Friday, January 26, 2018

Tree Trimming Trauma

I had our trees trimmed this week.  Not all of them but 9 of the largest specimens plus 5 shrubs that make up what's supposed to be a hedge along the property line on the southwest side.  As the tree-hating neighbor that formerly made a fuss about perceived obstructions to her view moved last year, I'd considered leaving all the trees alone this year but my husband invoked the good neighbor card so I scheduled it.  I asked the arborist to go lighter in thinning the trees this year and overall I'm pleased with the results.

Work started in the back garden.

The peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) was nicely laced and the plants below should benefit from greater sun exposure

The 2 strawberry trees (Arbutus 'Marina') still have enough flowers to keep the hummingbirds happy while giving my husband the view he wanted from the spa


The big ticket item in the back wasn't so much a trim but rather tree surgery.  Three large limbs of the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) were removed.  Since I scheduled the tree surgery back in November, the tree sprouted new foliage here and there, months prior to its usual schedule.   This week, when the arborist and his crew showed up, I asked if the growth signified the tree's decline or if it was simply a response to the yo-yo weather conditions we've had this winter.  While the arborist couldn't answer that definitively, he said he's been seeing trees behave oddly all over this year.  He did a quick check for signs of the shot hole borer, an insect that's currently causing a lot of problems in Southern California, but he didn't see any signs of that.  I gave the okay to go ahead with the surgery.


The tree's shape looks better to my eyes and my hope is that the removal of the 3 large limbs will diminish the litter dropped by the tree, especially over the patio


The rest of the trimming, all in the front garden, was relatively straightforward.

The ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) was lightly thinned

As was the Magnolia grandiflora

The 2 peppermint willows (Agonis flexuosa) along the street were the biggest shock.  The willows have provided a filmy screen, which was substantially diminished.  If only the shrubs we added nearly 2 years ago to extend the street-facing hedge would hurry up and grow!

The "hedge" on the south side behind the lath house got a neat trim.  I'd assumed these plants were English laurels but the arborist identified them as cherry laurels (Prunus caroliniana).  I'm still not sure of the ID.  The fruit fits the former description better than the latter.

The strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina') in the front was also thinned, giving more light to the plants below


Of course, there was collateral damage.  There always is, no matter how well I think I've cleared the areas around the trees to be trimmed or how careful the crew tries to be.  I was most concerned about any damage to the lath (shade) house my husband built but thankfully that was untouched.  A recently planted Lotus berthelotti disappeared, presumably swept up with debris dropped from the peppermint willow in the back.  A number of succulents were up-ended and knocked about but, with a 7-person crew, that was to be expected.  The area around the strawberry tree in the front garden, which sits atop a moderate slope, suffered the most damage.  Frankly, I'd completely forgotten that this tree was on the list until I checked it 2 days before the work was scheduled.  Most of what was lost were plants that are easily replaced with cuttings, Aeonium arboreum, Euphorbia tirucalli, and Senecio vitalis.  An Agave desmettiana was crushed.

This was a pup.  Sad but not a significant loss.


My biggest mistake was installing some new plants on the slope.  My heart ached when I saw what'd happened to the Crassula falcata I picked up at the local botanic garden last week.

The photo on the left shows the plant in its pot the day I purchased it.  Part of the plant was missing entirely when I found it and part of what remained was crushed (middle photo).  The photo on the right is what I salvaged.  An Agave 'Joe Hoak' pup I'd planted near this one was also damaged.


I'm still picking up debris but that's normal fall-out of the tree trimming process.  Wind will shake out bits and pieces of foliage for weeks yet.  Another round of Santa Ana winds is on the way, which may expedite that process.  The good news is that I can now work on stage 2 of my planting plan for the area surrounding the lath house.  It doesn't appear we'll be getting any rain interruptions.

Mother Nature spit on us for awhile yesterday, dampening the pavement and returning my hair to its natural poker straight state, but it failed to register as measurable precipitation

This was the view a couple of hours later as the storm bid adieu.  The rain that was showing in the extended forecast for February has also disappeared, making the picture for this rainy season look bleaker even as the skies look glorious.


I hope this weekend brings you sunny skies.  If Mother Nature shows up with rain, please redirect her to Southern California (with a caution to be gentle with the burn areas).


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

22 comments:

  1. I'm afraid your burn areas would not like at all what Mother Nature has been dumping on us lately. What a bummer about the collateral damage from the tree trimming process. In my garden there's a huge limb from a neighbor's tree hanging half broken over one of my beds, which I worry all the time is going to come down and destroy everything growing under it, but then I worry that if I hire a tree crew to take it out, they'll just trample the plants growing under it anyway in the process. A lose-lose situation. I don't remember what your mimosa looked like before, but it has a very pleasing shape now.

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    1. The company I hired is the one I've used several times now. They make an effort to manage the process but, with debris falling from some significant heights, it just isn't possible to prevent everything from getting squashed (and they do all seem to have big feet!). When our 60-foot Eucalyptus was taken down, they put plywood down over saw horses to protect the plants below but then I raised the damage concern when I solicited bids for the work. I suspect the extra work factored into their quote.

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  2. The trees look like they just got back from the beauty shop! Another side benefit to regular trimming is having an arborist check them for insect damage -- very reassuring to know they're healthy.

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    1. This tree service isn't the cheapest I've found by any means but I do like that they have an arborist on staff. In fact he's the president of the company.

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  3. Your title had me holding my breath that something really big and bad happened. I'm glad it wasn't worse. Also I agree with Alison, the mimosa is just lovely post trim!

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    1. No, nothing big happened. It's really the anticipation of the mess left behind and the discovery of small plants crushed and larger plants bruised or battered that causes "trauma."

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  4. Your title reminded me of what happens with OUR tree trimming. Husband wants to trim, or rather, cut cut cut.Take it all off, is his motto! AAHHH.. I go very very gradually. And so, we have "discussions!" Bartlett Tree is the go-to service here and they are wonderful at working out a middle ground. Still..I have to be vigilant that husband doesn't get out there in later weeks and do some work! We only have a few trees on our small property, but maybe all the more worth going carefully!

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    1. Luckily, my husband mainly defers to my judgment when it comes to trimming trees, although this year he's the one who pushed to have it done as I was perfectly happy to let it ride a year. I operate on the guideline I heard long ago with respect to trees: take no more than 20% off.

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  5. I cringe when workers enter my yard, even arborists! Luckily, I can schedule tree work when the ground is frozen in early winter, which minimizes the collateral damage. A necessary evil, your work done has improved the overall health of the garden. On with the show!

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    1. I usually call to schedule trimming in September, operating on the understanding that the firm's queue generally involves a 2 month wait. As I recall, last year rain delays pushed the schedule out an extra month. This month, I dragged my feet about scheduling anything; however, in our climate, the garden is never really dormant.

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  6. I must say they did well by your Mimosa-very shapely !

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    1. It does look better, Kathy. Only time will tell if the change impacts its litter habit.

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  7. Your property is gorgeous and so are those trees. I need to get an arborist out here as well. It's on the to-do list. We've worked with the same one for over twenty years, so it takes some of the worry out of the process. It's also time to prune, before anyone builds a nest in the trees.

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    1. Developing a relationship with a tree trimming crew does take a good deal of the anxiety out of the process, Alys.

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  8. Looks like a really loved garden. Which it is. :)

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    1. Every time the issue of rain and water shortages rears its ugly head, my husband and I talk about the prospect of moving somewhere else but it'd be hard to leave a garden in which I've invested so much.

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  9. Apart from the minor damage you were prepared for, it looks like the arborist and crew did a great job. The trees don't look obviously pruned, which is always a good sign, I think.

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    1. Yes, the trees look better this year than last, with the possible exception of the 2 willows along the street, which look a little wispy to me.

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  10. Sometimes it's like inviting an elephant in a porcelain shop when craftsmen walk around in a flower discount.
    The trees were well cropped.
    Your bouquets will be only finer and finer.
    Mariana

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    1. It is good to hear from you, Mariana! Yes, bringing in people to trim the trees always tests my nerves but I do not think my nerves could handle climbing up those trees with a chainsaw either!

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  11. Your trees look very nice after their trimming/surgery. Sorry about the damage but that just gives you to opportunity to buy more plants. Next time I chat with Mother Nature I'll ask her to direct some of this rain directly to your garden. She never listens to me though.

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  12. I get all paranoid when one tree needs to be worked on. Kudos to you for tackling so many at the same time! The result is great because it's relatively subtle, at least to my eyes.

    All things considered, the damage was reasonable.

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