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TREES, PLEASE: Don’t try this at Home!

Photo Credit: South Coast Wholesale.
The original tree before moving.

By Tim Clancy.

Author's note: This column is dedicated to my father, David Mark Clancy, who passed away on 08/24/20 (80 years old). He was a great admirer of trees. He would be horrified to see the pictures in this story. Love, Tim.

Editor's note: All of us at the San Diego Horticultural Society send Tim Clancy and his family our condolences and thank him for his contributions, this piece and past articles, to Trees, Please!

A good friend of mine owns a nursery in San Diego named South Coast Wholesale. One of his business ventures involves moving big trees. Sometimes this is as simple as moving a relatively small tree for a client from one location to another on the client’s property. Other times it may be moving a tree from one property to another and sometimes he will have an opportunity to rescue a tree that would be destroyed by development or remodel etc.

A couple years ago a landscape a client of his told him about an olive tree in Thousand Oaks that needed to be moved. He accepted the job and sent his crew. As you can see in the photo the tree was a mature specimen. To prepare a tree for a move requires quite a bit of work. The tree needs to be pruned so it can fit on a truck or trailer for transport. It needs to be excavated and lifted from its location to the transport vehicle. It’s not easy or cheap. In this case the tree was originally slated for a short move to another residence in Thousand Oaks but at the last minute the intended recipient decided that she didn’t like how the tree looked after it was prepped for its move and changed her mind. So, the tree became the property of South Coast Wholesale and it was shipped from Thousand Oaks to the Nursery in San Diego.

Photo Credit: South Coast Wholesale.
Same tree, ready to move.

The tree was severely pruned so that it would fit on a trailer for transport. Of course, I would not recommend this type or degree of pruning under most circumstances. If I was present during the pruning, I may have recommended a different approach however the pruning result would have been similar. Complete removal of all foliage and a reduction of major limbs. You may ask yourself why on earth would anyone want this tree. Well if you look closely at the trunk you can see that it is very large and old looking. Some landscape architects strive to create a certain look and aged olive trunks are prized. You may see a tree like this in a restaurant entry (Olive Garden anyone?) or in a corporate setting with a Mediterranean theme. Either way there are uses for this type of specimen.

I have written before about the timing of pruning based or your desired objectives. If you prune when the tree is low on energy (sugar) the tree’s response will be diminished and if pruned when the tree is loaded with energy, then the response will result in plenty of regrowth. To see this in action for yourself take notice of trees pruned in late summer or early fall especially eucalyptus and carrot woods. The growth response is remarkable and of course typically results in a return visit the next year or two to prune again. The tree in these pictures was pruned and moved in August of 2018. This was a time when the tree was full of energy and could “tolerate” the removal of all its foliage.

Photo Credit: South Coast Wholesale.
Same tree, waiting for a new home.

As you can see in the most recent photo the tree has responded by producing copious amounts of foliage and is in fact surviving quite well. The aged trunk will add a look of maturity to some landscape when this tree finds its new home at some high-end estate or some other landscape project that wants to create the illusion of great age in a short period of time.

I know I’d be pleased to dine on an outdoor patio in beautiful San Diego seated next to what looks like an ancient olive tree. How about you? Do you think it was worth it to move the tree in our story? You can email Tim your thoughts on this at


Tim Clancy.

Tim Clancy, Tim Clancy & Associates LLC

P.O. Box 1180

Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

- International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist No. WE-0806A - International Society of Arboriculture - Tree Risk Assessment Qualified


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