He looks almost Biblical up there doesn't he? There has been something going on with this tree for as long as I can remember (almost 20 years). Earlier this month it looked so bad I got crazy and just cut the ugly ends off of 5 or 6 largish branches. It was fairly effective visually except for the fact that I couldn't reach to top of the tree with the pole pruner. Two weeks later Nate cleaned up some of the mess I left by making better cuts and attending to the taller parts of the tree.
We have a number of other Davidias but only one of flowering size: the cultivar 'Sonoma' which (ha ha) flowers at about a foot. Normally, excepting 'Sonoma', it takes a great many years for a Davidia to flower so we don't want to sacrifice our most spectacular specimen from a highly visible location Moreover, it flowers heavily; it just looks ratty much of the year! Carole, in discussions with gardeners in China, learned that they occasionally cut the trees, even large ones, off at the ground, choose a likely sucker, and regrow from there. That seems a bit drastic for this tree though it does produce numerous and vigorous healthy suckers. A seedling from this tree planted itself alongside the road about 100 feet down from the mother plant. It's 20-odd feet tall now; maybe when it reaches maturity and begins to flower we can restart the older plant!