought or insect/disease? What to do? Atlanta, GA

I planted two northern red oaks but only one is thriving…

Answer: Not sure why this is. Really can’t be sure on this issue because there are so many factors.

However, the tree deserves another season. One arborist advises:

“It sounds like the wind is of concern. I would advise to deep root fertilize the tree. This will offer the tree the additional nutrients that are missing in the soil as well as aerating the root system. Watering after the fertilization is complete is important.”

Our Southern expert thought, “I’m going with hard freeze likely on young roots on fall planted tree, spring planting hit stride in opening of the season. If not sure check soil qualities on both trees. I’ve seen ph range by 1.4 only 20 feet apart.”

In the end it could also be a bad tree. It happens. A Denver arborist explains,

“I would speculate that the tree was unhealthy and less viable at the time of purchase. If the tree was purchased late in the nursery’s supply season it may have been the “runt of the litter” (even at 12′ tall and 3″ dia), I have seen this trend at several local nurseries, even with larger trees. The better looking ones get sold first and the runty ones sit around forever until they get sold as clearance stock could be as much as 2 or 3 years if the nursery doesn’t rotate there stock well. Also if the tree was purchased from a “big box store” nursery or a “general garden” nursery, it may not have had the best life prolonging conditions over the summer season ( i.e not being watered properly , or sitting in the middle of an open uncovered parking lot like at home depot.)”

red oak

Full question: I have two Northern Red Oaks of the same age that I planted three months apart, the first three falls ago. When I purchased them both were approximately 12 feet tall with trunks between 2″ and 3″ in diameter.)
I planted the first in the fall, on the north side of the house, and the other in the spring on the west side. Both get full sun almost the entire day (we live on a ridge top on a small horse farm); the prevailing winds vary between southwest and northwest. The first one I planted does not seem to be doing nearly as well as the second. The only symptom I can cite is that it doesn’t seem to leaf out as fully as the other, and its leaves are smaller and not as healthy looking. I haven’t been able to detect any pests, and today I dug around the original planting line to see if it were being encircled by its own roots; it isn’t. Any thoughts?

Finding a Houston Texas arborist

A Houston arborist can offer you tree and landscape valuations, landscape and tree insurance expertise, feasibility studies and arborist consulting services.

Trees are important to you or you wouldn’t visit. Two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four!

ServiceMagic helps you shop Houston arborists and compare prices on tree removal, tree trimming and tree spraying.

####  Get a free tree service quote ####

Whether you’re looking for tree removal, tree trimming, or need a certified arborist, make sure the arborist knows which trees are protected and which ones are not.  An ISA certified arborist will know this, so check out ISA Texas.

A committed company will have at least one consulting arborist on staff and connections to more. Also a plant health care consultant familiar with pesticide safety is critical.


Recent Houston Tree Care News

 Ghostly Veil -like Webbing on  Tree Trunks Sign of Barklice – Victoria Advocate

Evidently the county extension officer in Beaumont, Joe Janak  has received several calls voicing concerns about a weblike substance on peoples’ trees. while unsightly, is actually beneficial for the tree.