Things to consider before you “skirt” Thuja plicata trees

By February 23, 2018 No Comments

Raising tree crowns by “skirting” is a common pruning job. It basically means removing the lowest branches so the crown above looks raised up. This is usually necessary when cedar trees (Thuja plicata) haven’t been pruned for a while.

Two potential problems

When you do this kind of work, don’t forget about two common pitfalls. One is not stopping and removing too many branches so that the tree looks like a lollipop. It’s unnatural and should be avoided. It’s a common problem with other tree species, not just Thuja plicata. So by all means, raise up the tree crown but know when to stop.

Two, privacy. Unless you know the site well and your directions are very specific, don’t forget to consider people’s privacy.

True story

I wish it wasn’t true but I’ve heard of a gung-ho landscaper who was servicing a new site for the first time. He walked by a double line of Thuja plicata trees separated by a wooden fence. At one corner the trees were especially low so he skirted them right up. Great. Except the owner of the unit loved every single branch and he was livid. His comments can’t be printed in a clean, family blog like mine. Suffice it to say that he failed to express himself intelligently.

But I feel for him a little bit. The tree was fine the way it was and now he has the view of a wooden fence. So when you take over a new site, get to know it well first.


Recently we made our way around a large complex that had been neglected for many seasons. I noticed several low-hanging Thuja plicata branches and almost reached for my trusted Japanese hand-saw.

Of course, I am a Red Seal professional with many seasons under my belt. My instinct told me that the low-hanging branches were probably providing a privacy screen for the residents. If I had removed the branches they would be looking at a residential tower and its car ramp. So unless I hear otherwise from the strata council, the low hanging branches will stay. Always consider privacy issues.

Residential request

It’s very easy when your clients actually request the crown raising. In these cases it’s just a matter of knowing when to stop. And in this one residential example, the client clearly¬† told me to “rescue” her overwhelmed patio and plants.

So I made nice cuts until all Pieris japonica, Rhododendron and Yucca plants were no longer obstructed by the cedar trees. Remember to make three-point cuts where the weight is taken off first and then the cut completed nicely. Cedar branches are heavy.

The pruning also solved the same problem for her patio where she entertains guests in summer. She was absolutely thrilled to get some breathing room on her back patio. And happy clients are the best clients.




Before pruning, the Pieris and Yucca plants were covered by cedar branches.



Not only are the cedar branches off the plants, the patio is also unobstructed.


Raising Thuja plicata tree crowns is an easy pruning job but always consider owner privacy issues and know when to stop.

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