Caring for an Arboretum

Caring for an Arboretum

Since 2018, Madison Square Park has been an arboretum. Caring for an arboretum is no small feat. Our seven-acre park, housing over 300 trees, requires special attention in protecting and caring for our canopy—maintenance and pruning is vital to the health of our trees and the safety of our community. 

What does it mean to prune a tree? 

Pruning is a practice involving the selective removal of branches from a tree. The goal is to remove unwanted branches, improve the tree’s structure, and direct new, healthy growth. Pruning is one of the best things you can do for trees because a proper prune is both an investment in the long-term health of your plants and in the overall aesthetic and safety of the Park.

When is the best time to prune? 

Pruning is performed year-round in the Park, but it is best to be done in the winter when the tree is dormant—this lessens the potential for pruning shock. That being said, dead or damaged wood must always be removed promptly no matter the time of the year. Insects, viruses, and bacteria are also dormant during the winter months, allowing plants time to heal before potential problems arise. Contrary to what many people think, correct pruning does not hurt the tree or shrub, in fact, it is best done regularly to help shape the plant, control its size, and to provide good air and light flow around it. 

Tree health and safety are always a consideration in public parks. At Madison Square Park, our arborist examines each tree twice a year for damage and potential problems. 

Trees are incredibly valuable for the health of the city. That’s why Madison Square Park Conservancy has a 25-year tree succession plan to ensure the continued existence of our tree canopy. Any good forester knows that it is important to plan for the future and that all trees, like people, have a limited life span. As many of the existing trees in the Park were planted around the same time and have similar life spans, we are always planning removals, plantings, and successions to ensure a healthy urban forest for the future. 

Through long term planning and continued stewardship we are able to ensure that the specimens in our arboretum remain healthy and safe for generations to come.