Sugaring Season

P90316KThere is no sugaring season here. Spring comes on too suddenly. By the time sap starts to flow, buds are already swelling.

Bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, happens to be native here, although it is not common. It is the sugaring maple of the Pacific Northwest. A tree next to my driveway gave me enough sap to boil about four ounces of maple syrup a few years ago. That was all I needed to make the point to my colleagues who insisted that it could not be done that it really could be done.

Box elder, Acer negundo, is also native, and in riparian zones, is much more common than bigleaf maples is. I am told that is provides sap for sugaring just like any other maple does. Some say the sap is of inferior quality, or boils to cloudy syrup. Others say that it is comparable to that of any other maple.

Now that I made my point about getting a tiny bit of syrup from a bigleaf maple tree, I have no intention of sugaring again. However, sugaring season is still something that I need to be aware of. It is when I can not prune the maple trees. I can prune them earlier in winter or later in summer, but not while they are most vascularly active during sugaring season. Otherwise, they don’t stop bleeding. Even if the bleeding is harmless, it is unsightly if it stains the trunks and becomes infested with sooty mold as the weather warms.

The same rule applies to birch trees.

I pruned a few of the European white birch, Betula pendula, at work last week, believing that it was still too early for them to be too active. It was not much at all, and involved only a few small upper limbs and two significant lower limbs that had been disfigured by pruning for clearance from adjacent utility cables. I did not notice bleeding from the small stubbed limbs that I pruned from high in the canopy with a pole saw. Yet, the sap started to pour from the pruning wounds before I finished cutting away the two larger lower limbs that happened to be on the same tree. They are still bleeding now. In fact, they are bleeding so much that I feel badly that the tree is losing so much sap. If I had known how much sap would bleed, I could have put a bucket under each of the two wounds to catch the sap to make a small bit of syrup as is done in Alaska.

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Pruning Late Might Be Justified

90313thumbThere may not be exceptions to every rule, but there are a few exceptions to the rule that winter is the best time for pruning. It is generally true that most plants are the most dormant through the coolest part of winter. It is also true that while they are the most dormant, most plants are less sensitive to pruning, as well as other horticultural techniques that interfere with their normal function.

However, certain ‘special’ plants get pruned later, either because it is healthier for them, or just because they are allowed to do what they do best in spring before getting deprived of some of what they need to do it with. Some get pruned rather soon after coming out of winter dormancy. Some should probably wait for their new spring growth to mature a bit. It is not as confusing as it sounds.

Evergreen plants that drop much of their older foliage through winter should probably be pruned late in winter or early in spring, essentially at the last minute, just before new foliage develops. If shorn early and deprived of outer foliage that should survive through winter, photinia looks scraggly as it continues to lose much of what had been inner foliage until new foliage develops in spring.

Red twig dogwood and some types of willows that are coppiced or pollarded to maximize production of their colorful twigs should be allowed to show off their colorful bark for as long as possible. Like photinia, they too can be pruned at the last minute, just before vascular activity resumes. However, red twig Japanese maple really should be pruned in winter so it does not bleed afterward.

Flowering cherry, plum, peach, crabapple and quince are grown for prolific but sterile bloom which is diminished by winter pruning. If they need it, they can instead be pruned after bloom, but before too much foliage develops, or after such foliage matures in late spring or early summer. They do not need to be pruned nearly as aggressively as fruiting trees that would otherwise produce too much burdensome fruit. Some may only need to have dead stems pruned out.

Bullwinkle II

P90303What makes this Bullwinkle worse than most is that I pruned it like this myself. What makes it worse than worse is that it did not need to be pruned in this disfiguring manner for clearance from utility cables like the last one I wrote about was. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/08/08/horridculture-bullwinkle/ It is instead an attempt to renovate an overgrown hedge that was behaving something like a fat hedge. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/06/06/horridculture-fat-hedges/

In fact, the only reason it did not qualify as a fat hedge is that it had plenty of space for all of its superfluous bulk The side to the left was only beginning to encroach into the driveway on that side, and was easily pruned back to the curb, which for now, is adequate confinement. The side on the right was only beginning to encroach into the upstairs balconies, and was likewise easily pruned back for reasonable clearance.

The problems with this hedge were within and on top. It had been shorn back only for minimal confinement for so long that all the foliage on the sides was within a thin external layer. Pruning any farther back would have exposed a thicket of necrotic stems in various degrees of deterioration that had been accumulating within the interior for many years. Almost all growth was directed to and concentrated on top, which shaded the interior and lower stems even more than the accumulation of necrotic crud within did. Since the top had always been pruned down to the same height, all subsequent growth after pruning on top was above where it had been pruned previously, which was of course above the height where it was wanted, and consequently removed when the hedge was pruned again. There was no incentive for lower foliage to develop.

The hedge is there to obscure the view of a building on the left from the windows of the building on the right. The most important foliage for that purpose is the lower foliage, which is precisely what is lacking. Almost all resources were going to the upper foliage, which was contributing nothing, while shading out the lower growth. Although the inner thicket of necrotic stems was partially helping to obscure the unwanted view, it was also inhibiting healthier lower growth.

The illustration shows what remains after the useless top and necrotic interior were removed. After the picture was taken, the left and right sides of the hedge were pruned lower to eliminate the useless upper foliage that was not contributing to the function of the hedge. As unsightly as it is, it partially obscures the view of the building on the left from the building on the right, and will obscure it more as new foliage develops. Now that the interior is exposed, new growth should develop within the interior, and lower to the ground. Because the area is partially shaded by nearby redwoods, the exposed interior limbs are not likely to be damaged by sun scald.

After the new interior growth is established and obscuring the view, the external sides that are there now can be pruned back farther and sloped inward toward the top so that the lower growth of the hedge gets more sunlight. The hedge certainly does not need to be as wide as it is. It would be easier to maintain if it were narrower and so close to the allowable boundaries. Ultimately, with appropriate pruning over the next few years, this old hedge should be restored.

Attack Roses While They Sleep

8bd4This theme may be getting a bit redundant about now. There is just so much that needs to be done in the garden through winter for what will bloom in spring and summer. We plant new fruit trees, and prune mature ones. When we finish planting spring bulbs, we can start planting summer bulbs. Berries, rhubarb and grapes all get planted. With all this going on, it is also time to prune roses.

Like so many fruit trees through the past few centuries, modern roses were bred to maximize production. Instead of big and abundant fruit, they produce big and colorful flowers. Such enhanced production is more than overgrown rose plants can sustain. Pruning eliminates superfluous stems to concentrate resources into fewer but more vigorous stems, and flowers of superior quality.

Pruning also eliminates diseased, damaged, dead and dying stems; which are known as the ‘four Ds’. Foliage falls from the stems naturally through winter, but should be raked and disposed of because it can spread disease to new foliage in the spring. (Dormant fungal spores and bacteria overwinter in fallen foliage.) Foliage that clings to stems after pruning should be plucked away.

Pruning should ideally be done by the time buds begin to swell in late winter. Of course this is not as easy as it sounds in the mild local climate. Buds swell early, and may even start to grow before rose flowers from the previous season finish blooming! Modern ‘carpet’ roses and a few other shrubby types barely go dormant, but fortunately, they do not need such meticulous pruning anyway.

Hybrid tea roses need the most severe pruning, which leaves only three to seven canes approximately two feet high. These canes should ideally be unbranched below where they get pruned, and be spaced somewhat evenly around the center. Stout canes that grew last summer from the base of each plant are best. However, canes below graft unions are suckers that need to be removed.

Floribunda roses are pruned similarly, but can retain a few more canes. Some grandiflora roses are allowed to get significantly taller, with new canes on top of canes from the previous year, which may already be on top of canes from another previous year. It may take a while before they develop replacement canes from the base. Climbing roses likewise retain old canes for a few years.

Tree roses should be pruned as if the upper graft union is at ground level, so that canes should be about two feet high above the graft union. (Although, tree rose canes are usually pruned shorter.) Carpet roses and a few bramble types only need to be pruned low, but cane quality is not so important. They are not grafted, so can not develop suckers.

Horridculture – Disdain For Trees

P90206Okay, we get it; someone really hates trees. That’s fine. Trees are not for everyone. Just cut it down. Put it out of it’s misery. Take away the useless lodgepole stake and strap along with it. Maybe those Canary Island date palms that look like the home of SpongeBob SquarePants in the background will recover from their own form of abuse to compensate for the loss of this seemingly unwanted goldenrain tree.
Apparently, it is not that simple. This goes beyond a dislike of trees, or a mere desire to kill them. This tree seems to have been tortured by someone who enjoys it WAY too much. There were others that were similarly disfigured in this same parking lot in the north of San Jose. They were not pollarded. They were not pruned. There were mutilated, but kept alive for more of the same.
What is worse is that someone was paid for this torture. Property management hired a tree service to ‘prune’ these trees, likely for clearance from lamp poles and parked cars. Was the perpetrator inexperienced, insensitive, or as hateful as the severity of the disfigurement suggests? Well, lets analyze that.
There are plenty of inexperienced people who take jobs in occupations with which they are not familiar. However when the do so, they tend to learn at least the basics about it to avoid doing their work improperly. That obviously did not happen here.
Insensitivity or a lack of concern for the work is possible. However, even someone who does not care about such work is likely to get something about it correct, even if just circumstantially. Well, that did not happen either.
These trees are kept alive because they are more lucrative to the torturer that way. As disfigured as the trees are, they will regenerate new growth that will again need to be pruned for clearance later. Someone who put that much thought into what is being done could have just as easily put forth the effort to do ‘something’ properly in regard to pruning. That is obviously not part of the agenda. The perpetrator really is as disdainful of these trees as the disfigurement indicates.

Six on Saturday: Wrath Of Grapes

 

Racial profiling was not likely the reason I was asked to prune a big overgrown grapevine at work. I just happen to be more proficient with dormant pruning of dago wisteria than my colleagues are. My proficiency is more cultural than racial. I am from the Santa Clara Valley, and sadly, they are not.

1. Before pruning, the grapevine was a tangled mess on a split rain fence, which is not even visible in this picture. Incidentally, the forsythia that was featured in ‘Six on Saturday’ two seeks ago is located just beyond the upper left margin of the picture.p90126

2. After pruning, the top rail of the fence is visible, extending away from where the picture was taken. Some of the debris is still piled to the left in the background. Green wires to the right are there for new vines to climb on. The few remaining unpruned vines are layers (stems that lay on the ground long enough to develop roots of their own) that will be dug and removed. I wanted to prune to just spurs, but there were no new canes on the main trunk. Instead, I left stubs of canes from the previous season, with a few extra buds.p90126+

3. This lineup of what seems to be the usual suspects is really seven well rooted layers (the stems that lay on the ground long enough to develop roots of their own that I mentioned earlier) The smallest one on the left is easy to miss.p90126++

4. Most of the layers are very well rooted. We really do not know what to do with the original grapevine. We certainly do not need seven more! Friends and neighbors will likely find good homes for them.p90126+++

5. The weather was so nice for this project, that the ceanothus nearby started to bloom. There are so many other dormant plants to prune before winter ends!p90126++++

6. Just prior to such nice spring weather, we got eight inches of rain from a series of a few storms. This would have been two thirds of the average annual rainfall of twelve inches in my former neighborhood in town! This bucket of rainwater is nine inches deep because it is flared toward the top, and narrower at the bottom.p90126+++++

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

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Winter Pruning Of Fruit Trees

90130thumbThe vast orchards of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys might make the impression that production of fruit is easy. The trees naturally bloom in spring, and develop fruit over summer, as if they do most of the work prior to harvest. In reality, those trees have been so extensively bred to maximize production that they need, among other maintenance, very specialized pruning in winter.

Without pruning, deciduous fruit trees produce more fruit than they can support. The weight of the fruit breaks and disfigures limbs. Excessive fruit production exhausts resources so that, although more fruit is produced, it is of inferior quality. Diseases and insects proliferate in crowded stem growth that lacks vigor. Unharvested fruit that is beyond reach in upper growth may attract rodents.

Well pruned deciduous fruit tree produce fruit of much better quality, and are able to support it on well structured limbs that are reasonably within reach. They are less susceptible to diseases and insects. Such pruning seems severe to those who are unfamiliar with it, but it is necessary, and the trees appreciate it. Because it is so severe, it is done while trees are dormant through winter.

Different types of fruit trees need distinct types of pruning. Furthermore, different cultivars of each type may need different degrees of the same type of pruning. All should get the ‘four Ds’, which are ‘dead, dying, damaged and diseased’ growth, pruned out of them. Because figs produce early and late crops, they can be pruned less for more early figs, or more severely for more late figs.

Most of the deciduous fruit trees are either stone fruits or pomme fruits. The stone fruits include apricot, plum, prune, nectarine, peach and cherry, which are all of the genus of Prunus. Pomme fruits are apple, pear and quince. Because the winter pruning of deciduous fruit trees is so specialized and so intensive, it is worth studying, preferably before planting the fruit trees that require it.

Prune Now For Roses Later

70524thumb+The main problems with roses locally are not related to climate, soil, insects or disease. Warm and semi-arid climates of California happen to be some of the best places in the World for roses. Sure, many roses have problems with insects such as aphid, and diseases such as powdery mildew, but primarily because such pathogens proliferate among roses that are not pruned properly.

Yes, the main problems with roses are a direct result of improper pruning. Without adequate pruning, roses become overgrown thickets that shelter the pathogens that afflict them, but also lack the vigor to be resistant to damage. Like so many other domesticated plants, they were bred for maximum production of unnaturally big flowers, at the expense of natural resistance to pathogens.

Pruning eliminates superfluous growth and improves air circulation, which interferes with the proliferation of most types of pathogens. Most pathogens overwinter in fallen foliage that should get removed in the process. Pruning also concentrates growth of the next season into fewer new stems, which stimulates vigorous growth that hopefully grows faster than the pathogens that infest it.

Roses should be pruned while dormant in winter, after defoliation, and before buds start to swell at the end of winter. Hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses should be pruned back to only about three to six canes that grew from the base during the previous year. Older canes should be removed. Remaining canes should be only about two feet tall, and cut just above a healthy bud. Any growth below the graft union (where the basal canes originate) are genetically different suckers (from the understock or rootstock) that must be removed.

As growth resumes in spring, well pruned plants will produce fewer stems and blooms that are significantly more vigorous than those of inadequately pruned plants. Overgrown and inadequately pruned plants must spread their resources thin amongst more but significantly weaker stem growth that is much more likely to be damaged by pathogens. Aggressive pruning now pays off later.

The Rose And Fall . . .

p90113Winter is for pruning. Any good native of the Santa Clara Valley knows that. It starts as soon as the first deciduous fruit trees defoliate and continues to the last minute rush to finish before the buds start to swell at the end of winter. It may seem like there would be no last minute rush now that all the orchards are gone, but there is so much in landscapes to prune that prioritizing and scheduling pruning takes a bit of effort. Just like we know that apples and pears can be pruned slightly later than apricots and prunes, in the landscape, we know that sycamores might be delayed until the birches are done. Naturally, I feel compelled to prune the flowering cherries and fosythias, but am almost content to wait until after they finish blooming in early spring. Of course, I cringe as I write this.
Roses are getting pruned now. I first finished a few scrawny hybrid tea roses, including a few ‘tree roses’. They really should be relocated to a sunnier spot, but not this year. Afterward, I did a row of climbing roses that are not exactly climbing the fence that they were planted against. They really should be moved too, but like the others, not this year. I still need to prune a bank covered with modern carpet roses. I am none too keen on them. Actually, I rather dislike them. However, of all the roses, they are the only ones that happen to be in the right situation, and are doing a nice job.
Just before I started with the first batch of hybrid tea roses, I pruned a single potted hybrid tea rose that is all alone on a deck across the street. I wanted to get it done when I thought about it so that I would not forget about it in the process of pruning everything else. It had bothered me for some time because it was so tall. I mean, I could not reach the top of it. The blooms up there were closer to upstairs windows than to anyone wanting to seem them from ground level. The supporting lower canes were bare of foliage, but well armed with nasty thorns. Honestly, I thought that the deck would have been more inviting without it.
Pruning it was rather simple; just three major cuts. Since the rose is where people mingle, I chopped the thorns just so that they are not so sharp. The remaining three canes were older than one year, but did not seem too terribly old. In fact, there was still a bud to cut back to on one of the canes. For the other two, I had to cut back to old petiole scars, expecting that dormant buds are still in there. That was about it.
The problem that I was not aware of is that the rose was left that tall intentionally because a former gardener liked it that way! Now I feel badly. I really thought that it had just been neglected. Like I mentioned, the canes did not seem to be several years old. They must have replaced older canes in just the last few years. Regardless, I can not put it back. In the partial shade there, it will probably grow back as tall within the year. I hope that the former gardener does not find out about it before then. I know that if someone did that to a roses that I had pruned in a specific manner, I would be really angry about it.p90113+

Horridculture – Miss Congeniality

p90109Now, before I commence with my rant and long list of problems with this picture, I should mention that this seemingly abused rose tree does seem to be appreciated. All the roses in this landscape seem to be very healthy, and they bloom constantly between spring and autumn. Their performance suggests that they are regularly fertilized and deadheaded.
The unusually brutal pruning may be an attempt to keep this particular rose tree as compact as possible, within very limited space. It is not how I would do it, but perhaps it helps. The size of the burl suggest that this rose tree has been pruned effectively like this for a few years, although the lack of weathering of the labels indicate that it is not more than several years old. Older canes really do seem to be getting pruned off annually as they should. Even though the remaining canes are stubbed much too short, the end cuts are done properly. I can not help but wonder of pollarding back to the main knuckle would be just as effective, and neater.
The labels seem to be retained intentionally. In fact, the smaller white label to the left is attached to a new cane. Either the label was removed from an older cane that was pruned away, and attached to a new cane intentionally, or the rose tree was planted only last year rather than a few years ago, as mentioned earlier. I do not know why this uninformative label would have been retained; but the other larger label might be there for anyone who wants to know the name of the rose when they see it blooming in season. It happens to be in a very trafficked spot, where people walk by it constantly.
Rather than snivel about the (seemingly) very bad pruning, and the retention of the (trashy looking) labels, I should just say that this apparently appreciated rose tree should have been planted somewhere else in the garden, or not at all. That wheel in the background really is in a parking spot that is bordered by the red curb. A tiny bit of another red curb on the opposite side of this very narrow space is visible in the very lower right corner of the picture. (I can not explain why the curbs are red.) This really is a very narrow spot between a parking space and a walkway! Those mutilated stems to the right are another shrubbier rose. Thorny rose canes could really be a bother for those getting out of or into a parked car, or walking by on the walkway. The seemingly useless stake might be there so that the rose tree does not get yanked over when it grabs onto someone. To make matters worse, this rose is a grandiflora, which wants to grow bigger and wider than most other types of roses. Defoliation during winter dormancy is no asset either. The pathetic marigold on the ground really does not help much.
The point of all this is that more thought should have gone into planting this rose tree here.
Even Miss Congeniality, who so proficiently adapts to the most unfamiliar of situations, has certain limitations; and this situation demonstrates the worst of them.