The problem with grafted trees is that you have to keep removing any growth from below the graft, as it will be from the "ordinary" rootstock, and it will quickly overwhelm the more decorative top.
This also happens to curly hazel (one of my least favourite ornamental trees - looks fine in winter, very structural, but in summer it just looks diseased!) which tends to be ruined by long straight growths coming from the base.
This particular little tree is in the grounds of a local Tech Park, and I happen to know the groundsman quite well, so I obtained his permission to tidy it up.
The first job was to remove all the long straight stuff growing up from the base.
This is best done by pulling off the new growth, which discourages re-growth. However, in this case it had been allowed to run wild for a year, so the new shoots were too thick to just pull out - I had to cut them.
If you have to cut them, cut as close as you can to the trunk, and try to do clean cuts, no ragged bits. Sharp tools are a great help.
Then I removed an outcrop of straight growths which were sprouting part-way up the main trunk.
Finally I looked at the mop-head of pendant foliage, and applied the famous "Three Ds" of pruning - you remove anything which is Dead, Diseased, or Damaged.
Why do we do that? Dead:There is no point leaving dead wood on a tree - it rots, it attracts wood-boring insects, it harbours other pests, it prevents air circulation, which is important for healthy new growth, and finally it looks terrible!
Diseased: any branches with fungus, or rot, or wilt, or anything unhealthy-looking will only spread. Remove any such material, cutting back progressively until you get to healthy wood.
Damaged: branches that have been broken, or snapped, are open doorways for disease to get in. It is better to cut them out straight away.
Finally, a little light trimming of any disproportionately long twigs, and I was done.
With all that removed, there didn't seem to be much left. As you can see (left).
Brutal, huh? But this is the correct thing to do.
Here is my reward: two months later, in May, the top was shooting nicely, and it was starting to look more as it should - a "light, airy waterfall" is what we are aiming for.
I had asked my friendly groundsman if he would re-stake the tree, to get it more upright, but unfortunately he didn't get around to doing it.
But never mind, at least it is no longer reverting back to a mere bush of grey willow!
And here it is today, July: as you can see, it's recovered beautifully, and the new growth is almost down to the ground!
Sooo worth doing....
I will be keeping an eye on it from now on, now that I have permission to do so, and hopefully it will never again get into such a mess!
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