Saturday, September 13, 2014

spring arrives, pruning to discuss

They say that blogging is going out of fashion.

I find that writing the blog helps me think about what I'm doing. So if there are gaps over time, just assume I'm thoughtless at that time ... :-)

 But I'm also astonished that people do look at this blog, blogger tells me that 1067 people looked at these pages during August (not including my looking). So that's a nice impetus to keep it going!

Spring is arriving in southeastern Australia. And so this is the view east from Helen's kitchen at 6am early September. We get to summer time in October.

not a UFO, a reflection of the kitchen light

There's little time left for pruning. In the last few weeks much thought about how to prune the mulberry.

Consideration of both how to get fruit (at least for the birds), how to keep building the launch tube shape, how to keep it down so that the view of the mountains is not obscured.

And now to work.

The bird cages, kettle, etc, provide weight to bend branches - sometimes we cut, sometimes we load, apply traction
the swimmer was installed with the help of wwoofers last spring
The young lady wwoofer from Hong Kong, with a political wink
called her "Goddess of Freedom"

Meanwhile at my place, lots of pruning done already, some months ago, some more recently by my gardener Renay, while I have had one shoulder in a sling.

So here is an account of varied purposes in pruning.

Elements of thinking:

  • gardens, nature, are not static: change is fundamental, conventional suburban gardening where a pattern is stamped and maintained is a form of death, not life
  • nature left to its own course may according to some develop disorder but in truth, it's nature's order in which it's not likely to be very concerned about people
  • so for food or for shifting the environment, for light, for aesthetics, for ways to walk etc, we intervene
  • Plants grown from seed can be left to take their natural form, but be wary of those that may grow to 20 metres
  • Cutting into a tree has hormonal effects. You can't just leave this bit long, make that bit short. When a limb is removed, or its tip removed, hormonal signaling with auxin occurs below the cut, promoting fresh vegetative growth. So the act of cutting produces more vigorous growth from the branch you cut... which means of course that once you begin to prune something, you have a responsibility to keep pruning. Some imagine it an act of kindness to a garden to let trees run unpruned. But if pruning is not followed by more pruning, the tree will grow dense and wild and susceptible to pests and disease
  • Grafted trees must be pruned, they are not natural. A grafted tree has two parts; [1] a 'root stock', a variety of the genus that grows vigorously in the ground... the head of this is chopped off [2] a 'scion' which is a cutting of a desirable fruit which the horticulturalist is able to attach so it grows on the strong rootstock. The scion is often not a variety that will grow well on its own. Also, many varieties of fruit produce seedling trees that will produce quite different fruit. So a seedling may produce something of unimagined quality... or not. So the small range of commercial fruit remains a consistent product because it is grown on grafted trees. Seedling trees also tend to take many years to fruit so it's an interesting experiment to grow them, if you want to wait and have room for lots of trees that may or may not be useful. Home gardeners also have access to grafted trees that are supposed to remain dwarf. 
To begin with this orange tree. Oranges can grow very big, much too big for suburban gardens. If foliage gets too deep or dense, bugs can be very pleased and in damp weather diseases proliferate. The fruit, like my neighbours, need light. So this tree has had a metre taken off the top, bringing it below the fenceline, spreading and open to the sun.

and you will see in this detail (photo below) that the tree's response to pruning has been new fruit buds and new leaves. So we pruned at the right time, to produce this vigour in September. On hot days in a couple of weeks the air at the front of the house will be full of orange blossom oil.

Do note also that the tree has been well fed with compost and a fertiliser including autoclaved chicken manure, blood and bone, sea weed and fish meal.

Thursday we had a hot dry wind so in planting some new plants it was useful to put them in a little water in this old pond. Notes and map on the table to the right. The hedge behind is of Hakea salicifolia - the hedge grew accidentally but usefully to screen from the road. I had put down some wood chips in 2008, there happened to be seeds in the wood chip delivery. The hedge is now trimmed annually to chest height. All the trimmings go into the mulcher, we make our own mulch these days, or combine our woody mulch with sugar cane mulch to provide [a] weight to the cane mulch so it doesn't blow away and [b] a mix that sticks together and blocks light better than wood chip alone.

This white sapote has been growing vigorously. It is said to grow to 16 metres... 
So I chopped its head off several months ago.
You can see some modest winter growth, the smaller leaves.
Apart from space problems in the garden, a tree which produces lovely fruit far above the ground
is strictly for the birds!

This is interesting, even though you may think it looks more dreadful than interesting,,, but I wasn't going to pull the heavy table away just to give you a classy photo. This is a tibouchina which has struggled for access to light, hence sideways. It grows lots of flowers on skinny brittle stems. It has recently finished flowering and we opted to go with the stream- or wind-battered look, removing old flower stalks. It responds well to a hard prune.

This is a waratah or telopea, the emblem flower of the state of New South Wales, but a fairly rare and isolated plant. It flowers in September, but this year not so many flowers because with the strange weather earlier in the year, it also flowered in March. These are mainly found hiding in the forest, not in suburban gardens. Easy to kill many Australian plants with general fertilisers as they have adapted over geological time to soils with little phosphorus in them... so if you feed them with a general garden fertiliser with high phosphorus they may die swiftly.

detail of above

Lemon, espaliered
North facing, now very productive, but time to prune it again. 
In pruning this, I will remove crossing branches and continue to spread it along the trellis. 
String and wire help in the shaping.
And I will prune off tips of branches that I want to grow most vigorously, see reference to auxin in dot points earlier.
Chives growing at foot are convenient to kitchen but also may control aphids.
I think the build up of aphids on fruit trees, roses, etc also reflects soil nutrient deficiency, 
so important to work on that, not just repellants.

The large bush in the centre of this photo blow is a camellia which has just finished flowering. It has summer value in shading the front of the house... but it needs to have a metre chopped off the top now so that it regrows to a height which means we can share the flowers with the birds and to avoid dropping tree litter in the roof gutter.

North facing sunroom window, backyard. This accidental seedling peach provided full shade for the window last summer and will do so again this coming summer. Meanwhile, hard pruned in May for maximum light in the window, new shoots beginning. (click on any photo, all will enlarge)

Pruning this fig has also meant more light in the garden since autumn. 
Also important because figs can grow very large and the fruit is very attractive to birds. 
No point in having fruit beyond human reach.
Opening the tree like a vase means more light in this next growth season
and also means less dark dank spaces wherein thrip populations swiftly grow (and hungry birds lurk)
So you get the tree in shape now and be prepared to trim off branches and leaves that may suddenly be infested with thrip.

Bananas are in fact grass plants. They constantly produce new suckers (new shoots from the ground)
The objective is to have one trunk for fruit now (please, please), and a follower for next fruit. We have added potassium to the feeding regime in hope of supporting fruit development.

Well, this is a piece of a large cypress removed from the front yard six years ago.
For a time it was a bench in the garden.
Recently stood up and with chain saw 
given some little touches to enhance abstract human form

and in the night...

It doesn't matter what you do with tamarillos, they seem to know exactly how tall they want to be, go to that height and stay there. Very convenient. A nice overarching shade, on modest trunk. We hope to get hundreds of fruit from these two trees this next season (February-July 2015).

In first several years, not steal too much. But now this year we are hoping for a good crop. This the size of shoot you can find in one day's growth. Important now to keep cutting as they emerge and encourage underground proliferation. If you let them rush up to leaf and seed, that's the end of the crop for the year.
Picked fresh, eat fresh, no need to cook.

This is a quince, selected for foliage and form as well as fruit. It occupies a position north east of bedroom French windows at back of house. In the winter without leaves, sun streams in in the morning. In the summer we want shade. Leaves coming.
I have removed a couple of branches which were crossing over others. 
And have added a milk bottle with about 1kg (1 litre) of water, to gently encourage that strongest branch to bow outwards.

Light and shade, comfort, sensuality and aesthetics.
Watch the dog. 
In winter the dog will remind you where the sun falls by seeking and sitting in sunlight.
On a warm spring day, every poodle deserves to make its camp in the shade of the fence,
 among violets, with freesias at nose.

This is a big job to be done soon. This Pistacia chinensis provides wonderful shade behind the house but is leaning over too far, descending lower in recent wet weather. We have to get weight off the top and perhaps prop the trunk.

Everything changing, always. Wonderful!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

little films, little events

Helen's north side, southern hemisphere sunny side, has removed a tree, a cypress to which they seemed very attached while reluctant hitherto to understand how very big it had become, would become. Removing it has given much more light to Helen's front garden, which offers new opportunities for gardener and plants.

The cypress had had the top cut off some years ago in hope that its growth would thus be limited. in fact it meant multiple trunks developed.

This first movie shows some skill on the part of the arborist in dropping the last trunk.

and this is something entirely different. One living space in my house has a very large window to the south, facing a metal fence and the wall of the next house. a very narrow garden bed, beside a concrete path, no sun in winter, blistering dry and hot in summer. When I arrived in 2008 I planted two Kennedia rubicunda, Dusky Coral Pea, which has over-run the whole space, turned the view green and created summer cooling. And in this springtime, red flowers with nectar for red wattlebirds