Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The trees get spiffed up

Years ago, blogger friend Denise of A Growing Obsession said that my recently pruned trees looked as if they'd had a trip to the beauty parlor.  That image stuck with me.  Our trees got their annual spiff up on Monday.  Actually, I don't have all my trees trimmed each year, although several of them do receive that treatment.  I didn't take "before" photos of this year's contestants but I'll share their beauty shots anyway.

All 4 Arbutus 'Marina' get pruned annually.  This one sits on the northeast side of the house.

They receive annual pruning to maintain airflow within their canopies, which prevents the leaves from developing sooty mildew

This smaller tree sits alongside the larger one shown in the previous shot.  All 4 Arbutus were here when we moved in 12 years ago.

My concern with this Arbutus on the northwest side of the house is always the prospect of damage to the succulents below but the tree trimmers used tarps to protect them, which worked well

This is the largest of the 4 Arbutus.  It sits atop a moderate slope covered by more succulents.  That area usually sustains the most damage but I discovered only one relatively minor casualty this year.

I don't usually have the citrus trees pruned but they're now large enough to present a challenge for me so I had the one on the left, a Mandarin orange, and the one on the right, a lime, trimmed.  The crew reduced the height a little and cleaned out dead stems.  All 3 trees badly need to be fertilized but, according to the experts, I should wait until February for that.

The Magnolia grandiflora has been looking stressed, possibly due to our persistent drought, so I had the trimmers remove just sucker growth and deadwood

The ornamental pear, Pyrus calleryana, got only a light pruning as well


Several large shrubs also received a beauty treatment.

This cherry laurel hedge (Prunus ilicifolia) stands along one side of our property line overlooking a neighbor's driveway.  It consists of 5 shrubs, all of which received a buzz cut.

I asked the arborist to have his team trim my tree-like Leucadendron 'Pisa' for the first time.  I was very nervous about it.  I've discovered that, if cut back too hard, the branches won't leaf out.  They took out the worst of the top-heavy growth and plucked out all the dead cones that detracted from its appearance, restoring a semblance of its formerly graceful shape.

I'm still finding little cones everywhere


All told, my annual tree trimming exercise was relatively drama-free this year.  There was very little collateral damage, for which I'm grateful.

This is Aeonium 'Cabernet', which in its current spot doesn't get enough sun to color up properly.  Whether it was stepped on or simply hit by a falling branch, it lost a few arms but I think it's time to take cuttings and replant it in any case.

Much more dramatic was the trimming of the neighbors' giant pine trees earlier this month.

I looked out the kitchen window early on a Saturday morning and saw the work already underway.  There were 2 men in the adjacent pine trees already hard at work using hand tools.  The only sounds I heard were occasional verbal exchanges between them.

You can make out both men here - plus the rope used to help ensure their safety - if you look closely

At this point, the tree trimmers were about one-third the way through the process with these 2 trees.  My photographs were taken from the main level of our back garden.  These 2 trees are planted many feet below that in a canyon that sits significantly lower than the lowest level of my back slope.

This is what the trees looked like from my back patio when trimming was completed

This photo was taken a day later from the bottom of my slope.  Even from this angle you can't see the base of these 2 trees.  Some commentators on Instagram expressed concern about the amount of foliage that was removed.  All I can say is that these neighbors have had these pine trees pruned this severely before and they've always spring back.

As best as I can tell, the neighbors had all their trees trimmed at the same time, which literally took all day with some followup the next morning.  In contrast, because all my trimming was relatively light and only about one-third of my trees were pruned, the crew at my house were done in just over four hours.  I'm glad to have the project behind me so I can focus on other garden projects in the new year, including my own pruning of some of my larger shrubs.

Happy Winter Solstice to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere!

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


  1. I love it when you can see the branch structure of the Arbutus. They all look great.
    In the last photo, your neighbors' pines are looking a bit like Charlie Brown trees... I sure hope they'll come through.

    1. I agree that all the pines look rather bare (there are even more on the other side of their house) but the neighbors have trimmed them like this before without any permanent damage so I trust that they know their trees.

  2. I thought the same thing as Chavi, there's definitely a Charlie Brown Christmas tree vibe going on with your neighbor's pines. Love your arbutus though!

    1. The Arbutus really need that annual pruning and, given their current size, I could only manage the small one on my own so having professionals do the job is the ticket. Right now, I'm wondering why I didn't add my very large Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' shrubs to the list...

  3. You have beautiful trees and a beautiful landscape! I'm glad the trimming was drama-free this year. :)

  4. It's reassuring to see that there are still tree firms that actually know what they are doing .

  5. They did a good job. Even better that not much planted around the trees got smashed. How big were your Arbutus when you moved in? Are they pretty slow?

    I use the little cones from 'Wilson's Wonder' as mulch in a container--it's quite an attractive mulch. Leucadendrons seem to really benefit from cutting back, but not into bare wood seems to the rule. Like lavenders.

    The pines around here get that sort of pruning too, and they recover quickly. Surprising.

    1. With one exception, the Arbutus trees looked mature to me when we moved in, although they're somewhat taller and wider now. Annual pruning has helped to manage their size. My understanding is that they were installed by a landscaper who worked for the couple who owned our property before the guy we purchased from. I'm guessing they've been here 15-20 years.

      I've been using the Magnolia cones as mulch but some critters have rummaged through them on occasion to get at the remaining seeds. I cut back most of my Leucadendrons pretty hard but 'Pisa' develops wispier growth on tree-like stems and it most definitely can't be cut into bare wood.


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