Garden Lore: Friday 9 January, 2015

“I always think of my sins when I weed. They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of.”

Helena Rutherford Ely A Woman’s Hardy Garden (1903)

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Garden Lore: tree puning

This is not pruning. It is, alas, tree amputation verging on butchery. The poor tree is outside the charming, little country church near where I live. I drove past and saw three elderly gents whom I know, all members of the congregation and retired farmers, carrying out the assault. I don’t dispute that the tree may have needed to be cut back but there are better ways to achieve this. It can be done so that it is barely visible, even immediately after pruning.

The first cut to each branch takes the weight off and that weight can rip down the bark and first layers on the underside as the branch falls, visible to the left in the photo. If they had followed up that first cut with a tidy up, trimming the branches not quite flush to the trunk, you wouldn’t even notice what has been done over time.

Leaving protruding branches – the coathanger effect – is an ugly look.  Usual advice is to leave a small collar where the branch meets the trunk rather than trimming flush but that collar is a mere centimetre or so. Using clean cutting equipment is important. Some people like to seal the cuts – Bacseal is a proprietary, pink product for this purpose – but we just make sure it is done on a fine day so the wound can dry out and we don’t get disease problems. This tree is an Australian lillypilly or syzgium for those who want to know, so neither rare nor choice, but it didn’t have to look like this.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission. a

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