Plant Amnesty Says: Stop Topping Trees

PlantAmnesty bumpersticker

This is a blatant promotion of a non-profit organization here in Seattle that I think more people should be aware of. I’ve been a member for a few years and have deep respect for their work. They’ve literally changed the way people see Trees and plants in this area and show statistics of some of those changes here in this Info. kit I’ve copied from their website, (with permission I might add). The words are theirs, but they could just as well be mine. Please think about what they are saying and consider contacting them about joining them or starting a similar group in your area. The world needs its Trees and needs them to be healthy and well pruned. It’s all about pruning to Plant Amnesty and they deserve a lot of support. I’m just trying to do my share here.

A Stand for Trees.

“We promise that when we take what we want from Nature, that we will do so selectively and with respect. Always we will preserve the health and integrity of the whole, be it a plant, a rainforest, or a planet.” Cass Turnbull, Founder, PlantAmnesty.

PlantAmnesty Mission Statement
To end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs caused by mal-pruning (and other common forms of plant mis-management).

Most people take it for granted that trees and plants are being maintained properly, or that it’s not really a major issue. But think of the green infrastructure of our city — improper pruning and tree topping add up to an expensive waste of resources, and many trees and plants pay for these mistakes with their lives.

PlantAmnesty was founded in 1987 to “stop the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs.” The nonprofit group uses a unique blend of humor and controversy to raise public awareness of “Crimes Against Nature” committed in our own backyards. PlantAmnesty vows to end Crimes Against Nature. After alerting the public to this problem, our volunteers provide readily accessible and accurate information, materials and services.

PlantAmnesty’s solutions to plant abuse and neglect include garden renovation workshops, classes, videos, a referral service and volunteer pruning and tree projects throughout the community. Several grants have allowed our group to produce and distribute thousands of Pruning Guides, Saving Trees and Views pamphlets, tree biology quizzes for local students, tree planting guides and locally-produced public service announcements.

A serious “Crime Against Nature” is the misguided practice of topping trees. One of PlantAmnesty’s major efforts over the past two decades has been to stop this “torture and mutilation.” Why doesn’t topping work? Topping actually increases a tree’s growth rate rather than slowing it, and this makes it an expensive choice. It’s also ugly. But mostly it’s dangerous because it rots, starves and weakens a tree. Topping trees can also decrease property values for a homeowner and the entire neighborhood.

PlantAmnesty’s media campaign works. In the Seattle 1990 edition of the yellow pages, 17 of the 28 businesses with display ads advertised topping as a service. That’s 61%. In 1998 that number was 10/22 or 45%. In 2001 it was 8/34 or 23%. In 2003 only 3 in 36 advertised topping – a mere 8%!

Heritage Tree Program: Since there is little legal protection for trees in Seattle, PlantAmnesty decided to identify and celebrate the City’s special trees.
Funding for the Seattle Heritage Tree program was originally supplied by a grant from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Forest Service. Additional support has been provided from time to time by various departments of the City of Seattle. In-kind volunteer services are provided by PlantAmnesty arborists and members of the Heritage Tree Committee. In 1999 the City of Seattle became an official partner of the program, providing staff support and the Heritage Tree web site at: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/heritagetree.htm.

Goals:
Raise Awareness of the Problem.
Provide Solutions (referral service, education, volunteer pruning and care).
Engender Respect for Plants.
We Affirm:
That our organization is inclusive, tolerant and based on grassroots collective action.
That our educational materials are clear, current and technically accurate.
That we will maintain a sense of humor and good-will being outspoken on the issues.

PlantAmnesty has more than 1000 members in 31 states and four countries. We are part of a growing movement to lead society out of the dark ages of landscape care.
PlantAmnesty members share a common bond of caring about green things, and they know that an immense amount of damage is done to our landscapes as a simple result of widespread ignorance.

PlantAmnesty provides these valuable services to the community:
• Alerting the public to Crimes Against Nature with a media campaign that employs humor, education and controversy to raise public awareness. We average one million readers – viewers – listeners per year.
• Educational materials and literature including “how-to” guides, videos, pruning topics, articles, essays and slide shows. We average 300 free DVDs and videos, 6,000 free pruning guides and $3,000 worth of literature are distributed annually.
• Pruning classes, lectures, and hands-on lessons, workshops and demonstrations. Average 50 classes and 2,000 people taught annually.
• Professional arborist and gardener donated work days.
• Web Site: http://www.plantamnesty.org.
Password Library available to members.
• Seattle Heritage Tree Program.
• Master Pruner Program.
• Nasty Letter Writer.
• Thousands of calls and requests for information answered by our office staff and volunteers.
• Educational display booths and speakers bureau.
• Gardener and Arborist referrals made through our free Referral Service.

PlantAmensty engenders respect for our urban ecology by speaking out on behalf of the urban forest. We have fun while we try to change the world, because we take our mission, but not ourselves, seriously.

Volunteers are the heart of most any non-profit organization, PlantAmnesty included. Our members spend countless hours providing much-needed services and education to the public. Volunteers participate in events such as the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, PlantAmnesty’s Fall FUN(d)raiser, Master Gardener’s Plant Sale and the International Society of Arboriculture’s annual conference. PlantAmnesty always needs people to speak on behalf of trees, and serve on our committees. PlantAmnesty staffs educational booths with volunteers, always pairing up a veteran with a newcomer. We also encourage members to come to Volunteer Yard Renovations. These group projects allow professional gardeners the opportunity to share tricks of the trade, tool information, and to get to know others of their kind. Novices get the opportunity to learn how to weed and prune from more experienced members. And besides, everybody feels great after saving a needy and deserving landscape from years of neglect.
Volunteers are invited to serve on these PlantAmnesty committees:
• Heritage Tree
• Education & Advocacy
• Tree Programs
• Financial Development
• Events (Fall Plant Sale)

Awards: Seattle’s Friend of the Trees Award, International Society of Arboriculture’s Gold Leaf Award, National Arbor Day Foundation’s Education Award.
PlantAmnesty is a federally approved 501 C-3 non-profit organization. As such, donations are tax deductible. Our Federal EIN Number is 91-1393557

PlantAmnesty
P.O. Box 15377
Seattle, WA 98115-0377
Tel: 206-783-9813
Fax: 206-529-8023
Email: info@plantamnesty.org
http://www.plantamnesty.org

Back to me again. I hope this has been a fun read for you. It always is for me and I get inspired just reading about their work as well as doing it in my own ways of educating people about how to prune correctly or choose the right plants to put in our yards and gardens. It’s a mission for some of us and has been for me my whole life as a gardener and landscaper, since I was in my teens even. I never did like topped trees and now I understand a lot more about why I didn’t and don’t. Please think about your choices when you prune your trees and shrubs. It can make or break your garden and leave horrid scars that last for years and may never be overcome. I’ve seen too much of it and if I seem a bit over zealous, well, it’s because I am 😉

Happy and Safe Pruning to you all,

Steve

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Interesting. You are right !

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    • Thank you for the comment, the like and for following my blog, Anna. I think this is a great organization and has good principles which I’ve adhered to for years myself. I appreciate your support!
      Steve

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  2. The “nasty letter writer” is an amusing contribution 😉

    When it comes to topping, I think the biggest problem 30% of the time, is not selectively removing or shortening leaders when trees are little, rather than later when they are big. Like where a tree HAD to be planted in front of a motel sign, like a pine. A lot of those could be kept in check earlier in life, rather than let go and whacked later with topping, which is called “indiscriminate”. Timing is the key.

    Imagine the day, when every new tree from a nursery can come with a DVD on pruning and tree care. That would be something.

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    • Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent response. Yeah sometimes those “nasty letters” do wonders for recalcitrant homeowners or city officials… 😉

      I would definitely agree with you that timing is the key and that cutting back a leader when a tree is young is far different than when they are older. My comment would be that it might Not be necessary to plant that particular tree in that particular spot, something the article doesn’t address. I always tried in my own business to plant trees and shrubs that would max out at the desired height and size so that they wouldn’t ever Need to be topped or sheared in order to maintain a maximum size that was below that sign you mention. It needn’t even have to be a tree. Perhaps a large shrub would have worked as well or a different species of tree. Choosing the right plant for the right spot is the first step for me and then pruning appropriately. I wrote on this in “Some Thoughts On Pruning and Size” awhile back.

      I like your idea of a DVD that would tell you about pruning and care. Great idea! Actually PlantAmnesty has a good one. You get it free when you become a member (hint, hint… 😉

      Thanks again for your thoughts. All the best,
      Steve

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      Reply

      • PS – I went to your webpage and love your page on the Redwoods. One of my favorite trees. You talk about the big ones but I only have a “Kelly’s Prostrate” that gets about a foot tall and 4 feet wide. It may get bigger but I don’t have room for the giants so am content with it. Thanks for making the Redwoods so available to everyone!
        Steve

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