Damaged Dogwood

mark1121February 14, 2011

I have a mature 24 foot high Dogwood that took a pounding during the recent snow storms and all the high branches broke off. There was really no choice but to top it, which I know is normally the worst thing to do. It now looks more like a hat rack than a tree. Do you think it will come back in the spring or should I cut my loses and start planning another use for the site?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

A picture, or multiple pictures are in order for us to even begin to even guess. Topping has a specific meaning, and it's doubtful that your tree would really have to be "topped", but again, pictures would tell us more.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 7:12PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Sometimes older trees compartmentalize slowly. Or at least they suffer larger wounds than smaller trees.

If you can post pics using photobucket or the like that would be great. If not sometimes a tree with a little character can be a benefit to a landscape. Sometimes not.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 7:32PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the damage from topping.. is long term ...

it would behoove you to plant something as a replacement.. so that in say 5 .. 10 .... 15 years ... if failure occurs.. your replacement will be all set ..

i agree that w/o pix .. its really hard to be any more definitive ...

i would also suggest that topping involves the INTENT to remove the top of the tree ...

DAMAGE REPAIR .. though it may be topping.. is not really the same thing .... though all the same potential results do follow ...

i see no reason why a properly trimmed tree.. should not burst forth with vigor this spring ...

whether it ends up in a shape that is favorable to a long life .. is left to the fates ...

ken

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 9:55AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

My point was not in regards to intent, but was to say that a reduction/drop-crotch cut (which is not topping) may be an option.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 1:01PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

well that sounded near obscene.. but i wasnt arguing with you ... lol ...

the OP's intent was repair ... he had no option ... he did good.. presuming he did it right.. which is what you are wondering about w/o pix ...

he should NOT be concerned about topping .. since that was not his intent ...

i was getting at the guilt .. and he should NOT feel guilty about topping the tree ...

he should feel good about FIXING damage ...

how does this work ... if you were the jolly green giant ... and had ginormous hedge cutters ... and that darn 100 year old oak at waist height was pissing you off .. and you used the hedge cutters to cut it back to knee height ... you would be topping ... and a tree can not be topped .. or sheared like a privet/boxwood/shrub ... without potential long term problems ....

brandon is saying.. i think.. he can correct me ... is that if jolly green got on his knees.. with his giant felcos .. and made proper pruning cuts.. and cut it back properly ... then in theory there should be no long term damage ... i like to say it will heal itself .. but i think brandon would call it compartmentalization .... [heal has a lot less letters to type.. lol]

OP .. presuming it was done right [brandons way] .. did NOT top this tree ..

come on mark.. how about some pix????

ken

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 1:58PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"well that sounded near obscene.."

ROFL, you're funny!

I'm not sure about the jolly green giant scenario. I think we'll need pictures of that too. LOL

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 4:50PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Ken, don't hold your breath on the pix. Likely this was one of a number of pieces of buckshot that went out, looking for hope.

Anyway, takes me back to Uni when we used to discuss form and crotch angles and how best to work the....oh, never mind.

[/uncle pervy]

Dan

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 5:51PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

All the eastern Dogwoods, Cornus florida, should be pruned annually to carry a snow, or ice load, if grown in that part of the country where it's a problem. If Mark just cut off the broken branches the problem will continue and probably get worse. A little foresight goes a long ways. Just prune it so it doesn't carry more snow and ice than it can handle. It need not look bad after pruning if done right. Get artsy if you want. Some trees don't have to look symmetrical to look good.
Mike

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 8:07PM
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gardengal48

All the eastern Dogwoods, Cornus florida, should be pruned annually to carry a snow, or ice load, if grown in that part of the country where it's a problem.

I'm not sure I'd agree with this :-) Dogwoods have extremely hard wood and are usually quite tolerant of snowloads. I'd suspect - based on previous posts with a similar topic - that this snowfall was unusual in that it produced a lot of very wet and therefore heavy snow. And quite suddenly. The fact the dogwood in question (as well as that discussed in an earlier post) was as large as it was indicates some significant age being achieved before this kind of damage occurred, furthering the notion that this type of snowfall is not common. Cornus florida is widely grown in areas of the country that receive significant snow and I've yet to encounter a reference that recommends annual pruning to offset this issue.

One of the features of a mature Cornus florida is a mostly horizontal branching habit, especially of older, lower branches. But horizontal branches tend to be those most often affected by heavy ice or snow loads. Annual pruning to prevent or alleviate this problem will eventually result in a rather strange looking tree. If these kind of winter conditions are common, flowering dogwood may not be the best choice.

Not all trees respond to pruning in the same manner. Generally, dogwoods require minimal pruning and react negatively to heavy pruning. Heading back branches - such as what might have been done to remove obvious damage and produce the "hat rack" effect - will generate heavy sprouting at the cut. This will produce a lot of medusa-like weak growth and only exacerbate snow issues going forward. Whenever possible to correct damage, entire branches should be removed back to the branch collar to reduce the potential for this weak and unattractive sprouting.

In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words and only photos depicting the tree after its haircut can provide enough information to rcommend any corrective actions.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 2:00PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

What GG said. You'll end up with telephone poles.

Dan

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 2:11PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I think Mark has definitely bailed on us.

It's a shame that you can lead a horse to water give someone answers, but can't make him drink read them and respond.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 8:57PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I am certainly not recommending stubbing off branches to obtain the hat rack look. That just makes the problem worse down the road. Anticipating damage and taking corrective measures to minimize, or eliminate, an impending disaster is a sensible thing to do. How you do it is the key. You can thin out and shorten a branch without stubbing it and still retain the layered character of the Dogwood. I agree, Gardengirl, Dogwoods usually don't need heavy, or react well, to heavy pruning. A light touch is much preferred.
The trouble is, the average homeowner, or the local mow and blow guy who does the work, never reads up on intelligent pruning. The end result is a 'whack' job.
Mike

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 8:35AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Yeah like my neighbor, who tops his trees for God knows what reason, and they end up looking like these poor white Birch. A Dogwood might respond better to such treatment though, if carefully pruned.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 3:54PM
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gardengal48

A Dogwood might respond better to such treatment though, if carefully pruned.

Ummmmm.....NO!! It will very likely look quite a bit worse. Although that's a bit hard to imagine when looking at these......poor trees :-(

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 4:06PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I think a Dogwood could adapt better to topping than a white Birch, just because the Dogwoods often have a more spreading, multi-trunked habit. Could possibly be pruned carefully over years and look ok. With my neighbor's birch trees, they are alive and adapting, but look like they're growing mohawks and will never look natural.

Not that anyone in their right mind would top a tree like that on purpose! In this case the OP didn't have much choice in his Dogwood getting topped, and is left trying to make the best of it for the tree. A picture of the tree would be helpful.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 4:58PM
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mark1121

I apologize for not responding sooner. I'm new to the forum and thought I'd get an e-mail if anyone answered. I did try to follow proper pruning techniques but I'll let you judge from the photo if you're still paying attention.

you'll find it at the attached link.

Here is a link that might be useful: damaged dogwoood photo

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 1:45PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Well Mark, your tree is definitely topped. I can't tell a whole lot more from just that one small thumbnail picture. The likelihood that the tree will be able to cover over the wounds, before rot sets in, will depend on the tree's vigor and other factors. My guess is that the tree will suffer from the wounds. That doesn't, however, mean that the tree cannot last for a few more decades. If the tree seems to be doing very well and growing vigorously, I'd probably leave it and maybe do some restorative pruning work later. If it's not a vigorous, healthy tree, I'd go ahead and remove it and get a head start on its replacement.

One thing you might consider, if the tree seems to otherwise be in good condition, is the use of liquid copper fungicide (as described by Spruceman - read his directions) to prevent rot while the tree tries to get those wounds covered. You'd probably only have to apply it once or twice, so if you have a tall ladder and the time and patients, that might be worth looking into.

Also, this forum will send you notification emails about replies to your thread, but you have to have your email address properly entered in your profile (can't remember the specifics without looking) and you have to check the box, that says to send you emails about replies, before submitting the original post (something I forget to do about half the time, myself).

Here is a link that might be useful: Preventing Wood Rot in Trees--Liquid Copper Fungicide

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:04PM
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mark1121

Thanks to everyone for the advice.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 9:21AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Mark1121, your photo is pretty small but the tree doesn't look too bad from that angle IMO. It may look much worse from other angles though. Personally I would try to save it, and at a very minimum it's worth seeing how it flowers/leafs out this year and what it looks like. If it declines, you can remove it. If you don't feel qualified to prune it correctly, perhaps you could consult with an arborist and have them prune the tree.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 5:09PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"If you don't feel qualified to prune it correctly, perhaps you could consult with an arborist and have them prune the tree."

Looks like to me the pruning has already been done. There's little an arborist could do at this point. Maybe in a couple of years, some restorative work could be done. The only cutting I see left for now would be a final cut at the bottom of the trunk IF Mark was going to remove it

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 6:12PM
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