Pruning Pyramidal Beech


We have two pyramidal beech trees that where planted 4 years and now need to be trimmed for shape and size . Do you have tips for this and can I do it now . We also have another species of pyramidal beech that keeps its leaves until spring when new leaves push off the old I think this called marcescent . Is it pruned differently


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

The ideal time for pruning Pyramidal Beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Fastigiata’, is late fall/winter/very early spring before bud break.  This timing ensures the trees are dormant, sap bleed will be minimal and you can easily see the tree structure unobscured by leaves.

Prune out any dead, diseased, dying or dangerous branches first and discard.  Only then, prune out any crossing or rubbing branches and for size, aesthetics and air flow – during this second pruning, do not remove any more that 25% of the canopy, think “less is more”.  Also, try to keep a natural tree shape so stand back and look at your work from time to time.

This is also a great time to inspect your trees for any diseases, animal damage or insect infestations and be prepared to take action if required.

Use of a pruning saw, loppers and sharp bypass pruners may be needed.  Sterilize implements between cuts so pathogens don’t get spread around a tree or from one tree to another.  Protective gloves and eye protection too should be work while pruning trees. Care should be taken to avoid leaving any stubs from your pruning cuts, and any branches that you remove should be cut outside the branch collar. for some tips on pruning properly see the floowing

Finally, clean up any leaf, twig and branch debris from around the base of the tree and dispose with the city garden waste.

Topdressing around the base of the trees with a good quality compost or well rotted manure will go a long way to feeding your trees into the spring, being careful to keep it away from the main trunk bark.  Also, adding a layer of organic mulch will help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, regulate soil temperature and provide ongoing nutrients as it decomposes.

With regards to your marcescent Beech trees, pruning should be done just as described above.  It may be a little harder to see what you are doing because the leaves are hanging on but airing on the side of caution will go along way.  Marcescent trees make a wonderful addition to the winter garden and can be found in Oak, Beech, Hornbeam and Witch Hazel families – their rustling leaves in the wind is enchanting.

If you are in any doubt about your ability to tackle this job, a professional arborist would be the person to consult.