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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Move It, Prune It or Lose It!

Before I get started, the photo to the left is not that of a shrub, but a tree. It may look more like a shrub, a dying one, which, for whatever reason, was overlooked or not managed by a long-term landscaper (ahem) of the property.

The owner of the property contacted me about a year ago to address the over-growth along her back right property line. Much of this project was pruning shrubs and some trees while also pruning some roses, adding a trellis for a beautiful butterfly bush as well as removing some ill or dead lower branches from a magnificent poplar tree and ridding the foundation of the home of some foreigners.

I later worked along the back property line, removing a strong majority of the foliage which was actually intrusive vines and some grape plants/vines which had been planted many years prior. Both had had their way over-powering the other shrubs and trees and had done more harm to the poplar (some 15-feet-high branches) than I had imagined.

She told me she was very pleased with what I had done and would call me again. Earlier this year she contact me and asked me about taking care of her basic lawn service - mowing, edging, blowing - the usual lawn service stuff. She had lost her yard guy.

I have truly enjoyed working with this customer, but told her we don't just mow, blow and go unless we are addressing the overall landscape as well. She agreed to a trial visit for me to determine what would need addressing on a regular basis.

While surveying the property to propose not just mowing, edging and blowing, but also addressing what she first hired me for, the more vertical and substantial plants, this is what I found:
  • A holly which had fourteen cherry laurels growing inside of it (one-third of its apparent foliage).
  • A red tip (Photinia x fraseri) tree (mostly dying from entomosporium), but with three-quarters of its foliage consisting of foreign (unwanted) plants.
  • Two boxwoods (otherwise healthy) trimmed so awkwardly that they are struggling.
  • The two trees displayed above were for some reason seemingly trimmed (with lord knows what type of tool) to shrub-height rather than the 10 or 15 feet height they should have been (perhaps somewhere else). Ugly and unhealthy they became.
  • Another shrub or tree which I noticed had another quite substantial (nearly the main stem size as the other) tree growing in and out of it.
  • Basically, some not-so pleasing trimming, leaving a lot of squared off shrubs.

Caveat, Moral or Whatever: I love trimming and shaping certain shrubs for aesthetics, but doing so is not caring for the plant. And, paying someone to do so without them actually recognizing what is taking place with the plant or taking the time to investigate is like assuming the people at the car wash are going to make your car perform better and last longer. 

Back to the trees above. The customer assumed they were shrubs because they had, for years, been maintained to a shrub height and width.

Look, whether we, the developer or Mother Nature places a plant somewhere it shouldn't be, it is our onus to make the call to move it, prune it in a healthy fashion or lose it.

The images above don't show the girth of the main stems, nor how extremely dense the periphery of the plant had become from frequent trimming without attention to the unnatural growth habit created by same. The plants, trees, should not be there, trying to be kept under a window when its mature height would have actually been taller than the eaves. Perhaps it could have been managed if pruned and cared for along the way. Regardless, they were simply in the wrong place.

I asked the customer if I could remove them. Removing them, as established and as mature as they were, would have required heavy equipment which may have had another set of consequences other than cost. I pulled the trigger, cut them back to the root flare as soon as possible and created two potted plant arrangements for both sides of the front stoop. I apologize for not taking the photo of the two together, but there is a huge gorgeous magnolia which prevented me from being able to get a wide enough field-of-view. I'm glad it was never trimmed.

There was a book which came out several decades ago about talking to your plants and the benefits of doing so. Those pronouncements were researched and investigated and the author was heavily criticized. Although, there is some research which indicates plants with no or little ambient sound or noise may not be as healthy as those with. Understanding the content of a sentence or feeling the kindness of a voice is probably a far stretch for a plant. Hey, but if makes you feel good, as it does to shower a pet with endearing words of encouragement or praise, do it. Who couldn't use some of that?

I have named several of my customers' plants (Crazy Girl and Not-So-Lady Banks come to mind.) and occasionally one may overhear me say, "Alright girl, whatcha gonna do?" or "Let's get you healthy, big guy."

Regardless, there are some amazing things I have studied about plants and how they interact with their surroundings and neighbors (not us), and, in turn, this has explained some of the things I have seen or experienced. Most of this is physiological and chemical, and amazing to see on one's own or via all the video technology we have today.

Watching your plants and knowing what to look for is far more important than speaking to them. 

It's hard to believe, nowadays, we need another reason for people to yammer on when they could be observing.

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