Shane Harkin - (512) 736-5280 - shane_harkin(at)msn(dot)com

Lawn Sculptors

Tree Services

Tree selection is probably the single most important factor in the approach to selecting a low maintenance specimen.
Most people choose a tree based on its ability to grow a full canopy quickly. The trade off is typically a tree with a short life span that will have to be removed in 20-30 years. Most quickly outgrow the area they were put in and you can't make them stop growing. Butchering and topping the tree only stresses it and typically leads to early mortality. The best advice I can give you is to choose a hardwood tree with a long life span that will grow to fit the area you want to fill. The overall growth habit should be looked at before selecting the tree. Proper placement will dramatically reduce the pruning needs for the tree you choose. A Live Oak at full maturity can have a crown of 65' in diameter. Placement near a sidewalk or driveway will mean low growing branches that will have to be pruned in order to protect them from being broken off and causing infections in the tree. Access to the area where they are planted will also be limited. For small areas, look for alternatives Oaks such as a Lacey's, Chinquapin, Monterrey, or Bur. They offer canopies that are nearly half that of a Live Oak.

Soft Woods

Most soft wood trees are fast growing and short lived. They lack heartwood and produce a copious amount of seeds. Most are left to grow on there own and when the company or owner realizes that they are too big, they start pruning. The unfortunate part about pruning a mature soft wood is that their wounds don't always close completely. Their forms are typically destroyed and they rarely fill back out. The end result is an ugly, misshapen tree with a bunch of holes where branches used to be and too much sunlight where there was once an abundance of shade. Common examples of soft wood are: Ash, Pistache, Mimosa, Box Elder, Mulberry and China Berry.

Optimizing Growth

Deep root feedings offer trace elements to the trees root structure that may be lacking or inaccessible in most clay soils. Discoloration of foliage can be caused by heavy rains, over irrigating or compacted soil.
Water is probably the single most important factor on producing height and size in a tree or plant. Bubblers on a separate irrigation valve or watering very slowly at the base of a tree every 7 to 10 days can double to triple the growth of a plant. Trees use the hydrogen in water to help with photosynthesis (food production). Scientists are actually studying the effective way plants are able to break apart the hydrogen oxygen bond to try and discover a more efficient way of producing hydrogen as a fuel substitute.


Every time a tree is cut, hit, struck or pierced an infection results. Pathogens in our environment attach the openings and the trees overall health will determine how well it can deal with the infection. Proper pruning of healthy trees during the dormant season is the best way to keep your trees healthy.
Abscission zones are the areas of the tree that they are most capable of fighting infections at. Any cutting along the branch and not at the union of a second branch can lead to a larger and stronger infection that an unhealthy tree may not be able to control.
Topping a tree (cutting the top off like a shrub) is one of the worst methods of approach to controlling a trees growth. This is not England and we are not trying to harvest wood.


Pathogens can be carried by insects, float in the are around us, or can spread through contact. They can even be in the soil we walk on. Nature is in a constant battle with living things to break them down and reclaim their minerals and nutrients. Minimizing the spread of pathogens can help ensure that a plant or tree stays healthy.


Saws should be sterilized when jumping from one tree or group to another.
Painting wounds has not been proven to be necessary. There is no evidence to support that it speeds the closure of wounds. The tree actually secretes a natural substance called sub erin that will close the wound typically within 24 hours. Bugs and insects are smart. The don't have to eat through paint to get into a tree. All they have to do is bore around the cut or wound.


Holes in trees are the result of bacterial infections. Sometimes a branch breaks or is cut off incorrectly. Sometimes they tear. A branch cut off too long or too short can result in an infection. A hole in a tree is not the appropriate place for concrete or expandable foam. The wound needs to dry out. Rain may settle in the hole, but the tree will work to try and produce callus growth to close it and protect itself from further infection. The would should be left open. It can act as portal for expulsion of the infection. When you seal it off, it can act as a locked door. When we become sick from ingesting something bad, our stomach tries to expel it from our body. Trees aren't human, but it is a similar process. If fillers are put into a hole in a tree, they may compound the problem by continuing to infect the new growth around it that is trying to grow over the hole.

Fungal growth

There are many different types and colors of fungi on trees. Fungal growth is natures attempt to break down dead or decaying cells in a tree. Many manifest themselves and mushroom like growths on the tree. If you find it growing on multiple faces of a branch or trunk, it indicates a severe infection that may jeopardize the stability of the tree. I have seen fungicides reverse infections and sometimes viral infections. A fungicide application as an inoculation may be necessary in some cases to stop the infection from spreading throughout the tree.

Over pruning is typical in the Texas landscape. Unsupervised and inadequately trained laborers can destroy the form and weaken the health of a tree. Removing more than 1/3 of a trees growth in one year can stress the trees carbohydrate reserves and open it up to infections. Excessive pruning can result in latent, epicormic or water shoots. These types of shoots are visually unappealing and potentially risky. Many can put excessive strain on a lateral branch resulting in a broken limb and possible property damage or injury.

The key to pruning is to try and remove broken or crossing branches. These can lead to permanent infections. Crossing branches continue to rub and the contact area is weekend and becomes an easy access point for infections that may not heal. If the branch is not too big, the smaller of the two should be removed. Other conditions may apply. Broken branches rot and are like cheese to rats. They act as a beacon for pathogens and are easy entry points to the heart of the tree.
A tree should have a natural balance of limbs throughout its structure. Too many trees are being pruned as if we have wild giraffes roaming through out city. This imbalance does not allow for disbursement of the energy absorbed from strong winds. It also opens up the root zone to intense heat and sun light that may cause drying and possibly mortality. Heavier irrigation will be required and may result in a shallow root structure due to over watering. All it takes is a sick tree and/or a strong storm or wind. Soon you will be cutting down the toppled remains of a once great tree.