Saturday, March 1, 2008
If They're Going To Hide The View Don't Plant Them There
Sometimes there is a bit of disconnect between what I think I'll be doing at a client's house, and what I actually find when I show up. Yesterday is a good example.
My Job of the Day was trimming a 'few' crape myrtles, which turning out to be ten trees.
I had a seven foot stepladder to work with.
The lady of the house wanted me to commit 'crape murder', cutting the trees halfway back to a height of ten to twelve feet.
Crape myrtle is a medium sized, spreading tree which drops leaves, blossoms and seed heads through most of the year. In the right location it is a gracious Southern belle. Ideally it has an open structure, with no crossing branches, and a nice, broad U shape in the crotch where the limb meets the trunk. The smoothy, sinewy limbs of a mature tree are sensual, and a thing of beauty if allowed to develop naturally. A tree in the right location should need no more pruning than to remove limbs that cross or grow inward, damaged limbs, and, to encourage fullness or encourage re-flowering, stems no larger than a pencil. Unfortunately, they are often planted so close to houses or driveways or sidewalks that the homeowner feels compelled to keep them tightly contained.
The photo on the left (if it doesn't show up sideways) shows a fairly upright growing tree, 20' tall, at least, with a multitude of branches. Whoever cut them back before didn't understand what they were trying to accomplish, and thick limbs cross other thick limbs, growing together in some places and rubbing badly in others. Limbs grow straight up at a sharp angle around the stubs of earlier cuts, creating a weak structure than could break easily under the weight of heavy, wet blooms. Many limbs grow inward toward the interior of the trees. One tree had inexplicably died half way back on most of the major trunks, and sprouts struggled to catch back up.
Clearly, they needed attention. But agreeing to murder them was going against everything I believe in and preach about as a gardener. Why, why why? Just because I need the work? The day before another client and I had decided to let her crapes go uncut. I had my orders, though, and didn't argue for the trees. Such is my crime.
Stupid, stupid me. Not only did I go against my principles, I did a poor job on the trees. The ladder was too short to be safe, and the extension chain saw I had in the truck was too heavy, I thought, to heft into those 20' trees. I struggled through the job with a set of loppers, and the resulting cuts had a sharp angle, not unlike spears, as a result of reaching up so high. The client started to fidget about how long it was taking, so I did not even do a proper job of thinning out the crossing limbs. The end result was okay, but nothing to be proud of.
If I had dropped by this house the day before to check out the trees first, or if I had taken photos of them when I was there the month before, I would have seen what I was in for and prepared accordingly. I would have had a bigger ladder.