Work Day Renovation Of A Flowering Crabapple

P91020P91020+It is amazing what just a few parishioners and friends can accomplish in just a few hours from about nine to noon on Saturday morning. It is only happens a few times through the year, so we make the most of it to catch up on all sorts of maintenance and projects at Felton Presbyterian Church. (My parish should do this sort of thing.) I was there to work in the minimal landscape.

I started working with this ‘Prairie Fire’ flowering crabapple several years ago. As I pruned for clearance above the adjacent parking spaces and patio, I retained lower growth in the space in between. The tree bloomed too nicely to unnecessarily remove all that was right where it was most visible. Besides, from the patio, it was more visually appealing than a view of parked cars.

Then, I missed a work day. There were plenty of volunteers. There were plenty of power tools. There was plenty of enthusiasm. There was no horticultural expertise. Someone decided that my once exemplary flowering crabapple was in need of pruning, so executed the task with power hedge shears. The damage is irreparable. Lower growth is gone. Upper growth is mutilated.

It was very discouraging. It was done out of season, so I could do nothing to start to repair the damage at the time. There was not much left to repair anyway. I could only let the tree grow through a season so that there would be something to work with later.

Well, this was later. I would have preferred to wait for complete defoliation, but the tree is starting to go dormant now, which is technically good enough. I also would have preferred to prune less away; but really wanted to remove as much of the disfigured growth as possible.

I am less than pleased with the results. With all the disfigured lower growth removed, only the new upper canopy remains. The tree got what my colleagues might refer to as an ‘Ethiopia cut’, which is what much taller trees in Ethiopia get when their lower growth gets eaten by giraffes. It will be a long recovery.

The upper picture is the ‘before’ picture. The bright sunlight at noon does not look so good in the lower ‘after’ picture. I mentioned the Work Day and an update in my other blog, Felton League.



Self Grafted Redwoods


Redwoods are some of the most stable trees in the World. That is partly why they can survive for thousands of years. In my entire career, I have seen very few fall, and only inspected two.

Of those two, one fell because it had co-dominant leaders (double trunks) that fell away from each other, which is more of a structural deficiency than instability. The other, which I suspect was demonically possessed, was a small tree less than thirty feet tall, that literally jumped up out of the ground and onto an Astro van more than ten feet away. A rare ‘updraft’ was blamed.

Almost all of the redwoods here regenerated from the stumps and roots of much older trees that were clear cut harvested a century or so ago. Most of those that grew back with structurally deficient co-dominant leaders are very effectively sheltered from wind by their collective groves. Roots systems are very extensive, very resilient, and too intermeshed to be compromised.

The trunks in the picture above are part of a group of several trunks that grew from roots of the same tree that has been gone for a very long time. All are genetically identical and very close together. They happen to be a focal point of a big patio at a conference center. Although the structural integrity of the limbs within their canopy is a concern, the stability of the trunks is not.

Regardless, I am impressed by their attempt to improve stability. The limb that extends horizontally across the middle of this picture from the trunk to the left grafted to the trunk to the right! It is not uncommon for crossing limbs and trunks to rub through their bark to expose the cambium, but how do they stay still long enough to graft together?!

Horridculture – Sign Up

P91016Perhaps the signs should be down instead. They are obscured by the crape myrtles where they are now. They would be more visible if they were either higher or lower, but not in line with all these trees. The trees were planted only a few years ago, but have done very well. Lodgepoles need to be removed. The specimen to the left is recovering well from earlier disfigurement.

Selection of trees for parking lots is not easy. Such trees must disperse complaisant roots that are not likely to displace pavement or curbs. They should should be reasonably high branched and conducive to pruning for clearance above parked cars, and where necessary, for delivery trucks. Excessive floral or foliar mess would be a problem. So would fruit that attracts wildlife.

Unfortunately, not many trees conform to all limitations. Those with the most complaisant roots do not get big enough to be pruned up high enough for adequate clearance, or even provide significant shade over the often hot black pavement below. Since shade is the primary function of such trees, an abundance of diminutive trees often compensate for fewer substantial trees.

This presents another range of problems. The smaller trees can be pruned for minimal clearance above pedestrians and parked cars, but not delivery trucks. What is worse is that they can not be pruned above lighting and shop signs either. Pruning them lower than the signs instead would only work if the signs were to be viewed horizontally, from the same height as the signs.

Nonetheless, that is what is most commonly done. This is the result. All those flashy and expensive signs on the buildings in the distance are mostly obscured from this vantage. Fortunately, the honey locusts closer to the signs can be pruned up higher for adequate clearance.

Horridculture – PPE

P91002Personal Protective Equipment. That is what PPE is for. Acronyms can be so vague. PPE could be for Purple People Eater for all we know. That movie just happened to be released to cinema at the end of 1988, just a few months after my summer internship with an exemplary crew of arborists who instructed be about the importance of PPE. I am glad to have missed the movie.

In 1988, the machinery used by arborists as well as lumberjacks was more dangerous, and PPE was more primitive. Hearing protection was only beginning to be standardized. Many of us were not even using it back then, even though the chippers were terrifyingly loud. For some of us, cheap sunglasses sufficed as eye protection. Chaps had been available, but were quite rare.

From the beginnings of their respective careers, younger arborists and lumberjacks learn to use safer machinery and standardized PPE that was still being developed in 1988. Nonetheless, their work is potentially very dangerous. They still work with machines that are designed cut cut down big trees and shred the resulting debris! PPE is just as important now as it ever was.

A notable lack of some of most basic of PPE at a local Lumberjack Contest was difficult to ignore. Even PPE that was unnecessary would have been appropriate for demonstration purposes.

In this picture, a few items of PPE are in order. Chaps were appropriate for bucking, and more than I had access to back in 1988. Boots, which can not be seen in this picture, were adequate. Stylish sunglasses that are also obscured, were likely rated as sufficient for eye protection. There is no need to tuck the shirt in for bucking logs that are stripped of branches that might snag.

What is lacking? Gloves, even for those who do not wear them at work, would have been proper attire for this contest. A hard hat, which is for protection from falling debris, could potentially deflect a kickbacked saw. Hearing protection might have been unnecessary with the fancy and remarkably efficient muffler on this saw; but I actually do not know, (and I saw no earplugs).

Six on Saturday: Locust


John the Baptist did not really eat orthopteran insects out in the desert. The locust he ate were the beans of the carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua. They are actually quite nutritious. Supposedly, they are known as locust because they resemble the elongated abdomens of the insects with the same name. A few other related trees that also produce beans are collective known as such.

Robinia pseudoacacia happens to be known as black locust, even though there is nothing black about it, and the tiny and papery beans do not even remotely resemble insects. Supposedly, it arrived with Gold Rush prospectors who wanted something of their homes in Eastern North America. It naturalized aggressively, and is now an invasive exotic species in much of the West.

We tolerate a few at work. They are too pretty to cut down without a good excuse. However, one gave us a good excuse when it fell last winter. It was notably polite about it, by falling into a gap between two roofs that a cat could jump across. Damage was very minimal. Nonetheless, the tree and its destabilizing associates needed to be removed. They are gone but not forgotten.

1. Thorns of black locust only look blurry in this picture. They are wickedly sharp! The sharpest are on the most vigorous stems, which is exactly what the freshly cut stumps here generate.P90921

2. Thickets of suckers (or watersprouts) like these developed where black locust trees were cut down last winter. Most developed on freshly cut stumps. Many emerged from random roots.P90921+

3. More than half of the suckers from the formerly impenetrable thicket around the stump at the center of the picture were removed to relinquish space for the lauristinus in the foreground.P90921++

4. A few bay trees got cut down with the black locust trees. I wanted them coppiced, but was away when they instead got VERY badly pollarded. Oh, the shame! (I will coppice them later.)P90921+++

5. As nasty as black locust is, it has a few attributes. Spring bloom resembles that of white wisteria, and is almost as fragrant. This finely textured pinnately compound foliage is quite elegant.P90921++++

6. Their high and open canopies provide nice shade too. It is just enough for warm summer weather, but not too much to exclude turf grass and understory plants that tolerate partial shade.P90921+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – Opposite Poles

P90904This is not about North and South. It is about a utility pole and a pole that remained from a redwood tree that was too close to it. One is there to support a variety of cables and a streetlamp. The other just wanted to grow into a redwood tree to join the rest of the forest. One has been deceased for many years or decades. The other was alive just recently, but is now only a stump.

The picture above shows how many cables the utility pole supports, as well as the streetlamp. When I did my internship in 1988, the arborists whom I worked with knew what each of the various cables were for; high voltage, lower voltage, cable television, telephone and whatever else was up there. Fiber optic cables have since simplified the telephone and television cables.

The picture above also shows how the unfortunate redwood tree needed to be cut back for clearance from the electrical cables. I was mortified to see this so prominently visible on the edge of a main road, because I should have noticed the problem earlier and just cut the tree down. Not too long ago I was pruning many other redwood trees for clearance from other streetlamps.

Those who pruned it instead, along with any other trees that were encroaching into the electrical cables, were very efficient with establishing clearance, but not so proficient with aesthetics. Obviously, I could not leave this tree like this on the side of the road. Even if I did not care what it looked like, I did not want it to regenerate and immediately encroach back into the cables.

The picture below shows my corrective pruning. The stump is certainly not dead, and will try to regenerate, but will be easier to keep down. If kept down long enough, it may eventually die.

The second picture below shows the stripped trunk in two sections that are nearly eight feet long, and a short bottom section that is a bit more than two feet long. The two long sections are straight enough for gate posts (although there is another plan for them). It is a sad demise for the formerly healthy and sound redwood tree, but became necessary to keep the electricity on.P90904+P90904++


P90901It has been almost a month since one of three small but sculptural and very prominent coast live oaks at work was destabilized by . . . well, children. They were climbing on it, as most good children should do. There were a few of them; and the tree is old and deteriorating. All three of the trees actually grew from the same rotten stump of a tree that was cut down decades ago.

I wrote about it at ‘Six on Saturday – Do Not Sit On Tree‘. The title will make more sense if you read about it.

To salvage the tree, I pruned off as much of the foliar canopy as possible. This eliminated some of the weight that the trunk needs to support, as well as decreased some of the resistance to wind, which exerts leverage against the compromised root system when wind blows. Sawhorses were placed under the trunk, and one of the others, to prevent them from sagging any lower.

Props that were fabricated to be more permanent then the sawhorses were installed last week. They do not actually support or even touch the trunks, but are there to prevent the trunks from sagging any lower. If the trunks start to lean on the props, I will prune a bit more weight off. If that doesn’t work, the props can be moved a bit farther out, where the trunk are higher.

Hopefully, the old root system of the destabilized tree was not so severely damaged that it can not recover. If it does recover, and the trunk is not supported by the new prop, the tree will need to eventually regain stability. It will be a tediously slow process. Because the trees are already so mature and disfigured, the props will likely never be removed, regardless of recovery.

The first picture above show the destabilized tree outfitted with a new prop. The second picture below shows the other tree that was outfitted with a new prop just because it is so likely to become destabilized.


Bad Pollard

P90831KJust about any other arborist will insist that any pollard is a bad pollard. I am not any other arborist. I have no issue with pollarding certain trees properly.

Pollarding is severe pruning that removes all growth that developed since the last pollarding procedure, leaving only a main trunk and a few main limbs. It is done while trees are dormant in winter, and must be repeated either annually or at least every few years, before the resulting growth develops into major limbs. Pruning must be very thorough and neat, leaving no stubs.

Most new growth develops from where older growth had been pruned away during the previous winter, with only a few adventitious stems possibly developing on the main limbs or trunks. Distended ‘knuckles’ develop where this growth repeatedly gets pruned away and regenerates. All subsequent pollard pruning must be done only on the outside of these knuckles, not below.

It may seem easier to cut entire knuckles off with fewer big cuts rather than cutting all the secondary growth off with so many more cuts. However, as new growth develops, the many small cuts on the distended knuckles will be compartmentalized (healed over) much more efficiently than fewer but larger wounds. Wounds that compartmentalize too slowly stay open to decay.

Once pollarded, a tree will always need to be pollarded, or at lease pruned regularly to compensate for compromised structural integrity. Secondary growth is innately vigorous and heavy, but weakly attached to the main limbs.

Pollarding is done to produce an abundance of lush foliage, to produce an abundance of twiggy growth, or to deprive a tree of bloom. Pollarded mulberry trees provide lush foliage to feed silkworms. Pollarded willow trees provide many uniform limber canes for basketry. Pollarded privets are unable to bloom and bother those who are allergic to their objectionably fine pollen.

Well, enough about pollarding.

I pollarded a blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, for the second time earlier this year. It was done dangerously late in the season, and at the same time that the roots of the tree were brutally damaged by relocation. (It is a canned tree that rooted into the ground.) The tree has no branches, but only a single ridiculously bare trunk with a silly new knuckle on top. Oh, the shame!

As you can see, the unfortunate tree has not grown much since then. It is now getting to be September, so the tree will not be growing much through autumn. As much as I would prefer to pollard this tree annually, I will likely not pollard it this winter, but instead let it grow for another year before pollarding it again. The blue juvenile foliage is exquisitely aromatic, but scarce.

For this picture, I could have moved the tree away from the fence that it is tied to for support, but the barbed wire somehow seems appropriate.

Six on Saturday: The Shining


‘Shiners’ have nothing to do with Rudbeckia hirta, which is commonly known as ‘black eyed Susan’. (Why did rude Becky hurt Susan like that anyway?) Shiners are the wounds left from pruning significant limbs from their supporting limbs or main trunks. They shine most blatantly when fresh, and then fade in the weather.

The best shiners are those that will be compartmentalized (healed over) most efficiently. They should not be cut too deeply, or be left with stubs that interfere with compartmentalization. There is quite a bit of science to shiners.

1. This is a good example of a bad shiner. (I could have gotten a better picture of it, but thought that the sun shining from behind was appropriate to the topic.) This shiner was not made by pruning a limb away from a main trunk, but by pruning a main trunk away from a limb. The main trunk leans over so much that most of it needed to be removed to maintain minimal clearance over a driveway. The only two options were to prune it back the the limb on the left, or remove the entire tree. Because the shiner is wider than the remaining limb, which will become the main trunk, it will take several years to be compartmentalized. By that time, decay will have extended downward from the shiner into the main trunk below.P90824

2. Removal of a limb that was battering the topsides of delivery trucks left the shiner above and left of the center of the picture. The scar to the lower left of the shiner, and another scar farther the lower right, closer to the lower right corner of the picture, were caused by a single altercation with one truck that drove off the edge of the driveway. Since it is not really encroaching into the driveway, or interfering with minimal clearance, this particular damaged limb remains.P90824+

3. This is the thrashed limb that was removed from the limb in the #2 picture above. The freshest damage is still red. This limb had been up above minimal clearance for a few years before the supporting limb sagged with the weight of the growing canopy above. Damage to the trucks is more of a concern than the limbs, so it had to go.P90824++

4. This is another good example of a bad shiner. The main trunk to the right would not have been able to compartmentalize over the stub until it grew out past it, or the stub rotted and fell away. The stub was partly rotten, but also partly viable, with a small branch growing from it. The viable portion would have taken more time to rot away. The whole mess was cut away after this picture was taken; but the resulting shiner that I did not get pictures of has another problem. This picture shows how the stub wraps around the main trunk from behind. The bark compressed between the stub and the main trunk, which is known as ‘included bark’ or ‘bark inclusion’, will temporarily be in the way of compartmentalization of the shiner. Fortunately, the tree is young and vigorous enough to figure it all out.P90824+++

5. What looks like shark jaw bones without the teeth is the callus growth that once surrounded a well cut shiner. After the shiner was cut, and the tree started to compartmentalize over it, the tree died suddenly. As the trunk decayed, this dense callus growth that started to compartmentalize the shiner decayed slower. The uniformity of the callus growth shows how evenly the shiner was cut. I believe that the bottom of the shiner is to the left, but that could be backward. I can only say that the shiner is sideways in this picture.P90824++++

6. Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, is the only species in all five of the pictures above, and also provided the biscuits to the lower left and the upper right in this picture. ‘Biscuits’ are sometimes cut to adjust a shiner after the main part of a limb is pruned away, or perhaps to cut a stump slighter lower after a tree is cut down. I really do not remember why I saved the biscuit to the lower left, although I can remember the tree that it came from. The fresher one to the upper right is from the shiner in the first picture #1 above. I kept the Hollywood juniper biscuit to the upper left because I thought it would smell like the related Eastern red cedar (which is actually a juniper rather than a cedar) that cedar chests and closets are made with. The deteriorating biscuit to the lower right is from a very dead white fir that needed to be cut down. I kept it because I happen to be very fond of white firs, but so rarely see them here.P90824+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Can’t See The Tree For The Forest

P90818Big trees get big problems. Part of our job is to tend to these problems before they become dangerous. Many of these problems are somewhat easy to identify. A deteriorating ponderosa pine with browning foliage it difficult to ignore if it is tall enough to be seen above the rest of the forest more than a mile away.

There are a few problems that are not so easy to identify. Some are caused by the weather, without prior warning. Others are hidden in the forests. One might think that those in the forests would not concern us. However, our landscape and facilities are so intricately mixed with the forests.

The shiner in the picture above was where a big broken limb needed to be cut from a big fir tree. It may not look big in the picture, but the limb was probably more than nine inches wide, and long enough to weigh a few hundred pounds. The lower right edge of the shiner is frayed because the limb broke right at the trunk, and was hanging vertically against the trunk.

The yellow arrow in the picture below indicates where the shiner is located. The trunk of the tree is not as tapered as it seems to be in the picture. It only looks like this because it is so tall that the the upper portion is very far from the camera! Although this fir is a wild forest tree, it is only a few feet from the cabin below. The broken limb was dangling directly over the roof!

There was no way to predict that this limb would break. It did not seem to be any more structurally deficient than those that remain. Of course, once broken, it was removed faster than I could get a picture of it.P90818+