“Viewpoints” – The Art of Site Lines
In my opinion, few things in life are better than this: sitting on your front deck looking out onto the water, feeling the warmth of the sun and hearing a gentle breeze rustling through the trees. Now that’s a great day at the cottage.
Great cottage views are not always ‘born’—sometimes they must be created or nurtured. Trees often create that “special place” feeling, but they can also obstruct our scenic views.
As a certified arborist (a professional in the cultivation, health, management and study of tress, shrubs and other perennial woody plants), I talk to a lot of shoreline owners about site lines and vistas. People want the sunlight and the view, but they don’t want to create an unnatural look by “stripping” the bottom limbs or one whole side of a tree. Many cottage owners don’t realize that there are options other than tree removal. Sometimes a good prune by a trained hand is all that is required.
Site line pruning is a technique used by arborists to capture specific desired views while minimizing and/or eliminating the negative effects of whole tree removal. By leaving trees standing, many benefits are retained: shade and privacy, habitat for animals, wind and snow block, energy savings, aesthetic and increased property value. Imaging keep all that, plus gaining a view!
In my experience the key to a great site line pruning is good communication between the arborist and the client. Specific desired views should be discussed. (“Is a view of the island achievable?”) Goals should be set and agreed upon by all involved. I always tell my clients that subtle and natural solutions always look the best. For example, reduce the length of a limb instead of removing it completely. When done expertly, site line pruning is almost invisible; you see the view, not the cuts.
In my experience, the best results come from site line pruning with the clients on site to direct and monitor progress. If the site line is from the deck, I would have them sit on the deck (I know it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it) while I work. From there, they can confirm when the desired view is created.
Some final tips: As with any tree issue, make sure you use a qualified, certified arborist with the proper insurance coverage. Remember, bad tree care, even if done with good intentions, still leads to negative results. Bring in a professional, and open up your vistas. When the work is done, all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy the view!
(Photo by Phil Pavey)