Reality check: Arbs' recovery can be a long road

This arb may seem thin and a little on the scruffy side in terms of shape but she's a winner in our book and a model your arb may aspire to follow.

Two years ago, we took her in hand after years of benign neglect left her too tall, with multiple trunks roped together and a form so chesty she couldn't have seen her own feet if she tried. We cut her down by four feet, took out the worst double leader, and thinned the shoulders so sunlight could reach the nearly-gone-bare lowest limbs. We reduced her by about half -- 50% of the leaf surface removed.

Then we waited.

Last year we figured she was up for phase two.

This arb is a tough one to photograph, easy enough to see in person but lost to the camera in the distant green background. So in the next two photos we've traced for you the arb's outline before and after the phase two pruning.

In March, 18 months after our first cut, we judged the lower foliage to be filling in well enough that the plant could afford to lose more of the upper branches. They were still as wide as the tree was when we began this campaign.

In March, 18 months after our first cut, we judged the lower foliage to be filling in well enough that the plant could afford to lose more of the upper branches. They were still as wide as the tree was when we began this campaign.

By August we can clearly see the increase in lower foliage, and that the space center left of the trunk has filled. That space was part of the void created when we removed the double trunk.

By August we can clearly see the increase in lower foliage, and that the space center left of the trunk has filled. That space was part of the void created when we removed the double trunk.

In his garden every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation. - Louise Beebe Wilder -
Sure, in March the tree's still thin but the foliage was a deep healthy green and fuller than it had been. We cut then to refine the shape.

Sure, in March the tree's still thin but the foliage was a deep healthy green and fuller than it had been. We cut then to refine the shape.

Just look at her in August. We're definitely getting somewhere, but not done yet. Patience required! (Stay tuned. We'll update this, this coming year.)

Just look at her in August. We're definitely getting somewhere, but not done yet. Patience required! (Stay tuned. We'll update this, this coming year.)

You don't know the plant until you've killed it. Then you've learned something. - Janet -
When you're working with a plant over the long haul it helps to pick a few angles and capture some "Then" photos for comparison to "Now." Here's a look inside right after pruning last March, and that same angle two months later, in June. You grow, girl!

When you're working with a plant over the long haul it helps to pick a few angles and capture some "Then" photos for comparison to "Now." Here's a look inside right after pruning last March, and that same angle two months later, in June. You grow, girl!

Seen from the deck last March, this green lady was presenting a more svelte form than she had two years ago. But wait, and check the next photo, taken in August. What a beauty she's becoming!

Seen from the deck last March, this green lady was presenting a more svelte form than she had two years ago. But wait, and check the next photo, taken in August. What a beauty she's becoming!

Next year we'll once again shorten this tree, and clip back the branches that have crossed the line width-wise. It will be a pleasure, and we'll cut with more confidence because of all the additional interior green we'll have to work with.

Next year we'll once again shorten this tree, and clip back the branches that have crossed the line width-wise. It will be a pleasure, and we'll cut with more confidence because of all the additional interior green we'll have to work with.