Horridculture – NO TRESSPASSING

P00115
NO TRESPASSING? . . . No respect!

Growing fruit takes a bit of effort. Trees that produce the fruit must be planted and maintained for all the many years that they produce. They might need to be irrigated through summer. Most need specialized pruning every winter.

Canning surplus fruit takes a bit of effort too. All the jars must be cleaned. All the fruit must be collected, processed and cooked. The jars must be packed and boiled and so on.

Drying fruit is less work than canning, but takes a bit of effort nonetheless.

Where I lived in town, I grew a peach tree closer to the apartment building to the north, and a fig tree closer to the apartment building to the south. I maintained both trees meticulously. Many of the neighbors appreciated the fresh fruit. At the end of their season, there was (almost) always surplus peaches for canning. Sometimes, there were surplus figs for drying.

I really would not have minded if there had not been surplus fruit. It would have been better to have it consumed by the neighbors while fresh, than after it had been canned. Besides, it would have been less work for me.

One summer, there was a major surplus of peaches. We wanted to can them as efficiently as possible because we know how perishable they are. We planned to do all the canning on a Saturday, so got all the jars from the attic and washed them on Friday afternoon. The canning pots and utensils were ready to go. We had purchased lids and several pounds of sugar.

Also on Friday afternoon, the so-called ‘gardeners’ came to the apartment building next door to the north.

The major surplus of peaches, every last peach, was completely gone when we went to collect early Saturday morning.

Now, really, I don’t mind sharing. That is what the tree is there for. I really don’t even mind if a few people want to take all the surplus fruit. I just want to be told about it before I make plans and prepare to do something else with it. What really angered me was the complete disregard for those of us who put the effort into growing all those excellent peaches.

The fig tree to the south produced an early crop of figs before the peaches, and a late crop of figs after the peaches. Each crop lasted a long time, so there were not often too many figs at any one time that needed to be dried. Most were eaten fresh.

I often noticed an annoying absence of figs each day after the so-called ‘gardeners’ came to the apartment building next door to the south. It was not as bothersome as the missing peaches, since I got quite a bit of figs in between. What angered me was that every fig that could be harvested at the appointed time was taken, leaving none for anyone else.

Horridculture – That Blows!

P91218-1Blowers put the ‘blow’ in ‘mow, blow and go’. They really blow! The only power tool used by so-called ‘gardeners’ that is more detestable to the rest of us is the power hedge shears, and that claim is contestable. Some consider blowers to be worse because they are so obnoxiously noisy, and generate so much dust. Some municipalities have outlawed the use of the noisiest sorts.

The mess on the hood and windshield in the picture above was not actually caused by blowers. The picture below shows the bridge that was power washed above. Oops. I should have been suspicious that no one wanted that parking space. Anyway, this picture was just too funny to not share; . . . and I happen to lack pictures of the sorts of dusty messes that blowers can stir up.

Where I lived in town, the so-called ‘gardeners’ who ‘maintained’ the apartment buildings on either side used blowers. There is a noise ordinance there, but we never bothered to enforce it. We did not want to interfere with what needed to be done. There was a lot of pavement, and we wanted it to be kept clean. We could not expect it all to be quietly swept like I swept mine.

To the north, the blowers were either off or on full-throttle. There was nothing in between. The cars in the carport collected all the dust that was stirred up. If the door to the washroom was left open, debris got blown in, and the pilot light for the only water heater in the building got blown out. Most of the debris got blown to the southeast corner, and under a fence into my yard.

The same happened to the south, but the water heater was less exposed, and there was much more debris. The largest valley oak around lived there, and dropped leaves for several months. I replaced the kickboard at the base of the fence in their northeast corner a few times, but it was just as regularly kicked out and removed so that debris could continue to be blown under!

In other neighborhoods, so-called ‘gardeners’ are notorious for blowing debris out into roads, where it gets dispersed by traffic. Even if they do not blow it away just to become a problem somewhere else, they are likely to blow too much of it into shrubbery, along with any mixed litter. It accumulates faster than it decomposes to benefit the soil and roots below. What a mess!P91218-2

Horridculture – Parking Lot Islands

P80120kWhat a waste of space! What a waste of water! What a waste of time for the mow-blow-and-go ‘gardener’ who charges money to mow and edge it, but are too inept to suggest planting something that might actually be pretty, or shade the parking lot. There are a few of these between parking spaces marked for ‘compact’ cars, because it is cool to discriminate against full size cars that can not pull far enough forward to get out of the way.

Even between a Buick and a Chrysler, it is nothing to look at. It looks like something went seriously wrong with a grave site that was supposed to get a slab ‘over’ it (not ‘around’ it). It could be a Chia Pet litter box. There are much better spots to picnic at the park down the road. Whatever it is, it is not much better than the swales that are required in modern parking lots. It has potential to be a tripping hazard, but is not quite as dangerous.

I would make one of only two suggestions.

1 Pave over it. If there is not some building code that limits the area that can be paved, this might be thee most practical long term solution.

2. Landscape it responsibly. Yes; ‘responsibly’. Turf grass is just lame. Those trendy carpet roses that mow-blow-and-go ‘gardeners’ typically plant snag the clothing of those coming and going from the cars they park there. Since parking lots get warm, I would recommend shade trees with complaisant roots that are compatible with pavement. Such shade trees also should get tall enough to not obscure the signs on the buildings.

Parking lot islands contain some of the most deplorable landscapes. Trees commonly get hacked down below signs rather than pruned up and over them. Even if they get properly pruned with up-dos, their canopies must be carve around security lighting. Most problems result from negligent maintenance. Some problems result from design glitches. Realistically though, parking lot islands are very difficult to landscape well.

Horridculture – Weed Eaters

P90410The most destructive tools that so-called ‘gardeners’ have access to are hedge shears. They use them on just about anything within their reach. If a tree is not beyond their reach, they are likely to shear it into a nondescript glob of a shrub, complete with lodgepole stakes and straps that never get removed. Yet, in all their enthusiasm, they will not properly shear hedges that are actually intended to be shorn. Well, I have ranted on that enough.
The second most destructive tools that so-called ‘gardeners’ have access to are weed eaters, which are also known as weed whackers or edgers. Although not actually related to real edgers, they are known as such just because they are so commonly used for the same purpose. Weed eaters are designed to cut weeds indiscriminately, and are quite efficient at doing so. The problem is that they cut or try to cut anything else they encounter.
So-called ‘gardeners’ often gouge the paint off of the bottoms of walls and fences, just because it is easier to cut the weeds there with a weed eater than it is to pull them. What is worse is that they also often cut off the tops of perennials that are trying to regenerate in spring after winter dormancy. Spring or summer bulbs might never get a chance to bloom. Perennials, groundcover plants and shrubbery are not safe from the blatant indiscretion.
The sad little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park gets gouged more than annually by a weed eater. Every time it happens, I am assured that it will not happen again; but if the weeds get cut before I pull them from around the trunk, it does . . . very regularly. I was also assured that the tree would be outfitted with a tree-guard, but as you can see, it has not yet happened. I am told that I can not put my own guard on the trunk.
Those causing this damage are non-horticulturally oriented people who are assigned community service for some sort of infraction, so should not really be expected to know how to use weed eaters properly; not that this is any consolation for the damage. What is worse is that such damage is so commonly caused by so-called ‘gardeners’ who really should know better, and charge good money to take care of the trees they damage and kill
The most recent article about the Memorial Tree, with a link to a previous article that links to previous articles . . . and so on, can be found at: https://tonytomeo.com/2018/10/14/memorial-memorial/

Horridculture – Good Design / Bad ‘Maintenance’

P90227From a distance, this landscape does not look so bad. It seems to have been only recently installed, and features the sort of material that was likely intended to not necessarily obscure the sleek architecture of the building behind it, but to eventually soften the starkness of it.

Let’s analyze the landscape. A glossy privet hedge in back should grow up into an informal screen to provide some substantial green against the wall, but with a bit of proper pruning, should not become too obtrusive. A lower hedge of variegated tobira (Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’) in front can be pruned into a semi-formal hedge to obscure the bases of the trunks of the glossy privets, which will undoubtedly shed lower growth as they mature. The lightly colored variegated foliage of the tobira contrasts nicely against that of the dark green privets. The blue festuca in front of the variegated tobira hedge provides even more contrast of color, as well as contrast of form, and also ties in with the same blue festuca elsewhere in the landscape. The only two ‘intentional’ interruptions of the simple sleekness of this landscape is where a pair of grapevines flanking a doorway await the installation of an arbor, and a single ‘Icee Blue’ yellowwood is expected to provide additional contrast of form and color in front of the glossy privets. Both features are well situated, and balanced within the symmetry of the landscape. Yes, it is all quite well designed.

And yes, this is Wednesday; the day for my ‘Horridculture’ rant. So, let’s look closer.

Firstly, this is not a new landscape. It has been here long enough to mature better than it has so far. The so-called ‘gardeners’ know that allowing the material to grow means that they will need to put more effort into maintaining it. They would prefer to just keep the glossy privet hedge down low where it does not produce much debris, rather than allow it to grow most of the way up the wall, where it should be by now. A row of cinder block painted green would work just as well, and not need to be shorn at all. The ‘Icee Blue’ yellowwood should likewise be larger than it is now, and looking like a small and neat but informal tree. It actually seems to be growing slowly, which is no fault of the so-called ‘gardeners’.

The pair of grapevines have the opposite problem of the privet hedge. They are not being contained enough. Without the arbor that has yet to be built, they have no place to go, so are just being pruned as rampant and fat shrubs that will fall over as soon as their old stakes rot at the ground. If an arbor is ever built, all that congested and disfigured growth should be cut to the ground in winter, and started over from the ground up. However, it is unlikely that the so-called ‘gardeners’ would maintain them any better on an arbor than they do with them within reach; so it is probably just as well that they are in the ridiculous situation they are in.

That low spherical shrub in the front and center of the landscape, which is just to the left of the lower center of the picture, and is the unintentional interruption to the simplicity of the otherwise well designed variegated tobira hedge that I alluded to earlier, is a variegated Pittosporum tenuifolium. It is so ridiculously shorn and abused that I can not identify the cultivar. I can only guess that it is the common and overly popular ‘Marjorie Channon’. Apparently, one of the variegated tobiras died and needed to be replaced. Hey, it happens. A so-called ‘gardener’ knew that the necessary replacement plant needed to be variegated. He also knew that it needed to be a pittosporum, which is probably more than most so-called ‘gardeners’ could ascertain. The problem was that he went to a nursery and grabbed the first variegated pittosporum that he found, which, as you can plainly see, does not match the tobiras. It assumed a different form, flopped forward as they often do when shorn in such an inappropriate manner, and continues to be shorn into the ‘shape’ seen here now . . . as if it is somehow an asset to this otherwise well designed landscape. The blue festuca that it landed on gets shorn right along with it.

The only feature in this well designed landscape that does not have a serious problem, except for its one member that was clobbered by the single disfigured pittosporum, is the blue festuca, and that is only because the so-called ‘gardeners’ do nothing to it.P90227+

Horridculture – Disdain For Bloom

P81212From the same landscape that, last autumn, was so dutifully deprived of its elegantly cascading rosemary and soon to be fiery autumn color of Boston ivy, https://tonytomeo.com/2017/11/05/serously/ , I procured these disturbing images of what results from of a serious disdain for flowering crabapple bloom. These trees were mentioned earlier in that article, but without such images. Similar victims were discussed last spring, https://tonytomeo.com/2018/03/07/the-good-the-bad-and-theyre-both-ugly/ and about a year ago https://tonytomeo.com/2017/12/06/sculpture/ .

The landscape where these trees live was actually rather well designed, and for a few years, had been well maintained. Seriously! The flowering crabapples were likely selected because they would not get tall enough to encroach into the utility easement above. There were pruned as much as necessary to prevent them from developing into a nasty thicket like young flowering crabapples typically do, but without significantly compromising the spectacular bloom. They really were spectacular!P81212+

About six years ago, a different crew of ‘gardeners’ was hired. It was obvious when it happened because the brutality to other features of the formerly well maintained landscape was so immediate. These flowering crabapples were somehow spared, but only temporarily. They were at their prime when they displayed exemplary bloom for the last time three springs ago. As these pictures indicate, they were hacked back two springs ago, just as the fat floral buds were showing bright pink color, and were about to pop open. All the buds and blooming stems that the trees had put so much work into were cut off and taken away, just days or maybe hours before the big show. The process was repeated in the same manner just prior to bloom last year. A scarce few twigs were somehow missed, and managed to bloom with a few blossoms that developed into the few fruits that can be seen in the second picture. I can not explain why the hacking was done earlier this year. Nor can I explain why a bit more of the twiggy growth remains. Did the ‘gardeners’ leave it for a tiny bit of bloom, or were they just lazy with their mutilation. It does not matter. As long as these trees get hacked like this, they are ruined. The client pays the ‘gardeners’ to do this.

Now, these trees could only be salvaged by renovation. This would involve pollarding, which would remove the tangles of gnarled stubs, but would leave horridly stubbed limbs to start the regeneration process. The trees would be just as deprived of bloom for the first year, but would at least be able to compartmentalize (heal) the wounds on the cleanly stubbed limbs. The secondary growth would need to be very meticulously and systematically groomed and pruned for many years to replace the canopy. It is possible, but would involve more work than even a good horticulturist or arborist would want to devote to the project.P81212++

Horridculture – Lessons From Motivational Posters

P81010I work for the best. I do not intend to be too terribly pompous about it. I am just being honest.
This is not first time I have worked for the best. I have worked for at least three of the best arborists in the Santa Clara Valley, and two legendary horticulturists. I intend to eventually return to work for one of those legendary horticulturists back on the farm.
The main work I do now is part time and temporary. That means that I work less than four days each week, and will not be working there forever. I try to not think about leaving because it is saddening. I enjoy those whom I work for so much.
I work for only one other horticulturist, and one who is studying to be an arborist. Neither of them grow any significant quantity of nursery stock like I intend to spend the rest of my career doing. They maintain landscapes and facilities. The others of our elite group are very specialized professionals who work with everything else that is not relevant to horticulture. One is a carpenter. One is an electrician. One is a plumber; and so on. Although impeccably specialized, any one of us would do what he must to accomplish whatever needs to be done, even if it is beyond his respective specialty. Collectively, we are the ‘maintenance staff’.
How is this relevant to horticulture? I suppose it is not very relevant. However, everyone else on the maintenance staff respects what the other horticulturist, the other arborist, and I do. Anyone who needs vegetation pruned for clearance from a project contacts us to get it done properly. Anyone who sees obvious problems in the landscape informs us about them. Everyone on the maintenance staff respects everyone else and their respective professions.
To describe what makes the maintenance staff the best, I could use any combination of those inspirational words that are so ungraciously followed by an overly simplified dictionary definition on those insultingly inane motivational posters that so many other employers display prominently in the workplace. They are all relevant. However, we have nothing to prove.
Besides, this is not about the best. It is Wednesday, when I write within the context of my ‘Horridculture’ theme.
I have also worked for the worst. One of these worst was portrayed to be a very professional landscape maintenance company. We had a much larger staff, spread out over nine counties. We had a good variety of those motivational posters in our main office. Unfortunately, I did not realize when I went to work there, that those posters merely defined what we lacked.
Integrity – Dedication – Perseverance – Discipline – Teamwork – Excellence – Strength – Endurance – Accountability – We had none of that. I was the only horticulturist in the big staff of a big landscape maintenance company that simply did not care. I do not know how to describe it more accurately. We simply did not care. We were there to make a buck any way we could. We swindled, cheated and lied. I was only there as their token horticulturist and arborist, to help them get away with more of their illicit activity, and to make a good impression for their victims.
It is so backward. The big and seemingly reputable landscape maintenance company has less regard for horticulture than a maintenance staff who has other completely different priorities.

Horridculture – Ethics

P80324++Before I continue, I should mention that I have worked for some of the BEST horticultural professionals in the entire Universe! Seriously! I have worked for the single most excellent nurseryman EVER, and not one, but a FEW of the most excellent arborists EVER! YES, I am bragging! I can write about some of them another time.
I have also worked for some of the worst, including those who were involved with the maintenance of landscapes associated with various residential sites that were in the process of being renovated or demolished and redeveloped at the old Fort Ord. They engaged in more unethical activity at Fort Ord than I can write about in just a few articles. For now, I will just rant about one such incident.
Back in about 2007 or 2008, I was asked to go out to investigated a distressed ‘Marina’ madrone on Abrams Drive. The subject was easy to find because is was the only nearly dead tree within a remarkably uniform row of very healthy ‘Marina’ madrones. It had been too severely ravaged by a severe infestation of aphid to be salvaged. I prescribed removal and replacement with a new specimen of the same cultivar.
I was annoyed that the removal of this single tree would ruin the otherwise perfect uniformity and spacing of the row of trees that had been so well maintained for many years. I was even more annoyed that the people whom I worked with had not noticed that the tree was distressed before it succumbed to the aphid infestation. Aphid is not normally much of a problem for ‘Marina’ madron. It was obvious that the subject had been deteriorating for a few years before it finally succumbed, and would have exhibited very obvious symptoms of distress for at least the previous few months. Someone should have noticed a problem during that time. That is part of what the clients had been paying us significant amounts of money to do.
All that I could do was write my report to recommend removal of the subject so that the client could justify the expense.
The following week, on my way down Abrams Drive to investigate another problem, I noticed that the subject had not yet been removed. However, one of the trees next to it was missing. I stopped to investigate and found a stump with fresh sawdust. I called the project manager, but before I could ask about the missing tree, was informed that the subject had been removed. Well, one can guess what happened. The ‘tree crew’ removed the wrong specimen!
My report was very specific about the location of the subject, and cited the subject’s identification number. Now, even without that information, it should have been EXTREMELY obvious which tree needed to be removed. As I said earlier, I had no problem identifying it as the only nearly dead tree within a very uniform group of very healthy trees. Someone on the crew who removed it, or the project manager who was supposed to ‘manage’ the project, or ANYONE involved with this removal should have noticed that the wrong tree was getting cut down. Even if no one bothered to notice the dead tree that really needed to be cut down, someone . . . ANYONE of the so called ‘horticultural professionals’ should have wondered why such a remarkably healthy tree was being cut down.
So, the ‘tree crew’ returned and cut down the original subject, and actually did so with their second attempt.
Then the two trees needed to be replaced. It sounds simple enough. The problem was that these particular ‘professionals’ knew of only a few trees, and ‘Marina’ madrone was not one of them. They replaced the removed trees with the ubiquitous crape myrtle, which completely ruined the conformity of the otherwise uniform row of ‘Marina’ madrone.
The client was billed for it all.
They payed for the removal and replacement of a tree that they had already payed a significant amount of money for, to be maintained properly so that this sort of thing would not happen.
They payed for the removal and replacement of a tree for no justifiable reason . . . just because NO ONE involved could identify the difference between a healthy tree and a nearly dead tree.
In the end, the client payed a lot of money to get their formerly exemplary trees replaced with the wrong trees.

Horridculture – Stub

P80620.JPGHow can a professional ‘gardener’ leave such a stub on the little California black oak in Felton Covered Bridge Park. It is not as if it is high in the canopy of a large tree, and out of reach to an arborist. This one is right at eye level, exactly where someone getting out of a car parked in the adjacent parking space would run into it. The entire tree needs some major corrective pruning, which would include the removal of significant limbs and portions of the canopy, but that is only because of years of neglect, and is another story. Right now, we are focusing on the eye-level stub.

It is not easy to see in these pictures because the lower branches are so congested. The stub extends from the lower left to the upper right in the first picture. It is right in the center of the second picture, protruding upward and to the left of the trunk, and then kinking back to the right. The last picture shows how easy it would be to reach from the ground. This particular tree is located right across from the Memorial Tree. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/memorial-tree-update-to-the-updated-update-etc-the-sequel-to-all-those-other-sequels/

We are always taught to not leave stubs. They interfere with compartmentalization of the pruning wound, or in this case, grow back into a disfigured wad of useless growth that will just need to be removed later. This poor tree already has plenty structural problems. Even if it were not unhealthy for the tree, it is just plain unsightly. Seriously, this looks ridiculous.

‘Gardeners’ do it all the time, as if they all take the same class on ‘how to leave stubs’. What was the advantage to cutting the limb right there instead of two feet closer to the trunk to eliminate the entire stub?P80620+P80620++

Real Deal

P80203Stereotypes can be such a bother. For the past almost twenty years that I have been writing my gardening column, many of those who read the column have been making assumptions about who I am and how I behave. I actually find much of the behavior that I should conform to be rather objectionable. Even the lingo would be awkward for me. I am a horticulturist, and if you must know, an arborist as well. It is my profession. I did not take an interest in horticulture because I retired or got bored with my primary career. Nor did I flunk out at everything else. I am not a garden guru, flower floozy or hortisexual. I do not crowd my garden with garden fairies, repurposed junk or rare and unusual plants. There is nothing eclectic or quaint. There is no whimsy or magic, and most certainly NO riot of color! Brent does not even flinch at my offensive racial comments.

Does anyone remember the yellow clivia fad? Everyone wanted yellow clivias in their own gardens because they were so rare, and so different from the typical orange. Does anyone even know what ‘rare’ means? When we all get them growing in our own garden, they are NOT rare! Has anyone tried to find an orange clivia lately? Yellow clivias had been rare back when orange was the more popular color, but only because orange clivias were the previous fad, and nurseries did not bother to grow the undesirable yellow clivias. Both yellow and orange are nice, but only if they happen to be the right perennial for a particular situation. They work nicely in spots that are too shady for other plants, and the bright colors are striking against the richly dark green foliage. However, they are not better than lily-of- the-Nile for sunny spots. I have grown more lily-of-the-Nile than I can write about, but have grown only one orange clivia.

The same goes for dawn redwood, or like landscapers with something to prove say, ‘Metasequoia glyptroboides’. They are nice trees in the right situation, particularly where redwoods would be nice, but a bit of sunlight is preferred through winter. However, that certainly does not make the right tree for every situation. I have worked with a few, but have never grown one in my own garden.

I loath Japanese maples! I do not mind growing them in the nursery, but I do not want to waste garden space on something so trendy. There are plenty of other more useful or prettier trees and shrubs. When I say that maples are some of my favorite trees, I mean ‘real’ maples, such as sugar maples and red maples. I know that silver and bigleaf maples are not very desirable trees, but they happen to be two of my favorites.

Being a good horticulturist is about knowing the many plant specie that we work with. Although silver maple happens to be one of my favorites, I have only been able to recommend it for just one application in my entire career. Just because it would be nice in my home garden, and I am willing to deal with the problems, does not mean that I can recommend it for other landscapes where others would need to contend with the problems. As much as I dislike Japanese maples, I have recommended them a few times for small spaces like atriums, particularly for clients who happen to like them. Unfortunately, they are more useful than silver maple. It is all a matter of knowing what specie are most appropriate for every application.