90724thumbThe terminology has certainly changed over the years. Not many of us remember what tree surgeons were, or that there were actually a few different kinds of tree surgeons, who performed very distinct tasks. Tree surgeons are now known as ‘arborists’. Much of what they used to do is done by other types of horticultural professionals. The work that arborists still perform is ‘arboriculture’.

Back when orchards were still common in the Santa Clara Valley, Orange County, and many of the areas of California that are now urban, those who pruned deciduous fruit trees while dormant in winter were known as tree surgeons. Of course, they did other work that the trees needed through the rest of the year, and harvested fruit as well. They might be known as orchardists nowadays.

Tree surgeons also assembled new orchards, as well as individual trees in home gardens. It used to be standard procedure to install the understock of fruit trees in the first winter, and let it grow through the following year. A tree surgeon would return while it was dormant the following winter, to graft desired scions onto it. This is now done by nurserymen in nurseries that sell finished trees.

The tree surgeons who we now know as arborists are, of course, still important. The tree surgery that we now know as arboriculture is the sort or work that other horticultural professionals are not qualified or able to perform. It involves the biggest of trees that are out of reach from the ground, or even from ladders. There are still a few different kinds of arborists, but most must climb trees.

Arboriculture is the horticulture of trees. Arborists are therefore horticulturists of trees. Those who are certified with the International Society of Arboriculture, or ISA, have passed an examination of their arboricultural expertise, and maintain their credential by continued involvement with the educational seminars, classes and workshops of the ISA. Arborist can assess the health, stability and structural integrity of trees, and prescribe and supervise necessary corrective arboricultural procedures.

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4 thoughts on “Arborists Are Modern Tree Surgeons

  1. I’ve been looking at our front crabapple. It’s got a couple of horizontal branches that are way too long. I’m trying to figure out what to do about them. I don’t just want to lop off a half. I was thinking either remove them entirely or cut them just past a stem growing upward and diagonally, so that the branch can resume growing in a somewhat natural manner from a shorter starting point. Does that make sense?

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    1. Not much about flowering crabapples make sense. They are so sloppy, and so difficult to prune properly. I had been working with one at the Presbyterian Church in Felton for many years, and was finally getting it into good form, when someone else lopped it back and ruined it all. I may just cut it down now. Anyway, it took man years to get it under control, and it was not at all cooperative. Without seeing your tree, I would recommend your latter option of pruning the limb back only part way, and then working with what it does next year. Too much pruning at the same time compromises bloom.

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