Saturday, March 15, 2008

The rules of pruning

Some years ago I heard some advice about how to prune a tree. Rule #1. Cut out branches that cross through the center of the tree. That seems simple- encourage branches that grow away from the center. Rule #2. Like sculpting, decide the shape you want, and cut away anything that isn't that shape. Not quite as simple, but an interesting experiment.

I got all the trimming done on that maple that resides on the narrow shelf between a lower and upper retaining wall. I then raked out all the leaves and trash in that dark corner that intimidated me last year. But with bare branches, I had good light and could see there were no scary little critters back there waiting to surprise me.

The wisteria was not so easy. Since it sends out tendrils in every direction, neither rule one nor rule two can be confidently applied. I estimate this project is going to require three or more phases. Phase 1, today, consisted of cutting as many runners and cross branches as I could without sitting on the wet ground. And raking as many leaves as the tree would allow (snagging my rake with runners on every pull). I hope my neighbors didn't overhear me reassuring the old girl that this was for her own good and she would be much better off if she would cooperate with me. Phase 2 will require getting under the tree to remove many more long runners at the source - and more raking. Phase 3 will be to find some supports that will pull that stubborn old thing more upright. Oh and probably apply some agent orange to those runners that have run far afield of the original plant.

And a 3rd pruning rule. When using loppers, don't wrap your fingers all the way around the handles - close the loppers using your palms. And rule 4, after you've pinched your fingers five or six times between handles, try to remember rule #3. Maybe I need new loppers.

Oh, and since emergency vehicles have now made their third trip up the hill today, I'm reminded to use an abundance of caution while working in the yard. No more accidents.

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