Carpinus betulus trunk choping

Hello all,

i bought a very slinder and tall hornbeam with a typical hedge tree form. My plan is now to chop the trunk off and the tree would lose ca. 2/3 of its foliage. As far as i know there are 3 different time frames for this work:

  1. Post-harden prune in around 2-3 weeks.
  2. After leave drop in the fall
  3. Before buds push in early spring next year

The more i think about it, the more confused i get. In my mind post-harden has the advantage of a faster callus forming and perhaps faster healing but more stress for the tree especially because of the huge loss of foliage. Pruning in the fall would be the least stress for the tree in my opinion but probably not the fastest healing process. Btw. the diameter of the trunk is ca. 2 inch (5cm). Chopping the trunk early spring next year is probably pretty similar to the post-harden prune but i would like to repot the tree already next spring so i would prefer one of the other options if possible.

What would you guys prefer? Post-harden chopping or chop the trunk in fall? And another side question: Would you anyway wait till next year and repot first and use the foliage mass for rebuilding the roots or first chopping and then repot?

Thanks again for your help.

Without seeing your material, I would chop it mid to late winter just a bit above where you want to introduce movement and taper. This should be a horizontal cut. You should get prolific shooting in Spring. Make sure the cut is a little higher than you want. This allows you to carve for shape, once the tree has sealed of the old growth. This is all providing that the tree is healthy and thriving. Healthy tree will lead to lots of shoots.

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Thank you. I will post a picture of the tree later this day. I tend to do the cutting in late fall as well.

Sorry for the late answer. This is now the trunk i would like to chop (at red line)

I find the branch shoulders very bizarre because they are nearly horizontal. Would you guys say chopping at the red line is safe without a lot of die back?

Since this cut is early in the development phase, I would cut back a little higher to help avoid any dieback into the branches you want to keep. You can always clean it up later.

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Hi guys, i would like to get your opinion on this tree again. If i want to repot the upper tree the upcoming spring (it will be more or less a heavy repot in matter of roots reduction) would you still cut the trunks this fall/winter or would you wait till fall next year? Choping off the trunk will reduce the foliage mass to 50% perhaps is this too much for doing it this fall and repot in the spring? I’m really unsure but i don’t want to waste this fall if it would be possible. Thanks for your opinions.

Once the tree has used the foliage to build its resources for winter you can cut back without having an impact on the roots. I know we suggested late fall, but it might be even better to wait until late winter to avoid winter dieback. If you cut back this fall, leave a long stub. You should be able to repot in the spring since the new roots will have fewer branches to support after the repot.

Thanks @MartyWeiser

I was just not sure because in the latest summer wrap up video Ryan said we shouldn’t do any heavy work if we want to repot next spring but i think as well that this chop should definitely be possible without making any trouble next spring. I will leave a longer stub to make sure i don’t get any dieback into the lower trunk.

@SkeiL I believe the key is to wait until the tree has gone dormant. That allows it to use the foliage to store energy. I believe Ryan’s comments were more about doing work now that would adversely impact energy storage.

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