Monday, November 16, 2015

Painful palo verde amputation

Out of the three palo verde trees (Parkinsonia) we planted in the last couple of years, the hybrid called ‘Sonoran Emerald’ in the desert bed along the street has grown the fastest and the largest. In fact, too fast and too wide too soon. While we had been trying to shape it since day 1, it became clear in recent weeks that we simply hadn’t been aggressive enough. Look at the first three photos and you’ll see what I mean.

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Yes, the branches in the front were forming the canopy over the sidewalk that I had envisioned. However, they were far too low too the ground—about 5 ft. above the sidewalk. This forced pedestrians to either duck and walk in the street.

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Not even the street was safe from the tree. Cars were having to swerve towards the middle to avoid the branches. The situation got worse in the last week. With rain falling three consecutive weekends in a row—not much, but still—the ground was getting soft, and the top-heavy palo verde was beginning to lean towards the street. Time to do something about this!

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Unfortunately, there was no gentle solution. We had to be aggressive and remove most of the branches leaning almost horizontally over the sidewalk. If I had followed the advice of my gardening friend Sue last year this could have been avoided, but it is what it is.

The electric reciprocating saw made quick work of it.

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And since I had the saw out, I also cut a few branches off the chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) in the backyard that had been leaning over the palo verde. In fact, I think the palo verde had been reaching towards the street (and the sun!) because it had been receiving too much overhead shade from the chaste tree. I have to be better about keeping the chaste tree trimmed.

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Here’s the ‘Sonoran Desert’ palo verde after its surgery:

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Even very tall people can now walk under it without hitting any of the branches.

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It made me sad to see so much of the tree in the gutter, waiting for yard waste pickup:

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The amputations we performed left very unsightly scars on the tree. I’m tempted to apply a green stain to make them less visible, but that’s probably not a good idea. I’m hoping that over time the cut surfaces will darken so I won’t notice them as much.

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The ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde at the corner received a trim as well, but since it’s much slower growing (the soil it’s planted in is quite compacted), it didn’t need much work.

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Lesson learned: Don’t be shy about shaping a fast-growing tree while it’s young.

18 comments:

  1. I think you did a great job, and I'm sure all walkers, and those that regularly drive by, thank you. I'm all for plants and trees that gently caress as you pass-by but this looked a little dangerous, like those trees in the Wizard of Oz!

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  2. Looks a lot better! Try some green food coloring!

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  3. As an Arizonian with these beautiful trees, the pruning is ghastly and severe, but they heal so quickly and respond so well to proper cuts. You did good. It will need it again in a year

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    1. You're right, these desert trees don't act like the trees I'm used to. They grow so much faster! Now I'm prepared to prune when and where needed.

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  4. Ouch! I have no doubt that hurt but the "after" photos do look good.

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    1. I like the overall shape after pruning, but the stark white cut surfaces still make me cringe.

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  5. The "after" photo looks quite nice -- just stop looking at the "before" and you'll feel fine. :)

    Why is the second tree (in the last photo specifically) leaning so much? This would worry me, and I would start taking measures to try and make it more vertical. Just seems like it's going to cause more problems in the future.

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    1. Most importantly, we avoided a complaint to the city, which I'm sure was just a matter of time.

      As for the 'Desert Museum' (the tree in the last photo), I've considered staking it but it's not in danger of falling over.

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  6. When I looked at the "before," I thought, "Uh-oh..." But the "after" is so great that it's hard to be disappointed. Yay Gerhard!!

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    1. I'm relieved it turned out better than I had thought. I'm not an expert tree trimmer by any means!

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  7. painful as it was, you did good! I've put off the initial shaping of trees to their detriment too many times.

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    1. Most of us don't deal with trees nearly as much as we deal with other plants. I think that's why.

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  8. It looks great! Now passersby can better appreciate your garden without risking running into branches. The wounds will heal and soon you'll not even notice them.

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    1. I had nightmare visions of a drunk college student staggering home after a party in the middle of the night and running smack into a branch. Our streets are fairly dark at night.

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