Friday, October 30, 2020

Gone but not forgotten

I had two large trees removed yesterday.  It was a necessity, not a choice, and it was painful.  In fact, it was more painful than the removal of our 60-foot Eucalyptus back in 2013 or the removal of one of our peppermint willows (Agonis flexuosa) in 2015, both of which were initiated in response to a neighbor's complaints about impairments to her view of the harbor.  Thankfully, that neighbor moved in 2018 but nothing can stop Mother Nature when she decides a plant's time is up.  Yesterday, we had both our mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) and the large tree-like toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) taken out.  The impact to the garden seems greater than any of the major changes we've made before.

The mimosa has been featured and discussed here many times but, before I summarize what happened to it, let me share a couple of photos of it at its best.

This photo was taken in June 2013, roughly two and a half years after we bought the house.  We still had lots of lawn and even the snorkel spa inherited with the house (heated by burning wood) back then. 

This photo was taken in July 2017, the last time the tree looked good, at least from a distance.  It was already showing signs of stress at this point when viewed close up.

The tree's decline was readily evident by 2018.  Shot-hole borers had damaged major limbs, which didn't properly leaf out.  After discussion with an arborist, we performed major surgery on the tree in an effort to extend its life.  We gave it almost three more years but, this year when it came time for our annual tree service visit, we decided it was time to let it go.

I took this photo on October 27th

The tree had recently leafed out again along a couple of limbs, almost as if in protest to our plans to take it down

The arborist had pointed out that the remaining trunks were starting to cave in, as shown on the left.  The photo on the right shows where the trunk was cut before when we tried to save it.


It's a tree I've had a love-hate relationship with almost since we moved it.  While it was beautiful when it was in full leaf and flower, it was bare much of the year.  It also created a huge amount of litter and self-seeded with abandon.  Even so, I couldn't bring myself to watch much of the removal process.

I snapped this photo through the kitchen window as the last limb was coming down

The middle of the garden seems very empty to me and, although my husband is currently opposed to putting in another tree or even a large shrub in that spot, I don't personally feel the view that it's removal reveals is worth the feeling of exposure it creates.  But that's a discussion for another day.

This shot was taken this morning from the same angle as the one taken on October 27th

The toyon's case is different.  Although like the mimosa it came with the garden, it's not a plant I gave much thought to until the middle of this year when I noticed that its leaves were turning red and what few berries it had were shriveled.  I found one source that suggested that this could happen with native plants like Heteromeles arbutifolia but by August it was clear to me that the huge shrub was dead.

In light of the toyon's rapid demise, it's likely that the cause was the pathogen that leads to the phenomenon known as "sudden oak death."  Like native oaks, toyon is susceptible to disease due to exposure to this pathogen.

I took these shots on October 27th.  When the evergreen toyon was green, it provided a nice neutral backdrop for the garden area fronting it.  The red foliage of the dying plant actually provided an even more attractive backdrop in my view but, by this month, it was less red than brown.


Like the mimosa, the toyon sat atop a fairly steep slope but in this case it was adjacent to the property line, looming above the driveway of our neighbors on the south side.  There was no question that it needed to be removed but, as grinding the stump in that location was problematic for a number of reasons, I was apprehensive about opening up this particular view.

After they toyon's removal, we have an unfavorable view of the facade of a house down the block, a variety of scruffy trees owned by another neighbor off a spur road, and the street than runs through our neighborhood

I'm thinking of ways to screen out the facade of the neighbor's house and those scruffy trees.  I'll cover that in more detail at another time too.

In the good news category, the other trees we had trimmed look spiffy and the collateral damage associated with their annual haircuts was relatively minimal.  We didn't have any of our peppermint willows trimmed this year, nor any of the smaller trees or the citrus trees.

These two Arbutus 'Marina' occupy opposite ends of the front garden

Two more Arbutus 'Marina' in the back garden were also thinned.  The Arbutus rapidly develop dense foliage and, left unattended, they develop a sooty mold.

Also getting trimmed were, left to right, a hedge of Prunus caroliniana, Magnolia grandiflora, and Pyrus calleryana

That's it for me this week.  There's a LOT for me to do in the garden in the coming weeks (and months).  Unfortunately, our temperatures are slated to rise again with yet another, hopefully less forceful, round of Santa Ana winds in the forecast even as fire crews are still working to fully contain the two wildfires that broke out in Orange County earlier this week.  I'm looking forward to reliably cooler weather - and rain of course - but at present I'm not sure when we can expect either.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party



28 comments:

  1. More wind due? :(

    Your trees look good. Any strong wind can now go right through them without damage. The Albizzia are short-lived anyway, so why not try something new? Airy, open, so Husband can see through or past.

    If you ever want another Toyon, I have seedlings coming up every year. There may be some in your neighborhood too if we get a decent rainy winter.

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    1. Supposedly, the coming wind "event" won't be as bad as the last one. Let's hope!

      I wouldn't plant another Albizia under any circumstances. My husband is objecting to everything on the principal that I've already obscured a lot of "his" view (which is readily visible still if he just came into the garden to sit rather than trying to view the harbor from the house!). I'd wanted an evergreen tree but, given his feelings, I may seek compromise in the form of a deciduous tree like Gingko biloba.

      I'd plant another toyon on the south end of the garden in a second if I thought it'd survive but given the probable cause of this one's death as the "sudden oak death" pathogen, that might be self-defeating. I may try the tree daisy (Olearia albida) there after all.

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  2. It is stunning to see the Albizia photo from 2013, when the tree was at it's best. The canopy was tall enough and wide enough to hide the view of the houses on the hill, and yet airy enough to allow light and planting space underneath. Even if you decide to replace it, I'm sure it would take a few years to get that kind of coverage.
    Whoever pruned your Arbutus 'Marina' did an excellent job. I love how the structure of the branches shows through... very artful.

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    1. I've been perusing trees at the local nursery and online ever since we made the decision to take the mimosa out. My husband's opposition came as a surprise but I can be stubborn too...

      The tree service I use, owned by an arborist, always does excellent work. I recommend them to anyone and everyone locally who requests a referral.

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  3. I can see how exposed you must feel with the previously obscured hillside homes looming over. I wonder what it did for their perspective ? What is the reason for the spousal objection? Does he like seeing those homes in the distance ? Maybe he found the tree claustrophobic ? Anyway I hope you can work out a compromise -I'm sure you two are more adaptable than the Senate.

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    1. My husband's objection feels more like a matter of principle at the moment then a particular draw to the now unobstructed view now visible from the kitchen window, Kathy. He generally views the harbor from the house rather than outside - he's got a perfectly clear view from all the back patio seating areas! I did get him to admit yesterday that the kitchen window view isn't the best view of the harbor to begin with. I'm thinking another deciduous tree might be the ticket to a compromise. He's under the weather at the moment so I'm holding my arguments in check for the time being.

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  4. I’m sorry that you had to have the trees removed. Something like that is always a painful decision. The removal, of the Albizia certainly leaves a large gap and I would want to plant something there if it was my garden! Good luck with the decision making.

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    1. The tree campaign will restart when my husband's feeling better, Jane ;) The view on the south side of the house (where the toyon was) is bothering me even more at the moment.

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  5. Well, at least the arborists did excellent work and kept collateral damage to a minimum. If the view wasn't an issue I'd say plant an oak -- supposedly the biggest gift to wildlife in tree form one can give. Our lemon cypresses get removed tomorrow, and it is distressing. The last two foggy mornings they've looked so beautiful and at ease in the mist, but increased warming doesn't bode well for keeping them healthy (and upright!) and everyone but me is very glad to have them removed. Hope your husband feels better soon!

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you're losing the cypresses, Denise, but I recall that they've been a concern for awhile. Facing up to a change of that magnitude always feels like a slap in the face to me but then I adapt and I imagine you will too.

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  6. I hope your hubby comes around to your way of thinking. There is nothing to stop the eye as it looks across your garden now. Your newly trimmed trees look fine.

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    1. I may have to put the tree on my Christmas list, Lisa. If it's the one and only thing I ask for, that may be sufficient to push the matter along, especially if I offer a reasonable compromise on the type of tree.

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  7. I feel your pain Kris, especially in regards to the mimosa. That is a tree I love and rarely see here in Ohio. It is so unique and special.
    I had 3 trees removed this summer, all were healthy. One was a 100-foot pine that was leaning more than I was comfortable with. Another was a maple that was rubbing on my shed, and the last was a wild cherry that was rubbing on my neighbor's fence. For me, it is always most painful when they are healthy, but it is also difficult to watch a beloved specimen die a slow death. Can you plant new young specimens to replace them?

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    1. My husband currently opposes planting another tree in the mimosa's spot but I'm hoping to work out a compromise there. I'd love to plant another toyon on the south end of the garden but, as the one we removed was apparently killed by a pathogen in the soil, that's probably inadvisable - I'm considering a tree daisy (Olearia albida) but I have to look into whether it's susceptible to the same pathogen.

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  8. It is hard losing such major players like trees in our yards. They are not exactly replaceable as they take years to grow to fill up the space. Would a columnar tree like Italian cypress work for replacing the toyon? It would give the eye something to focus on.
    But they did a great job on the other tree trimming.
    Hope the heat isn't too much this week. I'd love to send you some of our cool weather, but I doubt you'd like temps in the 30s!

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    1. The tree daisy I'm considering placing in the same general area as the toyon has a fairly columnar shape with an expected mature size of 11 feet tall and 6 feet wide. With respect to the weather here, at least our nighttime temperatures are much lower, which helps reduce the stress on plants.

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  9. I'm sorry for the loss of your tree - they are certainly stunning when they bloom. It will be interesting to see what you come up with for these two spaces - sometimes a drastic change like this leads to a new perspective and totally unforeseen solution as our eyes adjust to the new scenery.

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    1. My current proposal is to replace the mimosa with a Ginkgo biloba, assuming I can convince my husband that won't impede his view. His opposition to a replacement took me by surprise.

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  10. Amazing what a difference a few trees make. I imagine it is difficult to see them go but also new opportunities. I look forward to reading about your decisions.

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    1. If only trees didn't take so long to grow, Karin! The two I lost were probably decades old.

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  11. Wow. The removal of the albizia definitely changed the look and feel of that portion of your garden. Having removed removed a few big view altering things (of course with a different meaning to the word view) over the years I can imagine how you're feeling. As for your husband's objections, that sounds very familiar too. Keep at him, I have confidence you'll win.

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    1. I'm mounting my arguments, Loree, but won't tackle him on his objections and my assertions until he's fit to argue on his own behalf.

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  12. Oh the removal of mature trees is always sad Kris and I feel for you. We recently had to have a willow pollarded which for now has removed some of the privacy it provided us from the higher busy main road. I definitely feel exposed although do not have to worry about the branches that were getting too close to the house. I hope that you can gently persuade your husband to your way of thinking ��

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    1. I hope so too, Anna! Still, even if he agrees, it's going to be years before we have the kind of screens we previously had.

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    2. But still, it is amazing how effective a screen you get from a shrub or tree after the first 2 or 3 years. I can live with glimpses of roof, but I do try to screen windows (either mine or theirs depending) And definitely prefer not to see road and traffic.

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    3. I've no clear idea how fast the tree daisy (Olearia albida) will grow, other than a couple of anecdotal remarks that it's fast. Gingkos are relatively slow growers so I'm hoping to start with a larger specimen.

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  13. Thank you for sharing the photos. With time, I know that a resolution regarding the replacement of the Mimosa will come. The several Arbutus ‘Marina’ you have are beautiful and I always wanted 2 to replace our bougainvillea that came with the house. Happy November!

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    1. Arbutus 'Marina' is a great tree, Kay, and it probably wouldn't overwhelm your garden, at least if you have it trimmed annually. When it's small, it's easy to maintain yourself, as I did with the smallest of my 4 trees for years.

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