Year-round Tree Care

January 25, 2011

By Penny Cherubino

Some of Commonwealth Avenue’s magnolia trees suffered damage in the January blizzard.

Caring for trees on your property requires a year-round plan. The recent blizzard damaged trees throughout the city including some of Commonwealth Avenue’s famous magnolias.

Arborists Can Save Trees

“Trees should be cared for by professionals and proper pruning can reduce damage in extreme weather conditions, though no amount of pruning can totally prevent damage,” said Boston’s Tree Warden, Greg Mosman.  He said pruning should be done by a certified arborist and that is a good place to find one.

Mosman oversees the care of street trees and those in city parks. With an ongoing pruning program, there was little damage on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. “The public/private partnerships that the Parks Department shares with organizations like the Commonwealth Avenue Mall Committee, Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, and Garden Club of the Back Bay are great examples of how we can work together to provide the very best care for our trees,” Mosman said.

Arborist, Bobby Loree is hired by the Garden Club and Mall Committee to prune trees in the Back Bay. He had reassurance for homeowners. “The first thing is don’t panic. It may look awful but magnolias are resilient and grow fast. Many of the magnolias that got broken up badly in the April Fools day storm of about a dozen years ago recovered nicely though they looked hopeless at the time.”

Remove any limbs that are totally severed, but branches that are still attached to the tree can be tied or propped into place. “Then wait until the late spring or early summer and revisit it. You will probably have a number of new sprouts which can replace the lost branches,” Loree said. From that new growth, a pruning program can bring the tree back to a pleasing shape over the next few seasons.

Tips for Homeowners

1. “Get out as soon as possible, even during the storm, and gently shake or knock some of the snow off the branches. Then gently push it up back towards its original position. It may not go all the way but if it is not broken or cracked it should recover,” Loree said.

2. Homeowners and condominium associations should budget for routine tree care. Pruning is the number one chore. Dead, broken, or diseased branches, and some of the new sprouts should be removed to keep the tree open for sunlight and wind to pass through. Your arborist will also diagnose and treat problems with insects or disease.

3. The Garden Club ( offers homeowners an opportunity to have an arborist perform routine pruning, at a discounted rate, when the organization has street trees pruned.

4. Pruning is also part of being a good neighbor. “During heavy rains (and snow, of course) the low-hanging branches of all the front garden trees, but especially the Magnolias, make it difficult for people to pass by,” said Jackie Blombach, Co-president of the Garden Club.

5. Margaret Pokorny, Chair of the Mall Committee, said trees can also be damaged by ice melting products. “It is necessary to look carefully at the label. Those that contain sodium chloride (rock salt) or calcium chloride should be avoided. Those that contain magnesium or calcium chloride are better, but the best is calcium magnesium acetate.”

Any problem with street trees or trees in parks should be reported with a call to 617-635-4500. If you have a question about a privately-owned tree, you can reach Loree at 339-987-1460. He said, “My phone is usually nearby and if I do not pick up I will get back to you as soon as I get out of the tree.”

Search The Back Bay Sun