Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida has something in common with Poinsettia. The most colorful component of their bloom is not floral, but is instead foliar. What appears to be petals are colorful leaves known as bracts. Exactly four bracts surround each small cluster of tiny and unimpressive pale green real flowers. These bracts are most popularly white, but can be pink or rarely brick red.
The deciduous trees are bare now, but bloom spectacularly in early spring. Any necessary pruning should happen after bloom, and preferable after new foliage matures somewhat. Floral buds for next year are already prominent on the tips of bare twigs. Dormant pruning would eliminate some of the buds prior to bloom. For now, only minor grooming of unbudded interior growth is practical.
Mature flowering dogwood trees can be twenty feet tall, but typically stay lower. As understory trees, they prefer a bit of shelter from larger trees. Foliage can scorch if too exposed. Some cultivars have variegated foliage. All can develop vibrant orange and red foliar color for autumn, even with minimal chill. Floral debris resembles fallen leaves that fall just as new and real foliage develops.
For spacious landscapes, Canary Island pine, Pinus canariensis, became more common than Monterey pine through the 1970s. New trees became less popular as old trees demonstrated how big they get! However, as seemingly docile live Christmas trees, they still often sneak into gardens that are not big enough for them. Their short blue juvenile needles suggest that they stay small.
They instead get quite tall. Old trees can get more than a hundred feet tall, even if their canopy gets no wider than twenty feet. Their rich brown bark is distinctively and coarsely textured. Their thin and long needles are somewhat pendulous, with a rather fluffy appearance. They are in bundles of three. Although individual trees are not very broad, their shade can get too dark for other plants.
Canary Island pine is a stately tree, but is not easy to accommodate. It produces copious foliar debris that can shade out lawn and ground cover, and accumulate on shrubbery. In unrefined areas, without other plants, foliar debris suppresses weeds. However, too much can be combustible. Such grand and resilient trees suit parks, and are ideal for freeway embankments and interchanges.
By now most people have already acquired their Christmas trees. Some are live trees in containers. Some are artificial. Most are cut firs, pines, or alternatively, spruces, cedars, cypresses or even junipers. For at least the next two weeks, these trees dutifully maintain their healthy green vigor to brighten our homes with Christmas cheer.
Cut trees should have no problem lasting from the time they were originally cut through Christmas, as long as they get plenty of water. Artificial trees do not have much choice in the matter. Live trees are probably more reliable than cut trees are in regard to freshness, but can be more awkward to accommodate in the home, since they are more likely to leak excess water that can damage floors. If they they get a bit dry, live trees can also be sensitive to relatively dry and warm interior air after spending autumn out in cool and humid garden environments.
The main problem with living Christmas trees though, begins after Christmas. Spruces and other compact evergreens that can work as Christmas trees for several years need to be returned to the garden and maintained until next Christmas. Retired living Christmas trees, including those common, small trees that can be purchased with a few decorations already wired to their stems, eventually need to be planted out into the garden. Circling roots (that grow around the perimeter of a container in search of a way out) need to be severed so that they do not get constricted as they mature.
Unfortunately, with few exceptions, living Christmas trees mature into significant trees when they get the chance to grow. Those common, pre-decorated trees are most commonly juvenile Italian stone pine or Canary Island pine, which become very large trees. Because they seem so innocent as small potted trees, they often get planted in very awkward situations where they do not have enough space to grow without damaging nearby features.
Planting such a tree out in a forest is not practical, since it will not survive through the first year without supplemental watering. Their roots are just too confined to reach out for moisture. Even if such a tree could survive, it would not be an asset to the forest, since it would be an exotic (non-native) species.
If Hetz blue juniper grew as a tree, it might look something like Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica. The evergreen foliage of modern cultivars is almost as blue as blue spruce. Older trees that grew from seed (not cloned) can exhibit significant genetic variability, and are more grayish green than blue. Some are stout and shrubby. Taller specimens might exhibit sculpturally irregular form.
In the wild, Arizona cypress is even more variable, with as many as five distinct varieties. Some varieties are sometimes classified as separate species. Shorter types may get no taller than a two story house. Taller types get twice as tall, and as wide as thirty feet. Trunks can get two feet wide. Smooth Arizona cypress has patches of distinctively flaking bark over shiny chestnut brown bark.
Arizona cypress are best where they can develop their natural form. They prefer no more than minor pruning of awkward stems. Although, none seem to mind grooming to eliminate dead or aging stems. Modern cultivars are more conducive to minor pruning than older trees. Some cultivars supposedly make nicely dense shorn hedges. Furthermore, shearing enhances the blue foliar color.
I use the term loosely. Okay, so maybe I use it mockingly in this context. This sort of thing really should have no connection to the works of Calder, Rodin or Brancusi. It might be worthy of a few fancy adjectives, such as ‘severe’, ‘unusual’, ‘dramatic’ and ‘bold’. Horticulturally though, we might be thinking more like ‘disgraceful’, ‘abhorrent’, ‘ridiculous’ or ‘just plain sad’.
There is nothing wrong with pollarding, that severe sort of pruning that almost all other arborists will tell you is wrong. It involves pruning trees back to the same distended terminal knuckles every winter. Only a few trees are adaptable to the technique, and technically, sweetgum happens to be one of those few trees.
The stipulation is that once pollarded, they MUST be cut back to the same knuckles EVERY winter. A small stub or maybe two can be left on knuckles to allow them to elongate…
None of the above. It is just weird architecture, designed to preserve a rare Chilean wine palm. The tree was probably planted in the front garden of a Victorian home that was on this site before the site was redeveloped. Chilean wine palms were more popular back then; and this one seems to be about that age. Although it seems to be healthy now, the constriction in the trunk indicates that it had been stressed by the redevelopment, which undoubtedly covered much of the established root system. The time it took for the length of trunk above the constriction to grow coincides with the estimated age of the building below. The tree very likely had better access to rainwater before.
It is a hybrid. It is naturally occurring. Yet, most cultivars (garden varieties) resulted from intentional hybridization and selection. It is not as strange as it seems. Freeman maple, Acer X freemanii, is a naturally occurring hybrid of silver maple and red maple. It grows wild where the natural ranges of the parents overlap. From their example, breeders learned to selectively breed the cultivars.
These cultivars combine the fast growth rate of silver maple with the structural integrity of red maple. None get to be as imposing as the silver maple. Some get to be about forty feet tall and wide, which is a bit bigger than red maple gets in local climates. Foliage is lacy like that of silver maple, but more substantial, like that of red maple. It develops brilliant orange and red color for autumn.
Freeman maple, although locally uncommon, is one of the more practical maples here. Like silver maple, it does not require much chill in winter. Like red maple, it develops a symmetrical canopy with reasonably high branches. Roots should be complaisant with concrete. Because it is a hybrid, it is mostly sterile. It does not produce enough seed to be invasive in more conducive climates.
Arborists are very specialized horticulturists. They prefer to work with trees. Of course that is not as simple as it sounds. Some are nurserymen who grow trees. Some select appropriate trees for landscape design. Even some of the orchardists who work with many trees of a similar type have earned this prestigious designation. Decades ago, we still knew many of them as tree surgeons.
Arboriculture, which is the specialized horticulture of trees, has certainly evolved through the decades. Tree surgeons no longer graft fruit trees directly in home gardens. Nurserymen graft trees in production nurseries, to make them available from retail nurseries. However, modern tree surgeons now work with much more diversity of many species that were unknown to their predecessors.
As storms become more frequent through autumn and winter, the need for arboriculture becomes more apparent. More unstable trees fall. More structural deficient limbs break. Many trees prefer to be pruned while dormant through winter. In actuality though, arboriculture is important throughout the year. Some procedures, for some sorts of trees, should happen significantly earlier or later.
Trees are the most substantial features of home gardens. Once they grow beyond reach, they need to be maintained by qualified tree surgeons. Regardless of what most say, very few gardeners are qualified to perform major arboricultural procedures. Many tree surgeons will attest to finding that most damage that trees endure is caused by gardeners with minimal regard for arboriculture.
Tree surgeons who are Certified Arborists of the International Society of Arboriculture, or ‘ISA’, have demonstrated their proficiency with arboriculture. After passing their certification examination, Certified Arborists maintain their credentials by continued involvement with educational seminars, classes and workshops of the ISA. Not many other horticultural professionals are so dedicated.
More information about procuring the services of an ISA certified arborist can be found at www.isa-arbor.com.
These pictures are from a similar article with the same name at Felton League, which was linked to here last Wednesday. They demonstrate how efficiently the Memorial Tree is recovering from vandalism four months ago. Pointer . . . ‘thingies’ were added to more precisely identify what some of the pictures illustrate. The other two linked-to articles provide more information.
1. A gardener at Felton Covered Bridge Park installed this chicken wire cage around the Memorial Tree after it was vandalized. The protection is minimal, but the gesture is very thoughtful.
2. This now minimal damage is all that remains of of the formerly major vandalism. The worst of the damage to the left and right was very efficiently compartmentalized in just four months.
3. This scar is all that remains of formerly major damage. It is now completely compartmentalized. Growth above not only continued, but was unusually accelerated for so late in the season.
4. This damage was compartmentalized so efficiently that the scar is barely visible. Actually, I am not even certain if this is a scar. I remember only that the trunk was sliced in three places.
5. Growth for the season was adequate prior to the vandalism. The marker to the lower left shows where growth started early last spring. The marker to the upper right, near the center of the picture, shows where growth was decelerating and expected to blind out by the middle of summer. However, growth accelerated vigorously past that, as if stimulated by the vandalism.
6. Growth was unusually vigorous, especially for late summer. During winter, the stem designated by the marker to the left should be removed so that it does not develop into another major trunk. The stem designated by the marker to the right should probably be pruned back so that it does not compete with the two upper stems that are developing into the main lower limbs.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
Nowadays, the delightfully aromatic foliage is familiar primarily in garlands at Christmas time. Most of the foliage of old trees is too high up for direct contact. Young trees with low foliage are rare. Incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, is unfortunately not as popular as it was a century ago. At that time, it was as utilitarian as it was appealing for spacious but minimally irrigated landscapes.
Incense cedar wood made good shingles and laminate for closets and cedar chests. The wood is aromatic enough to repel moths from woolens and furs, which were still popular then. It was less expensive to import than Eastern red cedar. It grows wild relatively nearby, in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. Incense cedar fence posts might resist decay as well as redwood posts.
If the wild, where they compete with other trees for sunlight, old trees can get almost two hundred feet tall. However, well exposed old trees in Victorian gardens are less than half as tall after more than a century. Their canopies are generally conical. Large limbs can curve upward like extra trunks. Flat foliar sprays resemble those of arborvitae. The deeply furrowed bark is cinnamon brown.