UNITED STATES—Before the storms of winter get here, it might be a good time to make arrangements to get some help for big trees that need it. Smaller trees that can be reached from the ground may not need anything that we cannot do ourselves. It is the big trees that have grown beyond our reach that may need professional help if they have problems. They are unsafe for us DIY garden enthusiasts.

Once late autumn and winter weather patterns start, storms can break limbs and destabilize trees. Identifying problems and executing necessary remedies can limit such damages before they happen. Disproportionately heavy or structurally deficient limbs can be pruned to reduce weight and wind resistance. Obtrusive limbs can be pruned for clearance from roofs and anything else.

Trees are the most significant and influential features of our gardens. They shade and extend their limbs over our homes and gardens. Not only can they cause serious damage by dropping limbs or falling, but they can also change how our home and garden are affected by their shade. They are worthy of proper maintenance, even when it is necessary to procure the services of an arborist.

An arborist is a horticulturist who specializes in arboriculture, which is the horticulture of trees. Arborists are essentially tree physicians, who evaluate the health, stability and structural integrity of trees, and make recommendations for maintenance, or to repair problems. Most municipalities require an ISA Certified Arborist report in order to issue a permit to remove an unsalvageable tree.

The ISA is the International Society of Arboriculture. Certified Arborists have passed an examination of their arboricultural expertise, and maintain their credentials by continued involvement with ISA educational seminars, classes and workshops. More information about the International Society of Arboriculture and local certified arborists can be found at the website, www.isa-arbor.com.

Arboriculture is not the sort of thing that gardeners should be expected to perform. It is completely different from the sort of mowing, shearing and pruning that they do. Sadly, much of the damage that arborists find in trees was caused by improper arboricultural procedures. Arboriculture also has the potential to be very dangerous to someone who lacks adequate training and equipment.

Highlight: incense cedar

In the west, the incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, was made into cedar chests or paneling for cedar closets as a substitute for the more traditional Eastern redcedar (which is incidentally a big juniper). The wood is supposedly aromatic enough to repel moths from woolens and furs. The evergreen foliage is very aromatic as well, so is sometimes used for garlands at Christmas time.

Old trees in the wild can eventually get nearly two hundred feet tall, with somewhat narrowly conical canopies. Yet, hundred year old trees that were planted in urban gardens during the Victorian period are not half as tall yet. Some are quite narrow. The rusty brown bark is deeply and coarsely furrowed. Branches can sag downward and curve back upward, which looks rather disfigured. Flattened sprays of scale-like leaves resemble those of arborvitae. Incense cedar is native to the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains.
Horticulturist Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.wordpress.com.