GreenArt

p90120p90120+It seems that I have been negligent about writing about my colleague Brent Green and some of our crazy adventures in horticulture. I said I would do so when I started writing my articles here way back two Septembers ago. It is easy to get distracted from such topics, particularly since we do such different types of work. Brent is a renowned landscape designer and proprietor of GreenArt Landscape Design in Southern California. I am just a horticulturist and arborist who really should get back to growing horticultural commodities in Northern California. For all of our similarities, there just might be as many differences.

After posting that old video of the Birthday Trees yesterday https://tonytomeo.com/2019/01/19/birthday-trees/, I thought that I should also write more about what Brent does for the urban Forest of Los Angeles, which is probably more interesting than our crazy adventures. I really want to find the old news article about how he busted tree rustlers who were stealing mature Canary Island palms from the embankments of the Santa Monica Freeway, which is pictured above. It is still a sore subject because we know that it continues, and that the trees that were stolen were not returned as promised.

I could write a separate blog about the work that GreenArt does if I were more involved with it. I just do not enjoy design like Brent does. Actually, I am no good at it. I just work with the horticultural aspects of it, and growing material for it. In the future, I will probably be more involved with projects that are not directly affiliated with GreenArt, such as initiatives to maintain and protect trees in public spaces of Los Angeles.

For now I have only this brief and outdated video of the landscaping of Brent’s home, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2IwcuU3KEo .

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Birthday Trees

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The big wide medians of San Vicente Boulevard in western Los Angeles had been lacking trees since the Red Car Streetcar rails were removed decades earlier. My colleague, Brent Green, had been wanting to add trees to the medians since he was a little kid, and then became intent on doing so after he became a renowned landscape designer in the region.

At about the same time, I was a nurseryman. In my work, it was not uncommon to dispose of a few items that were unsaleable. Sometimes there were entire crops of unsaleable plants; and in 1997, I needed to dispose of a group of coastal redwoods that had very minor kinks in their trunks.

That gave Brent an idea.

He wanted me to bring some of the trees to Los Angeles to plant them in the medians of San Vicente Boulevard just south of the Miracle Mile District. We were sort of skeptical about their ability to adapt to the climate; but were willing to give it a try, and possibly give the trees a second chance. We planned to install thirty coastal redwoods for Brent’s thirtieth birthday on January 18, 1998.

Well, the trees were not happy there, and did not last long. However, they were the first of what became an annual tradition of planting trees on Brent’s birthday, January 18. The number of trees is determined by Brent’s age for the respective year. For example, we planted thirty coastal redwood trees on his thirtieth birthday, and then planted thirty-one manna gum trees, Eucalyptus viminalis, on his thirty-first birthday, and so on.

After a few more years, there was not much space on San Vicente Boulevard, so Brent started planting street trees in the parkstrips of streets that could use more trees. The original trees in San Vicente Boulevard needed to be removed for the installation of the Metro Rail, but they were nice while they lasted.

This short video is about what the tradition has become now that Brent will be planting fifty birthday trees.

 

European White Birch

60120+It may not be the biggest or best deciduous shade tree, but European white birch, Betula pendula, is famous for tall and elegant white trunks with wispy pendulous stems. It is a very informal tree that typically leans in one way or another, but is somehow right at home in refined landscapes. It is rarely alone, since it is usually planted with two or more friends, and sometimes in groves.

Not many of the biggest European white birch trees are more than fifty feet tall locally. (They can get bigger in cooler climates.) The slender trunks do not get much more than a foot and a half wide. As trees mature, the smooth white bark develops rough black furrows. The small triangular leaves turn soft yellow in autumn. The somewhat sparse foliage makes only moderate shade.

‘Laciniata’ has lacy lobed leaves, and stands straighter and narrower. ‘Youngii’ is so pendulous that it can barely stand up without staking.

Long leafed Yellowwood

60113+Of the various specie of podocarpus, and as the name implies, the long leafed yellowwood, Podocarpus henkelii, has the longest leaves. They can get about six inches long, and hang elegantly from upwardly curving branches. This glossy evergreen foliage can be quite dense. It is dark green in full sun, and can be a slightly bluish in partial shade, particularly as new growth develops.

Mature trees have the potentially to get a bit taller than second story eaves, and nearly as broad, but are typically kept shorter. Most grow as big fluffy shrubbery or as informal hedges. Long leafed yellowwood can be pruned (but not shorn) into a handsome formal hedge, or even espaliered against a fence. It prefers somewhat regular watering and well drained soil. It might be unhappy in dense soil. Fertilizer can improve color and density if foliage gets distressed.

Arborists Really Know Their Trees

7bd6It is no surprise that there are many different types of physicians within the medical industries. Pediatricians, surgeons, cardiologists, dermatologists, and all sorts of ‘doctors’ are all recognized for their particular medical specialty. Yet, almost all horticultural professionals are known simply as gardeners or landscapers, even though many never work directly in gardens or landscapes.

Production nurserymen grow horticultural commodities (plants). Other nurserymen maintain these commodities while they are marketed. Landscape designers develop the landscapes that many plants inhabit. Only after the involvement of various less familiar horticultural professionals, landscapers install the landscapes, and gardeners maintain them. Somehow, they get too much credit.

Arborists really deserve more credit. They are the physicians of trees, who specialize in arboriculture, which is the horticulture of trees. Much of their work is out of reach to gardeners, and is very distinct from the sort of work that gardeners should be expected to perform. Trees are the most substantial features of a landscape, so really should get the proper attention that they deserve.

The International Society of Arboriculture, or ISA, certifies professional arborists who have passed an examination of their arboricultural expertise, and continue to demonstrate proficiency with discriminating arboricultural standards. Continued involvement with ISA classes, educational seminars and workshops is required to maintain arborist certification. It demands serious dedication.

Besides assessing the health, stability and structural integrity of trees, ISA certified arborists are the most qualified to prescribe any necessary arboricultural procedures, and to direct those who perform these necessary procedures. Most local municipalities require a report from an ISA certified arborist to accompany an application for a permit to remove any protected ‘heritage’ tree.

The website of the ISA, at www.isa-arbor.com, Is an excellent resource for finding certified arborists, and the tree service businesses with which they are affiliated. Arborists can be found by name directly, or regionally by ZIP code or city. The website is also a great resource for information about proper arboriculture and trees, and can help those who are not arborists with selection of trees.

Horridculture – Clearance

P90102Many arborists mark certain lengths on their pole saws and pole pruners. When stood upright, these marks designate the standard heights for minimal clearance pruning. Not so many need to mark the height of minimal clearance for walkways, since they will prune away anything that is within reasonable reach with hand tools from the ground. The minimal clearance above parking spaces is not so easy to guess at, so is more likely to be marked on poles. So is the minimal clearance over roadways, where the lowest limbs must be high enough to be out of the way of campers and freight trucks.
Clearance to the sides is determined by the location of the curb, but even that might need to be modified at sharp turns, or where the roadway slopes significantly away from the center. Clearance must similarly be a bit higher over dips in a roadway, where the height of long freight trailers would be affected by the elevation of the wheels in front and back (outside of the dips). Clearance around street lighting, roofs, utilities and such is determined by the object that requires clearance, so no marks must be made on the poles for such work. (Clearance pruning of high voltage cables is only performed by those who are qualified to do so.)
Clearance pruning is serious business for arborists. They do not want their trees to hurt anyone, or to damage vehicles. Nor do they want their trees to be damaged by vehicles. Obtrusive limbs can be torn away by freight trucks. Even if not torn away, limbs that are regularly battered by freighter trucks are rather unsightly.
As someone who used to drive the delivery truck, I can tell you that clearance pruning is also important for some of us who use the roadways.
These three young Italian stone pines are healthy specimens that are probably well structured inside all of the outer foliage. It is hard to say, since I can not see inside through all the disfigured lower foliage that has been continually battered by truck traffic. They probably only need to be pruned for clearance above and away from the traffic. If pruned to establish a minimal ceiling just two feet or so above the obvious damage, and to remove all the lower growth to the side, they would be excellent street trees for many years. They will eventually need to be pruned again, as maturing branches sag from their own weight, but that is to be expected. The main trunks and bulky limbs within would probably be quite sculptural if they were to be exposed by pruning that is necessary anyway. It really would not take much.

Domingo Pine

90102The big name of this little pine takes some explaining. Domingo pine is a cultivator of an interspecific hybrid of two distinct specie, Eastern white pine, Pinus strobus, and Mexican white pine, Pinus ayacahuite. Until a better name in invented, it is known as Pinus strobus X ayacahuite ‘Domingo’. It is typically but incorrectly abbreviated as Pinus ‘Domingo’, or Pinus strobus ‘Domingo’.

Like many hybrids, Domingo pine got the best of both parents, and also stays compact enough for suburban gardens. Although not quite as soft and blue as Eastern white pine, its finely textured and dense pine needle foliage has a grayish sheen to it. Like the Mexican white pine, it does not need much water once established. It wants full sun exposure but is otherwise not demanding.

Young trees may seem to grow quickly, but growth slows significantly with maturity so that trees to not get much taller than second story eaves. Their typically conical form does not get much more than half as wide as tall. They look best where they have room to stay well branched from top to bottom. Because they are not very big, clearance pruning of lower limbs comprises their symmetry.

Secret Lives Of Christmas Trees

90102thumbPeople really stress out over Christmas trees. Some do not want a cut Christmas tree because it involves killing the tree. Some do not want an artificial Christmas tree because it is . . . artificial. Some do not want a living Christmas tree because it is too expensive for a tree that is too small. There are so many myths and misconceptions about Christmas trees, yet everyone wants one.

As mentioned, artificial trees are . . . artificial. Obviously. They are not a horticultural commodity, so are not an appropriate topic for a gardening column. What can be said about them is that they are not a more environmentally responsible option to disposable cut real trees. Countless dinosaurs died to make the petroleum for the plastic that these non-biodegradable trees are made of.

Cut trees are still the most environmentally responsible option. They are not harvested from forests, but from plantations, just like any other cut foliage, cut flowers or vegetable crops. Many are grown from the branched stumps of previously harvested trees, by a process known simply enough as ‘stump culture’. It works like coppicing, and allows some stumps to produce for many years.

Potted living trees are the most misunderstood type of Christmas trees. There is nothing environmentally friendly about them. They are exotic (non-native) trees grown in synthetic media (potting soil) in vinyl pots. They get synthetic fertilizer, artificial irrigation and very unnatural pruning while growing within artificially regulated environments that are designed to promote efficient production.

Only a few of the more compact types of living Christmas trees, like Colorado blue spruce and dwarf Alberta spruce, can survive confinement in pots for more than just a few years. Austrian black pine and dwarf limber pine need a bit of trimming as they grow, but also have the potential to work for a few Christmas seasons. The common small potted Christmas trees that are already decorated are Italian stone pine and Canary Island pine, which do not survive confinement for long, and get too big for home gardens.

Tannenbaum

IMG_1983Many towns display a Town Christmas Tree in a prominent and centrally located public space.

The Town Christmas Tree in Los Gatos is a now mature but formerly feral deodar cedar that grew by chance next to the railroad tracks where they passed through downtown a very long time ago. As the railroad tracks were removed, and the rail yard was redeveloped into the Town Plaza, the maturing cedar tree survived the process to become the most prominent tree there. Because it just happened to be a symmetrically conical coniferous tree in the most prominent spot in town, it was a natural choice for the Town Christmas Tree. It gets lit up and decorated for Christmas, and is where children can meet up with Santa Claus.

The Town Christmas Tree in Felton is the Featherstone Tree, which is a mature coastal redwood tree that happened to be planted right on the edge of Highway 9 a very long time ago by Mr. Featherstone, simply because he admired the species so much, https://tonytomeo.com/2017/10/05/big-tree-in-a-small-town/ . Like the Town Christmas Tree of Los Gatos, it just happened to develop into the right sort of tree in the right spot to become the Town Christmas Tree. It too gets lit up and decorated, although it is not as conical as it used to be.

Last year, someone delivered a decorated cut Christmas tree to a picnic area in Felton Covered Bridge Park, where many of the Homeless Community congregate. No one knows who delivered it, or how he, she or they did so undetected. It was a rather fancy tannenbaum (fir) that was not cheap. Someone or a few someones put quite a bit of effort and expense into this unusual gesture, to share a bit of joy with others in the Community.

It was not like a Town Christmas Tree for the Homeless Community, as if the Homeless Community is somehow separate from the rest of Felton. It was more like a household Christmas tree for those who lack a house to live in. It certainly made the annual Christmas Luncheon for the Homeless Community there at the picnic area much homier.

Six on Saturday: Deodar Cedar Migration

 

Deodar cedars that were featured in the gardening column about two weeks ago, https://tonytomeo.com/2018/11/27/deodar-cedar/ , live in a small grove adjacent to a building that I work out of. They need a bit of pruning for clearance from the roof, but are otherwise rather nice and healthy specimens.

They are also prolific. Quite a herd of seedlings is developing on the ground below. None of the individual seedlings are more than just a few years old, which suggests that the area was cleared of seedlings a few years ago. The area needs to be cleared of seedlings again, before they grow big enough to become a messy thicket.

Part of another landscape in another area happened to be in need of a few deodar cedars. There were two established specimens there already. They suit the situation so well that more are desired. However, new trees are expensive, and because there is no irrigation system in that particular site, they would need to be watered very regularly by hose until they get established.

Well, you can guess what happened. We pulled up several of the seedlings that needed to be pulled up anyway, and simply plugged them into the site where more deodar cedars are desired. It was done just prior to rain, so the relocated seedlings did not even need to be soaked in. They were pruned so that they would not desiccate so readily. We planted way more than necessary because there were plenty to spare, and also because we expect that several will not survive the process. We also expect that we will likely need to cut down a few later because, although some will not survive, too many probably will. Because they are just tiny seedlings, they will get established more efficiently than canned nursery stock, and will not be so sensitive to lapses of irrigation.

Although way more than necessary were relocated, they were not even a quarter of what was available in the original herd. More than three quarters of the herd remain available to be planted elsewhere. More will likely be relocated to other parts of other landscapes before the rainy season is half way finished. A few will be canned and put into the nursery. Whatever we do to them should be done in the early part of the rainy season to take advantage of the weather while they get established. We prefer to relocate the larger seedlings first, so that those that remain will be the smaller seedlings that will take longer to get too big to move if they must wait until next year to be relocated.

This is actually old technology, and how tree seedlings were pulled and plugged to enhance the production of woodlots since ancient history. While undesirable seedlings were pulled and discarded, more desirable seedlings that happened to be crowded around the parent trees were pulled up and plugged in more uniformly over a larger area.

1. seedlings in the ground below the parent treesP81215

2. parent treesP81215+

3. bundle of seedlingsP81215++

4. unpruned seedlingP81215+++

5. same seedling prunedP81215++++

6. seedling in new locationP81215+++++

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/