Tree Pruning Services

clippersPruning is the removal of living or dead parts of the tree.  Such parts may be soft growth, twigs, branches, limbs, parts of the tree’s trunk (aerial growth) or parts of the tree’s root system.  Tree pruning operations are the most frequently practiced of all tree works, since such a wide range of aims and objectives can be achieved. These objectives may relate to the structural integrity of the tree, the safety of people and property, access obstruction or light and aesthetic value.

Generally, trees grow in balance with their environment.  However, conflicts with either people or property can develop over time from the natural process of growth and dieback, or from the effects of damage caused by storm and weather damage, pests and diseases.  Equally, human activities such as the demolition or construction of buildings can affect the growth or integrity of trees.  Such activities can have serious implications for the welfare of the tree and also the safety of people and property.

Sometimes, the need for tree pruning work is self-evident.  In many circumstances however, there is a need for a tree survey and inspection to be carried out by an expert.

At Gristwood and Toms all our tree operations are carried out in accordance with the principles as laid down in the British Standard BS3998: 2010 for Tree Work.  All pruning works are properly planned and executed to reduce the probability of structural failure and reduce the risk to people and property, while prolonging the tree’s safe life.  We clearly inform all our clients as to the reasoning for the work to be carried out and how the work will be implemented in a written method statement.  Work specifications will include an unambiguous identification of the tree/s on a site plan and/or by reference to tagging on site. Access and egress arrangements are clearly indicated and the utilisation of any arisings will be explained.

Read on to learn more about the different types of tree pruning operations we carry out, or click the links below to read about the other contracting services we can help you with.

Our pruning work includes:

Formative Pruning

Formative pruning is the pruning of the aerial growth of a tree in its youth to result in an appearance considered typical for the species or variety of tree concerned.  It is normally carried out to young trees with the aim of promoting safe, strong, healthy and well-balanced trees without defects when they become mature.

The work normally takes the form of light minor pruning to encourage the formation of a natural and well balanced crown development, by removing branches that are competing, crossing, rubbing or deformed.  It also includes the selection of the most suitable single stem from double leaders. Formative pruning often begins in the nursery.  Any pruning at or soon after planting should be kept to a minimum in order to retain an adequate leaf area.  Once the tree has become established (three to five years later), formative pruning should normally be resumed.

The objective of formative pruning is to produce a clean-stemmed tree and the establishment of a good branch structure and canopy by the removal of a number of small branches leaving therefore only small, quickly occluding wounds.  This should however be carried out in stages so as not to remove too much leaf cover at one time.  At least two thirds of the height of the tree should always consist of live crown.

It also includes the removal of epicormic and basal growth, damaged branches or any branches that may become weak and cause problems when the tree matures.


Dead wooding is the removal of all dead, dying or diseased branch wood, including broken branches or stubs left from previous surgery operations, found within the crown of the tree.  Dead wood is cut back to a suitable live and healthy branch junction at the bark ridgeline or to a point where callous growth has formed.


Crown lifting is the removal of soft growth and lower branches to increase vertical clearance beneath the canopy.  Crown lifting may result in the canopy base being not at one single level but stepped to allow for different clearances; for example where a tree overhangs both a footway and a public highway where different height clearances are required.

Extensive crown lifting may be phased over a number of years, especially in mature or old trees, as resulting wound on the stem may become the seat of extensive decay, which could lead to mechanical failure. If this is not possible, it should preferably involve the removal of secondary branches or branch shortening, providing the desired clearance can be achieved.

Crown lifting that involves cutting back branches to the stem should preferably not result in the removal of more than 15% of the live crown height.  Also, the remaining live crown should make up at least two thirds of the height of the tree.

When specifying crown lifting, the points between which the clearance will be measured should be stated; for example, this may be from ground or roof level to the point of origin of the lowest remaining branch or the lowest remaining foliage.


Thinning is the removal of secondary live woody branches from within the crown to reduce its density leaving a balanced tree with even growth throughout.  Material is removed systematically from throughout the tree rather than from the inner crown only.  If the objective is to lessen the overall loading on a defective branch or stem, crown reduction and reshaping should be chosen in preference to crown thinning.

Crown Reduction & Reshaping

This is the removal of outer branches back towards the main truck to suitable growth points, to reduce the crown’s overall size, or selected areas to reshape asymmetrical crowns.  Reducing the crown alleviates stress, can allow retention of a tree within a confined space, create a desired appearance or make a tree more suited to its surrounding.

The general principle is that, following reduction, there should still be a strong framework of healthy small-diameter branches and twigs, capable of producing dense leaf cover during the following growing season.  A crown should normally be reduced in proportion to its original shape but the objective should not simply be to achieve symmetry for its own sake.

In crown reshaping, the height and/or spread of one or more portions of the crown are selectively reduced, while not necessarily reducing the height and spread of the tree as a whole.The extent of crown reduction should be determined on the basis of the management objective and on an assessment of the ability of the tree to withstand the treatment.

Crown Cleaning

A remedial operation for the removal of all defects i.e. dead wood, diseased, crossing, rubbing branches, etc.

Ivy Severance/Removal

The severance of Ivy at the base of a tree by the removal of 150mm portions of the living stem to avoid the possibility of grafting.  This will allow the ivy to die off gradually.


Coppicing is the removal of all growth of a tree or shrub to a point close to ground level.  Stumps are left with the objective of producing a quantity of vigorous basal shoots from the retained stump.


This is the removal of all the growth of a tree back to the main stem with the objective of producing a quantity of vigorous shoots from the bowl.  Pollarding is normally undertaken to species such as Lime, Poplar, Plane, Willow.  Pollarding should preferably start soon after the tree has become established and is between 25mm to 50mm in diameter at the selected height of pollarding.  The initial pollarding cut should allow some of the pre-existing foliage to be retained, in order to reduce probability of dieback or death and to maintain physiological function.

Once initiated, a pollard should be maintained by cutting the new branches on a cyclical basis.  The frequency of the cycle is decided according to the site management objectives, species, age or condition.  Branches that grow after pollarding should normally be cut at their bases in order to encourage the formation of a knuckle after a number of cycles.  If however the pollard cycle has been allowed to lapse over many years, the crown should instead be reduced to the minimum necessary to fulfil the objective.  This may be the relief of mechanical stress that would otherwise be likely to cause the stem to split apart.