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I have a curly willow that was topped about four years ago. Now it needs to be trimmed. Can I cut the branches back to where they were cut last?
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Topping or hat-racking are two pruning practices that are not recommended, precisely because of what you have described. The new growth is extremely vigorous and tends to grow straight up in the air or at very weak angles. These “water sprouts” shade the interior of the tree and are typically not structurally sound and may be easily broken in high winds or snow loads. Repairing a tree that has been cut in this manner is difficult. To keep cutting the water sprouts down to the original point of topping will just re-create the problem in years to come. It may pay to hire a certified arborist to come out and evaluate the trees all around health. You can find information on certified arborists at, http://www.utahurbanforest.org/certified.html.
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