UNITED STATES—Electrical cables are hazardous! There is no need to elaborate. That is why high voltage electrical cables are either subterranean or aerial. Subterranean electrical cables remain safely out of reach underground. Aerial electrical cables remain safely out of reach about thirty feet above ground. However, electricity is always dangerous regardless of location.

Excavation can inadvertently expose subterranean electrical cables. Pruning large trees can similarly involve minimal proximity to aerial electrical cables. Home gardening rarely involves such deep excavation. However, it commonly involves arboriculture, or pruning, of large trees. When it does, the most eager of garden enthusiasts must know their limits.

Clearance pruning eliminates obstructive vegetation. Ideally, it prevents it from becoming obstructive before it does so. It is useful for roadways, walkways and chimneys, and also protects roofs from abrasion. Yet, it sometimes necessitates the service of professionals. For example, pruning trees over major roadways is likely too hazardous for anyone else.

Utility clearance is effective but brutal.

Pruning trees over high voltage electrical cables is even more hazardous. However, it is also necessary. That is why electrical service providers employ professionals to perform such tasks. Unfortunately, proper arboricultural technique is not a priority. Reliability and safety of electrical service are. It is efficient but can severely damage any involved trees.

What is worse is that such damage is also dangerously close to utility cables. Corrective procedures also require the services of specialized arborists. Utility service providers do not assume any associated expenses. Removal might be more practical than salvage for the most severely mutilated trees. Salvage of decapitated palm tree trunks is impossible.

Selection of appropriate trees can limit such problems in the future. With few exceptions, palms are inappropriate within aerial utility easements. Almost all grow only upward with solitary terminal buds. Conversely, some large shrubbery is conducive to pruning to stay lower than cables. So are a few compact trees. Several stay lower than cables naturally.

Highlight: Sawara Cypress

It is difficult to imagine Sawara cypress, Chamaecyparis pisifera, as a timber tree. Within its native range in Japan, it can grow as tall as 150 feet. Its trunk can be six feet wide. It is no surprise that it grows slowly though. It’s more familiar cultivars rarely grow taller than ground floor eaves. Only the oldest and biggest are nearly 30 feet tall.

Sawara cypress cultivars are uncommon, and some are rare. Among them, ‘Boulevard’ is less uncommon. It has feathery bluish foliage, and can grow eight feet tall. Supposedly, it can eventually grow nearly three times as tall. ‘Filifera Aurea’ has bright yellowish foliage on limber cord like stems. It supposedly gets taller, but it is typically lower and mounding.

Although its cultivars are more diverse, Sawara cypress resembles compact arborvitaes. Its densely evergreen foliage has a similarly soft texture. Its bark is similarly ruddy with a similarly fibrous texture. Individual scale leaves are less than a sixteenth of an inch long. Sawara cypress classifies as the false cypress because it is not of the genus Cupressus.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.