Caring for your trees

Before undertaking any work it is necessary to check whether the tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or stands in a Conservation Area. To find this out, contact our Planning Admin team, by phone on 01895 837210 or 01895 837342 or by email on planning@southbucks.gov.uk.

My tree needs to be pruned, what should I do?
In many cases the best form of tree management is not to prune at all. Pruning disrupts the tree's natural state and creates opportunities for fungi to enter through the wounds that are caused, leading to decay. If you feel you must prune your tree then decide what it is you want to achieve and only carry out the work that will achieve this. The main categories of tree work are as follows:

  • Crown lifting - The removal of branches from ground level to a specified height, usually expressed in metres, for example: crown lift to 4 metres. Ultimately this method produces a clear stem which is especially desirable for trees with attractive bark such as Pines and Hornbeams. This method is also important for the avoidance of obstruction of highways and footpaths. It is essential that no branches bigger than one third the size of the associated tree stem are removed, as such wounds readily form a weak point on the tree.
     
  • Crown thinning - This is the thinning of the overall canopy of the tree usually by no more than 30%. The tree will remain the same size but the canopy will be thinner, allowing more light to penetrate. Such work is unlikely to stimulate vigorous re-growth. Whilst undertaking this method it is important to avoid "lion's-tailing" which is when all the growth is removed from the inner crown leaving tufts of foliage at the ends of long and exposed branches.
     
  • Crown reduction - This is the reduction in length of all branches in the crown, effectively reducing the size of the tree canopy. Reduction work is generally a bad form of tree management; it interrupts the natural function and form of the tree leaving it deformed, it also stimulates excessive re-growth which creates dense shade. A reduction of more than 30% is rarely appropriate for any tree; whereas a reduction of 40-50% is akin to pollarding.
     
  • Deadwooding - Removing the deadwood from a tree is beneficial in the interests of health and safety. Removal of deadwood is exempt under TPO legislation.
     
  • Pollarding/Re-pollarding - This is the removal of a substantial proportion of a tree's crown, leaving just the main stem and a few major limbs. This technique was traditionally used for timber production as the re-growth from a pollard is generally straight (pole like) and grows rapidly. More recently this technique is most commonly found on street trees as it restricts the overall size of the tree, most common with Lime and Plane trees. Once a tree has been pollarded it is important to regularly 're-pollard' the tree as the re-growth is relatively weak and can be prone to failure. Re-pollarding is the reduction of the tree back to the original pollard point.

When should I prune my trees?
Having obtained any necessary consents/given written notice ideally trees should be pruned when dormant (December to February) although, most species can be pruned in the summer (June to August) as well. Avoid the period when the tree is coming out of the dormant period (Early Spring) or is in the process of shedding its leaves (Autumn). If you have concerns about the work you intend to do consult a professional tree surgeon.

It is also important not to disturb nesting birds or roosting/hibernating bats. If you have any queries concerning wildlife you are advised to contact Natural England.

Can you recommend a tree surgeon, tree consultant or tree supplier?
It is always advisable to employ an approved contractor or consultant. It is however the Council's policy not to recommend individuals or companies. The best place to start is with the Arboricultural Association, who maintain a list of approved consultants and contractors. You may also wish to speak to any friends or neighbours who have used a consultant or contractor recently, to find out about their experience.

Does ivy damage trees?
Ivy uses trees for support but does not feed on or strangle the tree. Generally, ivy is not able to become fully established on healthy trees. However, as trees age or become stressed, their crowns may begin to allow more light to penetrate, in such situations the extra light can stimulate growth in the ivy at the expense of the tree which subsequently continues to decline.

Ivy tends to establish itself in deciduous trees. These trees lose their leaves in winter which lowers their wind resistance. Because ivy is evergreen, prolific growth may raise the wind resistance of a tree, thus increasing the risk of damage in stormy conditions.

In addition, the presence of ivy can hinder tree inspections and may conceal serious defects in a tree. To remove ivy from the tree you will need to cut away a section of the Ivy about 4-6 inches in length around the entire circumference of the base of the tree (a process known as 'ringbarking'), thus isolating the growth towards the top of the tree. The Ivy will then die back and eventually fall away or can be pulled from the tree.

Prior written consent/Notice is not required to remove ivy.

How can I tell if my tree is safe?
Such assessments are best made by qualified tree experts.
Generally speaking an Arboricultural Contractor will provide free advice in the form of a quotation for tree works in relation to what it is you wish to achieve taking into account the health and safety of the tree. On the other hand an Arboricultural Consultant will be able to provide a definitive impartial report on the health and safety of a tree and is able to recommend tree works and contractors but is usually unable to undertake the works themselves.
It is always advisable to employ an approved contractor or consultant. The best place to find an expert is at the Arboricultural Association, who hold a list of all the approved consultants and contractors.

My tree doesn't look very healthy. Where can I seek advice?
Such assessments are best made by a qualified tree expert.

My tree has a fungus growing on it; does this make the tree unsafe?
There are many types of fungi that affect wood. They are often indicative of a wider problem and are a valuable tool in diagnosing what may be wrong with your tree. However, not all fungi are aggressive decay fungi that affect the structural integrity of a tree and even those that are may be able to be held at bay by a healthy tree with good vigour for a considerable amount of time.

Fungi are also an invaluable habitat for rare insects and beetles and should not be removed from the tree. Removing fungal fruiting bodies from trees will not get rid of the fungus or prevent it from causing decay, since it is usually by this stage well established within the tree and/or root system. If you find fungi growing on your tree, call a qualified tree expert to help identify any potential problem and decide on the best course of action.

What can I do about grey squirrels in my tree?
Grey squirrels are an invading species and often feed on the bark of thin barked trees such as Beech, Hornbeams and Maples, causing 'ringbarking' and limb failure. Young trees are particularly at risk from squirrel damage and may result in the loss of newly planted trees.

If you require information on control of grey squirrels, you are advised to contact a local pest control firm.

Will the Council assist in taking away leaves or wood?
Home composting is the most environmentally friendly way of dealing with garden trimmings. Please refer to our  Recycling Services for other options. However, any tree contractors you employ to carry out tree works will normally take away the branches and trimmings they have removed.

My tree drops a sticky substance, what can I do about it?
Certain species of trees, such as Oak, Birch and Lime are susceptible to aphids that feed on the sap through veins on the leaves. Because the sap has a very low nutritional content the aphids must feed on a very high volume and they discharge the excess as a sticky sugar solution, known as 'honeydew', while they are feeding. This is a seasonal nuisance and there is very little that can be done to resolve this.