Category Archives: Arborist

Why You Should Prune Your Trees in Winter

When spring comes, we think of all the things we should do in the garden, such as pruning. But winter can be a better time to prune for several reasons.

Pruning in winter is like having an x-ray. In winter, deciduous trees have cast off their coverings, giving us a much better view of their structure. We get a clear picture of the entire tree, allowing us to identify weak branch connections, cracks in limbs, unsafely crossing limbs and dead wood. Winter is the ideal time to uncover and address the structural flaws that can eventually lead to branch or tree failures.

The structure of this tree is revealed by winter.
The structure of this tree is revealed in winter.

Winter storms are dangerous pruners. High winds and wet snow put tremendous strain on branches. Broken branches should be professionally pruned so that the cut can be in the right place to promote the natural healing process that trees employ. We recommend that you identify and remove dead or cracked branches before winter does its own pruning, which can be dangerous for property, people, and the tree.

Your yard won’t mind. Pruning and removing trees is easier when the ground is frozen. A tree care professional can typically move heavy equipment closer to the trees they are working on without harming lawns or herbacious perennials and annuals. Removing dead trees is often simpler when surrounding trees are bare. Plus, your family will experience less inconvenience when they’re usually indoors anyway.

Make spring more beautiful. Many of the flowering trees and shrubs we love, like apples, cherries, and magnolias, have already formed their buds for spring flowers by the end of fall of the previous year. By selectively pruning in winter, we can improve the saturation of flowers and fruit they have in the growing season. Winter is a busy pruning season for orchards! Proper pruning techniques are important, whether on a shrub or tree. If you do your own shrub pruning, make sure you pick the right season for each shrub and use the proper techniques. For example, pruning early flowering shrubs now (like azaleas) will lead to fewer blossoms.

Before you prune your own trees, make sure you understand proper pruning techniques. Correct pruning, whether to remove dead wood or to improve a tree’s structure, is much more than just picking a spot and sawing away: the placement and execution of a proper cut actually helps the tree with its healing process.

When trees require pruning of high branches or a power saw is needed, it’s time to call a professional. A professional tree care company, like Almstead, has the right tools, equipment and safety training to do the job.

Beating Heat Stress

We are at the peak of summer, and the weather can have a toll on your trees, shrubs and lawn. Extended periods of heat and humidity, along with bright sunshine, warm nights and inadequate rain can lead to summer stress on your landscape.

Arranging a soaker hose to cover the critical root zone of a tree is a great method for the slow, saturated watering that’s best for trees.

Horticulturally speaking, the first place many people notice the effects of heat stress is on lawns, which have the good sense to go dormant and wait it out. We definitely recommend a combination of over-seeding and core aeration this fall to help rejuvenate your grass as the summer comes to an end. However, lawns are actually faring better than many trees, although the symptoms may not be as obvious.

Plants are constantly losing water through tiny holes in their leaves through a process called transpiration, and when it’s hot, the rate of that water loss increases. Add to that a lack of adequate rainfall, and the result is often stressed plant material. The problem facing trees is that they’re really big, and they do not have the luxury of going dormant in hot summer months, like lawns. Instead, trees have a lot of active leaves, so they lose a lot of water, and their roots are searching to replace that water in some pretty dry ground.

Trees suffering from heat stress face problems with producing new growth, healing wounds, and fighting against diseases and insects. If they’re stressed enough, they eventually run out of energy to support their existing growth and begin to decline (sometimes irreversibly). Newly planted (within the last 2 years) and mature trees are the most at risk for serious decline, and we’ve seen both this summer. Some trees that are most prone to heat stress and drought include Birches, American Dogwoods, and Japanese Maples.


Signs of heat stress in trees tend to develop toward the top of the canopy first, so property owners don’t often notice it right away. They include smaller leaf size, leaf scorch (browning and/or yellowing), wilting, and sometimes loss of foliage (a particularly bad sign). 


So, What’s the Solution?

The best way to fight heat stress in trees is through a combination of proper irrigation, mulching, and organic soil amendments.


Proper irrigation means focusing water on saturating the root zone of a tree. Sprinklers may be good for lawns, but they aren’t going to get the job done for trees. A properly placed soaker hose is a better solution. Treegators are ideal especially for young trees, which run a high risk of suffering heat stress. With a traditional garden hose, it’s also possible to set the flow to a trickle and move the mouth of the hose around to four or five different areas of the root zone over the course of the day.

Treegators are bags with tiny holes that slowly release water into the root zone of a tree.

A good line of defense against hot weather conditions is to apply a layer of mulch around trees and plants. Light colored mulches are better at reflecting sunlight and keeping the soil cooler in summer. Mulch also reduces evaporation of water from the soil and reduces the need to water constantly. However, to be effective, mulch needs to be applied correctly.


We recommend a depth of 2-3 inches of mulch for trees and shrubs. It should also cover a diameter of 3-4 feet around trees (to the tree’s drip line ideally) and not pile up against the stem or trunk flare. If you have any questions about mulching, please speak to your Almstead arborist.

Soil Care:

In terms of soil care, organic amendments increase a tree’s drought tolerance without spurring new growth that it can’t afford to support (which is the result of synthetic fertilization of heat stressed plants). Also, by using a soil needle injection method for applying soil amendments (as opposed to a soil drench), we can break up compacted ground and introduce better flow of nutrients, air, and water into the root zone. In addition to Almstead’s organic soil care services our arborists are always glad to advise you on irrigation practices, and we also provide watering services for plants out of reach of irrigation.

To formulate a heat stress survival plan for your trees (and shrubs, and lawn), please schedule a complimentary consultation with your Almstead arborist.

Preserving Old Trees During Construction – Part 1

Almstead was brought in to consult on preserving Sugar Maple trees — that are approximately 75 years old — during the construction of a new home in Riverside, CT. These beautiful old trees will definitely add to the value and aesthetic of the property once the construction is complete. In the meantime, it’s our job to make sure that they stay healthy and safe. In general, Maple trees have a high level of adaptability to environmental change.

We found major soil disturbance within the drip line of the tree caused by the blasting of ledge rock and the excavation for construction and the installation of utilities.

Over the course of the next year, Almstead will monitor the site and ensure that the trees are healthy, and looking their best, after the construction is over. In addition to consultation, our services will include root and crown pruning, fertilizations, soil amendments and air spading.

We will post photos and updates on this project here in the coming months.


(Top ) Blasting of ledge rock was done in preparation for construction. You can see the fault line and exposed roots that have resulted from the rock blasting. 

(Bottom) Before and after root pruning — Almstead will be pruning the roots as well as the crown. We will also be treating the tree with cambistat growth regulators and custom fertilizations during and after construction to help preserve these trees throughout the process.

Why Leaves Change Color

Autumn is here and, as the Simon and Garfunkel hit song goes, “the leaves that are green turn to brown.”  In the New York Metro area, we are lucky to be treated to a fireworks display of autumn colors. Few places have the variety and intensity of color that we see in the foliage of the Northeast. Aside from entertaining us, nature also has another purpose in painting so many trees with these intense hues.


Different fall colors occur for different reasons. The orange and yellow pigment (carotene and xanthophyll respectively) in leaves doesn’t suddenly appear – it has been there all along, only disguised by the intense green of chlorophyll. During the summer, trees use their leaves to make glucose, which gives them energy to use and to store for the winter. Leaves are solar panels for trees; the leaves of deciduous trees add tremendous surface area for collecting sunlight. Photosynthesis uses this sunlight, along with carbon dioxide and chlorophyll to manufacture glucose. As trees segue into winter, they can no longer replenish the moisture that evaporates from their canopies, so they turn off the tap and starve the leaves of water. As the green chlorophyll ceases production and fades, the yellows and oranges that have been there all along become visible.

Reds and purples come from anthocyanins that form when glucose is trapped in the leaves. There are theories about what benefit this provides to the tree. Some scientists feel this allows leaves to remain on the branches longer, providing the tree with added nutrients. Others think that as red and purple leaves decay the anthocyanins make the ground inhospitable to competing species.

Brown leaves contain large deposits of tannins, a waste product of photosynthesis.

When Color Change is a Warning Sign

Although color change is natural for deciduous trees, premature color change is often a warning sign. When trees accelerate the process of shutting off their leaves for the winter, it is usually in response to some stress such as disease or lack of water.


Sometimes only a single branch will turn color.  This is a signal that the branch is injured or there is disease present. An arborist can determine the source of the problem and suggest recommendations to rectify it before it develops further or results in the loss of the tree.

— Ken Almstead, CEO

Protecting Trees from Lightening Strikes

Whenever we see a tree damaged by lightening, it makes us wonder about the potential for danger on our own property. Fortunately, lightning protection is fairly easy to install, and dramatically reduces the risk to the tree and your property.

There are 25 million lightning strikes in the U.S. each year. There’s no way to determine how many strike trees, but it is estimated in the tens of thousands. Anyone who hikes in our area only needs to look carefully at the tall trees to see signs of lightning damage.

As we all know, lightning is attracted to tall objects — a category that certainly includes trees. Some species of trees are more vulnerable to lightning strikes than others (oak, elm, maple, poplar, ash, spruce, pine and tulip tree are species more likely to be hit than, for example, beech or birch), but none are immune.

Lightning can damage or kill an otherwise healthy tree. It can also jump from a nearby tree to enter your home through wires or pipes – the same way as if your house had been hit directly. The National Fire Protection Association says in its Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems:

Trees with trunks within 10 ft. of a structure or with branches that extend to a height above the structure should be equipped with a lightning protection system because of the danger of a side-flash, fire or superheating of the moisture in the tree, which could result in the splintering of the tree. It might be desirable to equip other trees with a lightning protection system because of a particular tree’s value to the owner.
Source: NFPA 780

Protecting special trees and trees close to your home will keep your property safer and increase your peace of mind. We install lightning rods that are inconspicuous, safe for the tree and able to accommodate tree growth for many years. If a tree is hit by lightning, the lightning cables are designed to channel the current away from the tree (and any buildings) and into the ground where it can safely dissipate.

— Ken Almstead, CEO

 lightning-striking-tree1 lightning-striking-tree2 lightning-striking-tree3

Salted Evergreens

Fallen trees have been removed, power has been restored, and people are back in their homes. For those of us in Westchester County, the effects of Hurricane Sandy have passed. Or not.

pine salt damage

Since mid-November, I have been seeing an unusual level of salt damage to evergreens. While winter road salt always has a bad effect on many evergreens, the damage I’ve noticed recently is far more extensive. One of the effects of Hurricane Sandy was to carry salt spray from the ocean and drop it throughout our area. The northeast winds gave many of our shrubs a thorough drenching of salt water. Throughout the towns bordering Long Island Sound, we have been seeing extensive salt damage, particularly on the northeastern and eastern facing sides of evergreens. Many white pines that were near the ocean are entirely brown and desiccated on their eastern sides. This is true of plants several miles inland as well.

How can you tell if your evergreens have experienced salt damage? Take a look. If the plant or tree was green last fall and now has browning needles and dry tips, salt is a likely culprit. When salt coats the foliage of a plant, it draws moisture out, causing a burned effect.  Warming temperatures after the storm can also have this effect. If damage is extensive, the plant will die. If the buds are brittle or broken and easily snap with light pressure, the entire branch is probably dead. Once needles are brown, they never return to green again. However, I caution people to wait until spring before making any decision on removing the plant. This type of damage is new to us, so we don’t have a clear idea of how the plants will rebound.


Is there any way to restore a damaged evergreen? Maybe.  If green needles are mixed in with the brown, cross your fingers  and hope that the plant will rebound on its own. If the plant is heavily desiccated, including the buds, we can go back into the canopy and feather prune to where we find green cambium. This is labor intensive, but it can force the dormant lateral buds to grow out. Not all evergreens can be forced this way; there’s little we can do to assist plants such as hemlocks or others that won’t respond well to severe pruning.

I usually recommend several applications of anti-desiccant spray to broad-leaf evergreens during the winter; it can also help needled evergreens retain moisture.  I find it makes a big difference in our area, not just for salt burn but for winter burn in general. The freeze-thaw cycle that we go through in the New York Metro region is extremely tough on evergreens. (Does 5° one week and 45° the next week sound familiar?) A plant health care professional (such as Almstead) can take care of this; they will have the equipment to reach tall shrubs. If you apply the anti-desiccant yourself, make sure it’s on a day when the temperature is above freezing. Also, be aware that certain anti-desiccants should not be used on some evergreens such as cypress, arborvitae, cedar or juniper. Read the label and know the species of plant you are treating: conifer leaves can be broad-leaf, needle, scale-leaf or awl-like, and can’t all be treated the same way.

Salt in the ground is a different problem. Since Hurricane Sandy gave us a one-time application, any salt in the soil should dilute with the spring rains and snow melt. You may want to delay fertilizing this spring if you use a generic, synthetic fertilizer. This type of fertilizer contains salt; hold off until we’ve had some thorough soaking. Organic humates will bind the salt in the soil; there are actually products designed for this type of soil, geared to areas that experience seasonal flooding.

A sudden salt drench from a hurricane is unanticipated. If, however, you live near the water (or near a heavily salted road), choosing salt-tolerant plants is wise. Some plants, such as black pine, blue spruce and Chinese juniper will tolerate a lot of salt. I always recommend choosing plants that are comfortable in your location rather than trying to maintain a plant outside its natural environment.

– Ken Almstead, arborist and CEO

Recycling Cypress

One of my favorite places to work – and to visit —  is Wave Hill, the public garden and cultural center in the Bronx. This beautifully designed park is a garden for all seasons. Visiting there should be on every New Yorker’s to-do list.

Work begins taking down these 35-40 ft.cypress trees.
Work begins taking down these 35-40 ft.cypress trees.

We were recently asked to replace several cypress trees in one of their gardens. The trees had grown too large for their location and needed to be removed. 4 foot tall replacement trees had been nurtured on-site, grown from cuttings of the mature cypresses to be removed.  The smaller trees will look more proportionate to the rest of the garden and not obscure the view of the Palisades.

This job was different from most of our tree removal because we were asked to take down the trees in as large sections as possible.  Unlike in forestry, where trees are often cut for lumber, in urban forestry we typically take down trees in 2-4 ft. sections: we don’t often have the room to drop an entire tree; also the smaller, cut sections are easier to manage through tight spaces and into the chipper. However, since cypress is an unusually valuable tree, the trunks would be taken to the woodworking shop facilities at Wave Hill where they will eventually be used in one of their upcoming projects.

I’d like to digress for a moment on the history of cypress trees. Cypresses have been admired and ultilized for thousands of years. They are an old-world Mediterranean tree, whose tall, narrow beauty was used to grace important public and religious sites. The wood was also valued for its lightness, strength and lack of sap. Ancient Egyptians used cypress to make coffins for their mummies; Plato inscribed his code of laws on cypress because he thought it would last longer than brass.

Today, cypress remains a valued wood for its resistance to rot, lack of warping and the beauty of its grain and hue. America has many native cypresses.  The ones at Wave Hill are Lawson Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana).  Though called a “false” cypress, the genus is generally considered part of the cypress family.

Here are some photos from the job:

removing cypress
We began by limbing up the tree by removing small branching


anchoring cypress
Then we rigged the bare trunks by anchoring them with a line to another tree.


roping cypress
We felled the last trunk by steadying it with ropes from the ground, allowing a slow, controlled progression to the ground.


cypress cleanup
Wave Hill wound up with some beautiful cypress logs, up to 20 ft. in length.

Ken Almstead, CEO and Arborist

High Flying in Manhattan: Removing a Backyard Tree by Crane

A property management company for whom we’ve done a number of difficult jobs, inherited a large dead tree when they took over a new location. They called us to remove the problem.

A neighbor later told me that the tree had been dead for 4 or 5 years. Because of the tree’s condition and location (in back of a row of brownstones in the Upper West Side), traditional forms of removal were not an option. So, we hired and worked with a 40 ton crane. The crane was parked on the street in front of the building; from there it could reach over the top of the buildings into the back yard and hold, and then lift, sections of the tree over the buildings.

cranecutting down

A neighbor later told me that the tree had been dead for 4 or 5 years. Because of the tree’s condition and location (in back of a row of brownstones in the Upper West Side), traditional forms of removal were not an option. So, we hired and worked with a 40 ton crane. The crane was parked on the street in front of the building; from there it could reach over the top of the buildings into the back yard and hold, and then lift, sections of the tree over the buildings.


There was a problem with trying to remove this tree using traditional methods. Usually, we would use the main part of the tree as an anchor to support and lower pieces as they were cut. The cut pieces are dropped from their location until they are caught by the rigging we install. But at the moment they are caught, there is stress put on the trunk of the tree. If the stress is too great, the trunk will break and the whole tree — climber included — will come crashing down. We couldn’t take that chance with this tree. The climber was able to tie sections of the tree to the crane, make the cut, and have the crane bear the weight away. This way there was no shock to the trunk.


We do crane removals frequently, but this is the only one I have seen or heard of in the city where we had to reach over the top of a posh brownstone!

— Chris Busak, Arborist

The Secrets of Compost Tea

Last month, Almstead had the opportunity to conduct a workshop on Compost Tea and Air Spading for the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). Arborist Dan Dalton and I, along with compost tea brewing specialist Russell Wagner and lawn technician Marc San Phillipo and several other Almstead professionals, really enjoyed being able to share our knowledge and experience with others interested in organic tree and plant care.

The workshop was intensive. We covered both the science behind Compost Tea brewing and the practical issues and hurdles to creating a brewing business. I’ve been involved in Almstead’s evolution into organic care from the beginning and believe that products like compost tea are win-win: healthier for the lawns and trees as well as the environment, friendlier to consumers, and safer for everyone.

Michael Almstead, August 9, 2012.  The Compost Tea Workshop was held on the beautiful  campus of Rye Country Day School.
Michael Almstead, August 9, 2012.
The Compost Tea Workshop was held on the beautiful campus of Rye Country Day School.

Brewing high-quality compost tea is an involved, scientific and careful process. Compost tea is NOT a slurry of compost and water. It must be carefully balanced to meet the nutritional requirements of the plants it’s meant for.  It contains living organisms that have to be kept alive through constant aeration – both while the tea is brewing and in the truck delivering it.

Continual aeration is a necessity for compost tea.
Continual aeration is a necessity for compost tea.

We have a mini science lab in our Compost Tea brewing facility, where we examine everything going into the tea. We want it loaded with beneficial organisms, both bacteria and fungi; we add them, and make sure they are live and happy (and in the proper proportions) in the tea before we apply it. We also make sure that no damaging organisms are sneaking into our mixture.  This quality control is vital to brewing compost tea – without it, you’d  just be delivering a truckload of dirty water.

We have a rather substantial Compost Tea brewing operation here at Almstead. Compost tea is an organic way of adding nutrients and microorganisms to the soil – sort of a jump-start for soil to rejuvenate itself, making it more attractive for worms and other beneficial organisms, and keeping the process of soil development going. And it dramatically cuts down the use of chemicals, a plus for both for the environment and for people who are exposed to their lawns.

Russell Wagner microscopically checks our Compost Tea  for the proper microorganisms and fungi.
Russell Wagner microscopically checks our Compost Tea for the proper microorganisms and fungi.

Dan Dalton taught the segment on soil properties. He emphasized the necessity of understanding the chemical, physical and biological elements of soil in order to create a compost tea – sometimes augmented by other organic amendments – that facilitates the right soil profile. This goes way beyond simple pH – it includes factors such as adjusting the particle size of soil components and encouraging symbiotic fungi that help keep damaging organisms away from tree roots.

We create different teas for lawns and for trees because of their varying requirements. Lawns need a higher ratio of bacteria, while trees require more fungi. For large locations (like a college campus or business park) we can create a Compost Tea based on soil testing. Sometimes we add specialized ingredients like nematodes or mycorrhizal fungi to meet their specific needs.  We talked in general about recipes for compost teas – but the formulae that Almstead has carefully developed for our clients remains a closely-guarded company secret.

Dan Dalton describes the nutrient cycle.
Dan Dalton describes the nutrient cycle.

Our NOFA presentation also included a demonstration of air spading. Air spading (using compressed air to loosen soil around tree roots) is a wonderful tool of organic tree care. There are several methods we can choose from, depending upon the results desired. Essentially, by using the air spade, we can loosen and/or remove compacted soil. We fill in with looser soil and amendments, allowing the tree roots to “breathe,” encouraging them to grow and giving them easier access to the nutrients and water in the soil.

Russell performed air spading on one of the Rye Country Day School campus trees. Since fibrous roots are concentrated in the top 8” of soil, compaction can deprive a tree of both oxygen and nutrients. First , he excavated the critical root zone around the trunk, easing soil compaction and allowing examination of the roots for signs of girdling or disease; then he air spaded out radially from the trunk (like slicing a pie).  These slices were filled with compost and other soil amendments to provide the roots with easy access to oxygen, water and nutrients.

The participants examine fibrous roots exposed by air spading.
The participants examine fibrous roots exposed by air spading.
Marc San Phillipo demonstrates soil injection  of compost tea into the root zone.
Marc San Phillipo demonstrates soil injection of compost tea into the root zone.

Mark San Phillipo also demonstrated the soil injection of compost tea into the root zone. Compost tea can also be used as a soil drench.

By the end of the day, the workshop participants seemed to leave with a new appreciation for these important tools in organic plant care.

– Michael Almstead, VP  & Arborist

Prune in June


The incredible spring growing season we’ve had here in the New York area has produced a thick, heavy canopy for our trees and shrubs. In many cases, this is too much of a good thing. We’ve been seeing a lot of trees that have too much leafy weight to be safely supported by the branches, making them vulnerable to snapping off, and putting stress on the tree’s health. We’re also still finding branches damaged by last fall’s storms either hung up in other branches or ready to break off.

And there are several other good reasons to “Prune in June.” Selective pruning helps to maintain your plantings by stimulating healthy new growth, enhancing the form and beauty of your trees or shrubs. Right after the spring growth is also the right time to prune to create a thicker privacy screen. And of course, selectively pruning the tree canopy will allow more light to reach your lawn, shrubs and perennials.

 –   Alan McCullough,  Almstead arborist and Branch Manager, New Jersey

Arbor Day

How great is it that trees have their own holiday? Flowers don’t — unless you count Mother’s Day.

In 1872  J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska editor, initiated the 1st arbor day. Along with many other recent settlers to the prairies, he felt something was missing: trees! He wanted to plant trees for shade, for fuel and as windbreaks to prevent erosion. Morton, who later went on to become Secretary of Agriculture, thought big: over a million trees were planted on that first arbor day. Contests were held, communities competed — and other states — and eventually more than 30 other countries — followed suit.

Although a little less ambitious than Morton, our Almstead arborists like to participate in Arbor Day planting every year. This year, the New York chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture featured arborists Michael Marks and Jon Olsz in their Arbor Day news on their website.

We have more pictures on our Facebook page:

arbor day for blog

A Tree Crew’s Island Adventure

mead 7

The New Canaan tree warden left me a message, “Got guys that can swim with chain saws on their backs?”

There’s a park in town with an island and a large oak fell during Irene, and he wanted it cut up and left on the ground so it wasn’t so visible.

“I know it’s an odd request, don’t know what to do.”

I told him not to worry, there’s not a lot we can’t handle.

mead 6 mead 4

I put the Kayak on the roof the next Saturday and paddled out with the saws with a throw bag line attached. Leo pulled the boat back and got across, Alex did the same, we took care of the job and back over we went.

I had to itemize the invoice for FEMA reimbursement. We listed the Kayak as a “no charge” item and off it went.

“You guys make my life easy.”

All in a day’s work… You should have seen the look on the faces of the dog-walkers when we started loading the saws into the boat!

– “Capt.” Bob Bociek, Almstead Arborist & Branch Manager in Fairfield County, CT

Storm and Flood Damage – Uprooted Trees

Hurricane Irene brought a lot of flooding our way, and for trees that posed the danger of saturated soil. When there is so much water that it isn’t able to drain into the water table, the soil fills with more water than it would naturally retain. This loosens soil particles and makes the ground more malleable.

The majority of a tree’s root system is typically anchored to the first 6-12 inches of the soil. It’s also the part of the ground that bears the brunt of over-saturation in flood situations. When the soil loosens around the roots, it can lead to the uprooting of a tree. This is a problem we saw a lot of in the aftermath of Irene.

Photo from the International Society of Arboriculture.
Photo from the International Society of Arboriculture.
Uprooted trees obviously have the potential to cause a lot of damage  when they fall. In addition to property, they often take down power  lines and block paths like roadways. It's especially important to stay  away from damaged power lines and wait for professionals  to handle these situations.
Uprooted trees obviously have the potential to cause a lot of damage when they fall. In addition to property, they often take down power lines and block paths like roadways. It’s especially important to stay away from damaged power lines and wait for professionals to handle these situations.
This uprooted tree was sitting in saturated soil and  is a typical  example of the type of damage we saw from Hurricane Irene.
This uprooted tree was sitting in saturated soil and is a typical example of the type of damage we saw from Hurricane Irene.

Pruning the Cherry Trees at Men in Black Headquarters

Here’s something a little out of the ordinary for us in the tree business…

The Set Decorators for the upcoming movie Men in Black 3 enlisted Almstead to prune three Cherry trees framing the entrance to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in Battery Park (better know to fans as Men in Black Headquarters).

The request was for us to prune the trees back significantly to gain more visibility of the building while still maintaining a natural shape and not making fresh cuts large enough that they would be obvious on screen. While this job required a bit more meticulousness than usual, it’s not unfamiliar territory for us. We call this type of work a “natural crown reduction” in arboriculture. In this case, the crew did a great job of removing about 25% of each tree’s canopy while still maintaining their natural growth habits and avoiding that “just pruned” look.

A thank you from the Men in Black Set Department
A thank you from the Men in Black Set Department
Almstead crew pruning Cherries at the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in Battery Park
Almstead crew pruning Cherries at the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in Battery Park

In addition to the aesthetic benefits, natural crown reduction is also much better for trees in the long run compared to less subtle methods like topping (simply cutting back the edges of the crown to where you want them the same way you might shear a hedge). Making cuts at natural junctures in the tree and thinking about which branches are most important to its underlying structure keep future growth headed in the right direction, prevent stress reactions like water-sprouting, and minimize the chances of decay as a result of the pruning wounds. It’s definitely the best way to reduce the size of a tree, even if your landscape isn’t about to be Hollywood’s next big star.

— Chris Busak, Arborist in NYC & Lower Westchester

In the Business for Too Long…

We’re working at this commercial site today, taking down 3 pines. Something seems oddly familiar with the landscape. I think I ran this planting job back in the 80’s with good-ole Laflamme Services. We drop the last pine and before El Chivo starts in with the stump grinder I see a green plastic strip stuck in the wood of the stump. I pulled it out and it’s a tagging-seal, number 453, with the name “Laflamme.” 

I tagged the darned thing in a nursery 25 years ago with an architect and planted it at the site…

Evidence: The Laflamme tree tag
Evidence: The Laflamme tree tag

When you get called to cut down 40′ trees that you planted when they were 6′, it’s got to be telling you something.

-Bob Bociek, CT Branch Manager at Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Company