The heartbreak of ‘Carrot-top’ syndrome

The perk of participating in a blog is you get a platform to vent on your pet peeves.  Recently I’ve seen several classic examples of ‘Carrot-top’ syndrome.  No, I’m not talking about the red-headed comic; though he tends to annoy me too.

Annoying Carrot-top #1.

The ‘Carrot-top’ I’m referring to occurs when white pine trees are sheared as Christmas trees but then planted as landscape trees.  The typical result is that the side and lower branches remain suppressed while the terminals go crazy.  I’m not sure why syndrome occurs in white pines and not other trees; it may be related to vigor of white pines and how hard the growers have to shear them to keep them in shape.


Annoying Carrot-top #2.

I love my friends in the nursery and Christmas tree industries and they work hard to grow quality trees, but this is one practice I’d like to see end.  And, to be fair, they are giving customers what they want.  If we set up a survey at a garden center and placed  a 7’ sheared white pine next to a 7’ white pine that had been minimally pruned, 19 out of 20 people would take the tree that had been sheared to look like a Christmas tree.  However, this is truly a case where less is more.

2 thoughts on “The heartbreak of ‘Carrot-top’ syndrome”

  1. Good question, Rusty. The top portion of the tree will continue to grow normally and much more vigorously than the lower part. If we come back to this tree in 10 years we will still be able to tell where it had been sheared. Solutions? Afraid there are few options and none of them are very appealing. Aesthetically, the best option would be to continue to prune the top every year to keep it in balance and proportion with the rest of the plant. Great: Now we’ve set ourselves up for annual maintenance item. Plus it’s already too late for this guy. I would probably come back in 10-12 years when the tree is 30’ tall, remove the lower limbs, make a bed around it and plant some shrubs.

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