Friday, December 21, 2018

Tree Trimming Trauma

As views of the Los Angeles harbor are valued here, good neighborly relations dictate annual tree trimming.  I don't have all our trees trimmed each year but we tackle at least half of them annually.  While we've done some of the trimming ourselves, especially in our early days in residence, I now hire all or most of the job out.  I trust the crew we use each year but I still dread the collateral damage that routinely accompanies the process.  This year, two specific areas were also of particular concern.

If you read my blog regularly, you may know that our mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) has posed challenges.  It's a messy tree to start with, dropping litter in the form of flowers, leaves and seedpods almost continuously.  It's bare of leaves for at least 4 months of the year and, in 2018, it didn't leaf out at all until late June.  Of even greater concern, half the tree never leafed out at all.

This was the tree in late January this year, after its last trimming.  It was showing signs of damage due to shot hole borers and, in response we took out a few good-sized branches but left the tree's vase-like shape intact.

This was the tree in late July when it finally flowered.  You'll note that while the back half of the tree looks normal, the front half was largely bare.


I consulted an arborist in October and made the hard decision to remove three major limbs on the front side of the multi-trunked tree.  I was afraid the tree would look freakish after major surgery like that but I'm not ready to cut the whole tree down quite yet.  As it turned out, the tree doesn't look too bad when viewed from the front, although I can't say it looks entirely normal either.

View of the front of the tree from the back door after surgery
 
When viewed from the side, it's much more apparent that half the tree is gone

This cut makes me nervous.  I hope it heals over quickly.


The other big change was made on the south side of the house, where I elected to take out one of the two tree-sized Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and thin out the second.  Both sat along our property line at the top of a sharp slope.  We also cut down an extremely tall leader on an adjacent shrub (Auranticarpa rhombifolium).  My main concern in this case was to avoid any damage on our next door neighbor's side but, happily, that didn't prove to be a problem.

The photo on the left was taken in January and the photo on the right was taken this past weekend after the smaller Toyon was cut down and the larger one was thinned.  The smaller tree was growing almost on top of its parent, which wasn't good for either in the long run.  The neighbors across the street had also expressed concern that the mass of foliage impaired their view.  The upside of thinning the foliage is more light for the plants in my succulent bed and, as this area sits atop a slope, there's no significant loss of privacy.


The rest of the tree trimming was relatively straightforward.

All 4 of our Arbutus 'Marina' were thinned, which helps improve air circulation and prevents the sooty mold that can sometimes afflict these trees

The Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana, left) received a light trim to remove the dead twiggy stems and a limb trailing over the roof.  The trimmers managed to leave most of the flowers alone.  The Magnolia grandiflora (right) looks pretty bare at the moment but I know from experience that it'll quickly fill out.

The ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) was suffering from fire blight.  They trimmed out the affected leaves and thinned the foliage.  I'll need to inoculate it against blight in the spring.  This can be a messy tree too but regular trimming helps and, under current drought conditions, I'd prefer to avoid losing a mature shade tree I might not be able to easily replace.


Other than a laurel hedge, that's everything that was touched in this round of trimming.  I've spent a couple of hours every day this week cleaning up the affected areas.  The crew does a good job at picking up the debris but they never get everything.  Wind also shakes down branches that were cut during trimming but didn't immediately fall to the ground.  Pots and garden furniture moved out of the way has to be put back.  A lot of mulch gets picked up during the tree trimmers' clean-up too so I spent time replenishing that.  (Next year I'll remember to hold off on mulching until after this annual exercise.)  And of course some plants below the trees, particularly those sitting atop slopes, get squashed and must be either removed, replaced or cut back to allow them a chance to recover.  I'm mostly done...

It'll be a busy weekend for me as Christmas is just around the corner and we're hosting family and friends on Saturday.  However you're spending the weekend, I hope it's a good one.


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

37 comments:

  1. I'm glad you're trying to save your mimosa. I know it's a messy tree, and pretty common, probably considered a weed tree in some parts of the country, but it's a favorite of mine. It doesn't look that bad viewed from the side either. You're such a good neighbor to do this annually. I would be freaking out over having a bunch of guys treading all over the plants underneath.

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    1. I DO freak out a bit having these guys treading all over my garden, Alison. The first couple of times I hovered about but now I just breathe deeply and close my eyes until the final inspection. They do try to be careful but they don't have the time to tip toe through my beds the way I do.

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  2. I think your tree doesn't look nearly as bad as your imagine. You are so familiar with it that the loss is all you see. I look at it and think "what a nice tree." We need some small trees removed and one big one taken down. Hoped to do it this fall but maybe by spring. Once it snows they can't do it because they can't see rocks and shrubs that are buried under the snow.

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    1. Snow isn't an issue here of course, although rain sometimes delays trimming. That's what happened last year, which is amazing given just how little rain we got that winter.

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  3. Those Santa Ana winds might just take care of that tree for you. Who knows? Maybe it will perk up since the afflicted parts are gone. It still looks like a good shape.

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    1. Mimosas are reportedly short-lived and I've no idea when this one was planted, Lisa. It does have a wind-blown look when viewed in profile, doesn't it? It wouldn't be pretty if it blew over as there's a steep slope on the other side of that hedge and my neighbor probably wouldn't be happy if it ended up in her vegetable garden.

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  4. You see what is gone, I see a tree with character. Rather attractive.

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    1. The mimosa does look better than I expected given about half of it was amputated. Only time will tell if it can survive without its other half.

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  5. Tree work always makes me very nervous, it’s such a blessing to find workers who clear up after themselves and respect the garden. They’ve done a brilliant job too.

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    1. The tree crew really does a good job. They can't help it that I'm foolish enough to plant succulents and other similarly "breakable" plants on slopes and underneath many of my trees.

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  6. Looks good. It's a relief to leave jobs like this to professionals, but is still a nerve-wracking process. Like any surgery, it is always nice when it is over!
    Have a great weekend!

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    1. Yes, I'm always happy to see the crew drive away carrying the majority of the debris with them. The clean-up after they leave involves a bit of mourning for plants squashed in the process but, once everything is tidied up, I can see the positive aspects of the process.

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  7. I hated to hear that a toyon was being removed, but the after photo clearly shows a big improvement in air circulation and light. You are getting to be quite the seasoned pro at having tree trimmers in your garden! You do have a lot of trees so this is a sensible attitude, and thank goodness you're not doing it yourselves anymore. Have a great time on Saturday.

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    1. It wasn't until the neighbors across the street asked us to thin out the toyon that I realized that there were actually 2 of them growing on top of one another. Toyons plant themselves almost as aggressively as mimosa seedlings here. I just found there's a third plant, much smaller, next to the stump of the one the crew removed but I've asked my husband the cut that one to the ground.

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  8. My hired help this month has involved plumbing-I'd rather be dealing with trees ! I think your Mimosa turned out pretty good. At least it looks like you put off the dreaded removal decision. Really good tree guys can sure make a difference and in my opinion are worth every dime.

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    1. Regular tree trimming (not to speak of the removal of selected trees prompted by my thankfully former neighbor) was an unexpected extra cost associated with buying this property it seems.

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  9. I'm sure it's hard to make those big cuts, but I think the Mimosa tree looks good after the trim. It provides such a lovely frame for your view of the valley. I'm so glad you're trying to nurture it and keep it.

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    1. I'd like to get at least a few more years out of the tree. My fingers are crossed!

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  10. I really think the form of your Albizia julibrissin is quite attractive, here’s hoping the wounds heal quickly and the tree is all the better for the attention it recieved.

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    1. The tree is reportedly short-lived with a span on the order of 20-25 years but, as I don't know when it was planted, I've no idea how old it was when we arrived 8 years ago. And then the shot hole borers aren't helping but, if I'm lucky, maybe they were confined to the portion of the tree that's been removed.

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  11. I had the tree surgeons back yesterday too. It is expensive but very necessary to keep the garden from looking too wild and wooly. Good that you have saved your lovely Albizia.

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    1. It'd be nice to get another few years out of it at the least.

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  12. I know a lot of the trees you are trimming were already in place before you moved in, but I think it shows how well-grown your garden has become that this is a normal part of the annual schedule. As I’m looking at starting a new garden from bare dirt, I can’t help but admire how mature your plantings look! ;-)

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    1. I count myself lucky that I inherited as many trees as I did with this garden, Amy. You should christen your new garden with a tree first off, even if it's a small sapling!

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  13. I love Mimosa trees! They don't grow here in Ohio, but we had one when I lived in Maryland. It was always the last tree to leaf out and I waited anxiously each spring to see if it had survived the winter. It was a very sad day when it didn't.

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    1. I thought the mimosa was a goner last year, Cindy, so I'm happy that at least half the tree survived the insect attack. It's long dormant period does keep you guessing. I'll be watching what's left of this one anxiously to see if it will grace my garden with leaves and flowers next year.

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  14. Hope you enjoy your guests! It's nice to have the trimming over for another year. Glad that there wasn't a lot of damage.

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    1. We enjoyed our annual smorgasbord, Peter. The food selection gets less and less traditional each year but it's still fun.

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  15. Your trees look good with the trimming and I agree the mimosa looks better than you think. We need to get ours done next spring and all the small agaves will need to be dug up temporarily because I would not expect a crew to avoid them.

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    1. Digging out selected plants is something I should do too, Shirley, even if that's a pain on the neck in the case of those sited on our slopes. There are a few nice Crassulas that routinely get smooshed.

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  16. It is necessary to be a little hard on the trees at times.
    Looks good!
    Wish you a Merry Christmas !!!
    Mariana

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  17. Trees can become an expensive problem if you can't tackle them yourself. I think the pink mimosa looks fine and surely it will fallout on the newly cut side. If I am not mistaken theses trees grow quite quickly and therefore have rather soft wood-easy for borers. We took down a lot of cedars this year and even doing it ourselves it was quite an expense renting a chipper shredder not to mention the hard work David put in doing the job. It is good when neighbors agree on what and what not should be done. As long as you are all on the same page.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful gardening NewYear.

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    1. After seeing the crew members climb some of these trees to trim them, I'd be terrified of sending up husband up one of them (although I also get nervous when he climbs up on top of our roof). He just dug out more of the self-seeded Toyons I didn't have on the trimmers' list - I thought there was just one but in reality there were about half a dozen there. That's one prolific plant!

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  18. Hi Kris, Just out of curiosity, you don't have the tree trimmers mulch up your trees for use on your site? I hope your mimosa keeps going strong, it looks pretty balanced in your photo.

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    1. Interesting question, Brennie. That service has never been offered but then I've never asked about it either. I will next time! The city leaves piles of debris along the sides of the road here when their crew cuts down trees and other plants in public areas. After allowing it awhile to break down, we've collected some of that for use as mulch.

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