Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another palo verde (heart)break

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that the palo verde (Parkinsonia), especially the 'Desert Museum' hybrid, is one of my favorite trees. While 'Desert Museum' is common in Arizona and Southern California, it's still fairly rare here in Northern California. In this post from September 2013 I detail my quest to find one.

We eventually planted two 'Desert Museum' and one 'Sonoran Emerald' (a different palo verde hybrid). Everything went well until January of this year when a major branch--half of the tree it seemed--broke off in a windstorm. See this post for details and photos. We removed the fallen branch and cleaned up the debris. Over time, the scar healed and by late April the tree was covered with flower buds.

Then came May 7. I was in Germany at the time, but this is what my wife encountered that Sunday morning:

It had been a windy night--windy enough to cause the tree to break in half yet again.



When my wife sent me these photos, all I could do was sigh. What I'd hoped wouldn't happen, did happen. The tree clearly wasn't stable after the calamity in January. 

As sad as the whole affair was, this photo caused me the most concern:


It looked like the branch had fallen squarely onto my prized Agave 'Sun Glow'.

Fortunately, 'Sun Glow' turned out to be completely unharmed. Whew.


With our neighbor's help, my wife quickly removed the fallen branch. This is what's left of the tree:


Literally half of it is gone now.



We've decided to leave what's left because the tree is in full bloom and attracts countless bees every day.



In the fall, we will remove what's left and start over with another 'Desert Museum'. Yes, we love it that much. And now we know a lot more how to handle this fast-growing tree. Specifically, PRUNE PRUNE PRUNE. This is especially important when young. We were much too hesitant with this tree, not knowing that branches that grow at too acute an angle to the main trunk are susceptible to bark inclusion that weakens the branch. While palo verdes are naturally multi-trunked, for our purposes it's better to have one main trunk, with a controlled number of side branches. 

In addition, I will not water the new tree at all. If we plant it in October, it should survive on rainfall alone. And next year, its roots can go hunting for water. The slower the tree grows, the sturdier its branches will be. I think this one simply grew too fast.

16 comments:

  1. Oh, that's sad. I like Palo Verde trees, too. At least it doesn't look to have caused any damage, and now you know how to better handle the next one.

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    1. I'm still surprised that there was virtually no damage either time this happened (just a few broken leaves on an agave and aloe nearby).

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  2. I'm sorry this happened! I have also learned to not water my drought tolerant plants too much -- I have agaves that are now bigger than me and will likely bloom much earlier than they should. I've turned off all my watering to my yard, and can give it a spritz once a month if I need to!

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    1. I've learned to be a lot more ruthless and pamper desert plants far less than I used to. They can take it!!

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  3. Oh my :( but your plan seems sound and very sensible. We've had something similar happen to our Rhus, twice mind you and two different trees. Pruning seems the right way to go.

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    1. I must admit that proper pruning is still a bit of a mystery. Fortunately there's a lot of information online and in books. I just need to take the time to read it.

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  4. I'm glad you have a plan, and at least they grow fast. Trees are always in need of management--I had 1 removed and two limbed up today. What a difference.

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  5. Oh no! I'm glad your agave was unharmed. This just reminds me that I really should prune my Palo Verde to shape it better... But I'm so worried that I'll do something wrong! Maybe after it blooms? Best of luck with this one!

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  6. Your plan for the future sounds wise. So glad your 'Sun Glow' was okay!

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  7. Oh thank god 'Sun Glow' was unharmed! I trust Heather sent you an "all's okay" photo right away so your didn't have to wait until you got home to see for yourself? So sorry about the beautiful tree.

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  8. I loved that tree! I'm so sorry, Gerhard. But grateful you had no collateral damage.

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  9. So sorry, hard to be far away when these things happen!

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  10. I'd be heartbroken too. I hope the pruning strategy proves to be the trick with its replacement.

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  11. Wow, so sorry to see all that damage! My little tree is staked, it has to be subjected to a lots of southerly wind all the time. I'm going to have to pay close attention to its structure. I don't want it to end up like this! Hope to see the new tree in a post when it's time to replace.

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  12. Best of luck with the new fall planting. It looks so beautiful with that big blue agave at its base...sigh...

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  13. They are gorgeous trees, but the exceptionally fast growth does require frequent corrective pruning to avoid surprises. The curse of fast growing trees, I've learned to be relentless, pruning up to 4 a year.

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