Every time I approach a tree, I begin by creating a simple yet effective step based plan of action, with the intention of gently guiding the tree into its new form over the course of a few years. This evolving process tempers the tree’s response to the cuts I make, helping it avoid that wacky errant sprouting that’s so unappealing. Instead, the likelihood of healthy new growth, the kind with more delicate branching, is increased. Bit by bit, I help the tree find its new shape—removing more and more old growth as I selectively foster new branches where we want them.

This thinning out of overgrown branches can expose the chest and bold structure of the tree’s interior, adding a sense of elegant weight and girth to complement the dappled light falling through the foliage. Fortunately, beautiful trees are almost always healthier trees too. Whether you’ve got an apple tree or a Japanese maple, good air circulation helps keep out pests, and removing errant growth and dead or dying wood invigorates healthier sections. Fruit trees produce more and have less branch breakage, ornamental trees can bloom more heavily, and all of them simply look more aesthetically pleasing and tended to.

Whatever you are looking for, achieving the client’s goals and treating the tree with respect are the two main things I keep in mind every time I set up my ladder to work.