With a ladder set up underneath Gainesville's famous Christmas tree, Anna Hauser climbed around from limb to limb Friday.
She broke off branches and handed them to city traffic engineering staff, completing the work she started after part of Rotary International's holly tree caught fire around midnight on June 20, 2009.
"In addition to the fire, the tree has been sheared to put on Christmas lights, which changes the natural form of the tree," said Hauser, a certified arborist and owner of Fine Pruning in Atlanta.
"During the rejuvenation, I made deeper cuts in the branches so more light reaches the interior branches. This generates new growth on the inside."
This type of pruning is most effective in phases, Hauser noted, which is why she returned again to shape up the tree.
"When I started this last year, I couldn't get under the branches, but now you can see and move up in the tree, which really gives space for new growth," she said. "We can probably wait two years to let new growth develop before doing this type of pruning again, which you don't do on a regular basis."
Gainesville's traffic engineers, who drive their bucket trucks to the fork of West Academy and Green streets every year to hang Christmas lights, also showed up Friday to help Hauser reach the highest leaves.
"The pruning made a tremendous difference this year over the last year," said Steven Phillips, who climbed up the tree with Hauser and helped to toss down branches. She only uses hand pruning to shape plants.
"Electric tools only cut in one plane, but hand pruning makes selective cuts throughout the plant," she explained. "You can't do that with hedge trimmers, especially when rejuvenating smaller and older plants."
The traffic engineering crew toted away branches to use in the city's public works shop.
"She's every man's dream," Bradley Clark said with a smile. "She trims trees and cuts the grass. She's great."
Though Hauser hasn't found a date while pruning plants, she's certainly had a few good laughs.
"When working at a residence, sometimes a neighbor — always a man — comes out and starts cutting in his yard to keep up with the Joneses," she said. "One time, when I was in a different holly on a hill, a guy moved higher in his yard as I climbed higher in the tree, and he ended up on a ladder on his roof. He got stuck, and I had to hold his ladder."
As she threw down the last few limbs Friday afternoon, a yellow school bus full of children stopped at the West Academy light. Several students called out to Hauser, who is decked in a sweater, coveralls and leggings to stay warm.
"I love this," she said, stepping off the ladder. "I climbed a lot as a child and it's just a beautiful day."