January 29, 2011
I have a mature ornamental crab apple tree that became bent at the top and an area that stopped putting out leaves when a neighbor’s huge Bradford pear grew into it. After the Bradford pear was removed last summer due to it splitting, my crab apple is now misshapen. What can I do to help restore what used to be a beautifully balanced tree? Should I stake it and trim off the dead areas, or leave it alone and it would take care of itself as was suggested to me by a couple of friends? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
January 30, 2011
You can do some aesthetic pruning to help it reshape itself, but this will mostly consist of pruning off anything that grows outside the shape you envision for it. But do trim off anything that is dead as these dead parts will not help the tree and may attract pests and disease.
You will need to give it some time to regrow into the area that was damaged though.
Most mature trees do not respond well to staking. If it is severely bent, you may want to either change your perspective or replant the tree. Twisted and bent trees can be quite beautiful structurally (in fact some plants, especially for Japanese gardening, are bred to twist and bend). But, if you are looking for a straight tree, you may want to start over.