Pruning Trees To Restore A View

A common request I have had over the years as an Arborist is regarding trees that are blocking a view.  Often the client is asking to have the tree topped or removed to restore the view.  In this blog I will discuss why these might not be the best options and use case studies of resent jobs that Waipu Tree Care has done as examples.

View of horizon obscured by Pohutakawa tree

View of horizon obscured by Pohutakawa tree

The solution to restoring a view can seem obvious: cut away any parts of the tree that are in the way.  Unfortunately, this does not take into consideration how trees function and their likely reaction to the pruning.  When a tree is cut a wound is created.  Depending on the size and position of the cut it can produce a variety of responses.  This can also be affected by the species of tree and time of year.  Topping trees often results in thick vigorous re-growth as the tree attempts to replace the photosynthetic area it has lost.  Large wounds in main scaffold branches (which are often a consequence of topping) usually lead to decay.  This decay can cause failure of the new growth further down the track.  Topping a tree to restore a view can be a short-term solution that creates more problems in the future.

Branches encroach into the view covering the island

Branches encroach into the view covering the island

Removing a tree to restore a view does work as a solution to the blocking problem, however, it also removes any benefits that the tree was providing.  There are some situations where removing the tree is the only viable option; but there are plenty of situations where the tree can be retained and pruned to create a better solution.

I have had two notable jobs recently that have addressed this situation.  Both cases involved semi-mature Pohutakawa trees.  The trees’ canopy were directly obscuring the view of the ocean and the horizon, the coastal view being the main focal points of the gardens.  Topping the trees would completely ruin their form and the consequential re-growth would quickly veil the view. 

View to the horizon and ocean restored

View to the horizon and ocean restored

The solution was to prune the lower canopy whilst retaining the upper canopy.  Branches were selectively removed to reveal the view whilst leaving enough growth to support the tree in its functions.  It is important during this process not to remove too much leaf area.  In general, no more than 1/3 of the live growth should be removed but ideally much less.  Pruning in this manner may not be fully achievable in 1 session.  A better approach can be to stage the work over a few years, gently creeping the canopy up as the tree grows so as not to over prune.

View to island framed by branches

View to island framed by branches

In other situations, I have pruned parts of the canopy to create arches or natural frames for views, especially in situations with multiple trees.  The results can be subtler but longer lasting and have less of a negative impact on the tree.