Deodar & western red cedars growing close together

fredgmeyerOctober 2, 2013

Hi. I live in Seattle. In my front yard, along my front fenceline, I have 3 trees planted in a line relatively close to one another: 2 deodar cedars on the ends, and a western red cedar in the middle. The deodars are both about 6' away from the WRC. I would estimate they are all at least 20 years old: the deodars have trunk diameters ~16" and the WRC diameter is about 15". They are about 40' tall. Their canopies completely overlap and intertwine, and I think the 3 trees are just too close for long term health. I have thought about cutting down the WRC in the middle to free up some room, water, and nutrients in the soil. My questions:

* The canopies of both deodars on the sides that face the WRC are obviously thin and stunted. Now you don't notice since the WRC is there. If I cut down the WRC, will these canopies eventually fill in and not be stunted and noticeable?

* In the 10 years I have lived here, it appears the deodars have grown thicker faster than the WRC. I'm wondering if I cut the WRC, will the deodars begin to grow even faster with more nutrients and water available? If so, that raises questions, such as growing into the front fence as the trunk diameter increases.



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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Let's see, six feet away from the Thuja plicata, all three are 40 feet high, all want to grow into massive trees. Thinking long term, it likely would be best to remove the Thuja, but it will leave bare spots that, at this stage, may take a couple decades to fill in. Tough to say without a pic. Also, how far from the fence are they?


    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 5:28PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

a pic is worth a thousand words ...

but all 3.. should be no closer to the house than 20 feet ... and if they arent .. they should all go ...

these are forest trees.. planted in suburbia ... bad choice to start with ....

who knew.. as trees ... [BTW.. they are conifers, more specifically] .... they never really stop growing ....

thank goodness i can blame a prior owner ...

removal of any of the 3.. will leave a very ugly tree or two behind ... its probably an all or nothing situation ...


EDIT: its not that they cant or wont fill in ... its what you will be looking at for 5 or more years .. while they do it .... most of us.. couldnt stand walking out the door every day.. without our blood pressure spiking ... just do one.. see what it looks like.. leave it be for winter.. and thru next springs growth push .. and you will discover your own tolerance for ugly ... always.. trim first.. remove later ... its not really an ALL OR NOTHING choice ... do it in stages .... and do let us know.. what you end up deciding ....

This post was edited by ken_adrian on Thu, Oct 3, 13 at 7:29

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 7:52PM
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I you remove the wrc, the cedars will fill in eventually, but they are not super dense trees to begin with so they will never have the cover the wrc has, assuming the wrc has been allowed to have the lower branches retained.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 2:51AM
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If it were my yard, I'd leave all trees and enjoy the look of trees that fill out together. The WRC is a nice contrast to the Deodara and the whole package is probably very pleasing to the eye.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Thanks for the suggestions thus far. I'm posting 4 photos of the trees and their proximity to each other, the fence, and the house...and in one picture, my dog.

Well, looks Iike I can only post one photo at a time, so look for a total of 4 follow-up messages, each one with a picture.

Things are pretty much fine right now...but I'm thinking another 10 years down the road - will I even be able to have a fence there? And are they too close to the house?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 2:15PM
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Follow up photo #2.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Follow up photo #3

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 2:19PM
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Seriously, I would definitely not remove any of those trees. They are fairly well grown and the Deodaras will look terrible without the WRC there. IMO the WRC looks better than the Deodaras anyway....

I'm biased on the WRC though because we don't have those here. The ERC in our area isn't nearly as pretty.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 8:15PM
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I love those trees in that grouping. Unfortunately, they are in the wrong place, unless you are intentionally trying to hide the house.

A landscape designer would probably tell you to remove at least two of them and leave the Deodor at the left of the front door, if any. The problem is the eventual size of the trees. They will all get very large. From the picture it looks like you are close to the stage where you will need to be pruning the cedar branches to keep them from swamping the house. You co not want heavy branches overhanging your house.

I hate cutting down trees. I love the WRC, but, I think that one should go. It would open your front yard to a bit more light and allow the house to be seen better. The cedars will eventually fill out.

Give it some thought. Do not do it right away as you have time to consider things. You may want to call in an arborist for advice. Also be aware of the roots. They spread farther than the branches.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 1:35PM
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All valid points. I'd leave em be. Not quite right from a landscape design standpoint, that's for sure. But they have intrinsic beauty and value. And obviously, they are not too close together for good growth!

I would raise them up some though. HAve someone that knows the proper method take off a tier or two or three of lower branches. It'll get the limbs up off the house, allow a little more house to show through, and give you more room to live under them.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 12:33AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Going by what I can see of it in these shots the "western red cedar" is a 'Castlewellan' cypress which is quite prone to browning out in this area, probably due to fungus problems or maybe severe cypress tip moth infestations. If yours goes bad that will make a decision for you.

Somebody planted these for a screen based on how they looked when they were smaller, now they have become crowded and overgrown. As always with young, conical conifers the removing of their bottom branches significantly reduced their beauty and served to demonstrate that they are no longer right for the site. I would take them all out and start over with better choices for the situation.

It would have been a lot different if they had been planted as a sheared hedge and that had been maintained.

At a size in scale with the space.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 2:06AM
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It is sometimes possible to keep large trees and to garden.

This Seattle garden has two Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in the front yard, dwarfing the house. When the homeowner purchased the house, she had the two trees limbed up to 15 feet or so, and had some of the remaining branches entirely removed to moderate the shade and lessen the sail effect in the wind.

This post was edited by IshCountryGal on Sun, Oct 6, 13 at 5:37

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 3:26AM
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Here is the area under the Douglas firs in the Seattle garden in late May. In the upper left-hand corner of this photo you can just see the base of one of the trees. These planters are left there year round.

This post was edited by IshCountryGal on Sun, Oct 6, 13 at 3:37

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 3:28AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The bigger the trees get the smaller the house will look. And if they live for a long time they will get a lot bigger than they are now.

I question the "sail effect" being a big factor with comparatively small Douglas firs with normal crown shapes that look like they have been growing in this same exposure for a long time. I also wonder about the cost versus benefit analysis when a significant portion of food-making foliage and energy-storing branches are removed from trees which are supposedly in danger of blowing over if this is not done.

And I wonder about the certainty of crown reduction now removing the danger from a tree that was otherwise looking like it could be a hazard.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 2:56PM
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The house has a western exposure, so the Doug firs are exposed to wind. I think the neighbors, from whose porch I took the photo, estimate the trees to be about 80 years old. The limbing up and the removal of some branches was done several years ago.

The owner starts her Lewisia cotyledon hybrids from seed and also makes the hypertufa planters, so I think she wants the environment the trees provide for the container part of her garden: high shade and some shelter from winter rains.

This post was edited by IshCountryGal on Sun, Oct 6, 13 at 17:01

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:08PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

80 years highly doubtful for the one visible in the picture unless there was a long period of stunting due to site conditions which became changed later.

And the tree shows no sign of now.

Yes, it might be assumed the rain deflection provided by the tree is making growing of the lewisias without an artificial cover possible. Otherwise what often happens is they rot off after a several years.

Or less.

Although I see none of hers appear to have more than one or a few rosettes either.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 2:25AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

this is what happens.. when one sees these cute little babes for sale ... and doenst understand the potential ...

the base problem here.. is that these are forest production trees... not landscape plants ...

and whoever planted them.. did not understand the difference ...

in snowload.. and ice areas.. these would be nightmare trees... as well as hurricane areas ...

i do not know WA well enough to fear for you ....

for sure... the micro climate allowed them to grow to this size and height.. w/o any significant apparent damage... historically ... so why should we worry now ...

IMHO .. as to OP ... they either all go.. or they all stay .. subject to winning the lotto .. lol ... i can not comprehend.. what might be the result ... with removal of some but not all ...

you wont be able to grind the stumps... you arent going to grow grass ... and you will significantly change the micro climate... what is now a rather weather proof situation.. will all of a sudden not be as windproof as it was previously.. because you changed the dynamic ...

that group of conifer.. trees... are relying on each other.. as they have for decades... change something.. at your own peril ... s the result will be unpredictable ... whats that cliche... the result of unintended consequences ...???


    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 7:42AM
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YOLO - keep em

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 8:05AM
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