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Photo: Jean-Guy Niquet, License: N/A, Created: 2004:10:25 14:12:15

Pruned trees line the campus of the University of Toronto. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOURISM TORONTO

Here’s a bit of quick trivia for you: what North American city’s slogan is “A city within a park?”

If you guessed Toronto, Ontario, Canada you must have lived or visited there at some point. Now, what do Toronto and the Abingtons have in common?

Municipally speaking, the two cities have almost nothing in common. However, as “a city within a park,” Toronto values its trees and, if we in the Abingtons value our trees, we can learn something from them.

Here’s another question for you — what do the numbers two, five and 10 have to do with Toronto and its trees?

Toronto prunes its trees two, five and 10 years after planting.

Why does this matter?

Many tree owners may not know that, just like pets, young trees need to be trained. Easier than pets, however, trees only require training at basic intervals. Tree training involves something called “scaffolding.”

Contrary to what you might think, scaffolding is not what is used to climb into the tree to prune it, the scaffolding is what the pruning intends to create in the structure of the tree. In a young tree, branches ideally should be spaced 8 to 12 inches vertically along the trunk and horizontally along the branches. Branches should also be evenly spaced radially around the trunk. In mature trees, the spacing of branches can be extended to 18 to 24 inches. Additionally, all pruning plans should promote branch and trunk taper.

This type of scaffolding can be accomplished at two and 10 years after planting. Why should you wait until two years after planting to prune? Studies have shown that pruning a tree moves energy toward healing the pruning wounds and away from rooting. The first two years after planting a tree are important for getting the root system established in the new location. Any pruning at planting should be limited to removing diseased, rubbing or broken branches.

At five years after planting, directional pruning should be used to guide a tree away from structures or wires. Also, temporary low branches could be removed for street, sidewalk and mowing clearances. In Clarks Summit and Clarks Green boroughs, trees should have no branches lower than eight feet on the sidewalk side and 14 feet on the street side.

In Clarks Summit, there is not an official tree pruning schedule. Funds are so limited that those that are available are used to plant trees. While it might be best to train our new trees, external funding is typically restricted to planting projects and internal funding is either non-existent or used for matching the external funding. The downfall of this is that untrained trees may become financial liabilities in the future. In the short term, though, just enjoy the blooms!

Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified Municipal Specialist, a Clarks Summit Tree Commissioner and an operator of a landscape maintenance business. He can be reached at