Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Project: get rid of the big green blob...

A trip to Cistus Nursery is always inspiring. I saved this shot — from a visit last January  — as an inspiring reminder to drastically prune my Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony.' After all, while the leaves and flowers of an Arctostaphylos are nice, the main attraction is the twisty, dark, branching structure.
I'd been on a yearly pruning schedule for ‘Harmony,' but just never got around to doing the deed last year. And it showed. Oh my gosh how it showed. Hello big green blob.
Blob as seen through the Tetrapanax trunks.

Blob as seen from the front sidewalk (extra ugly photos too, thanks to the harsh light).

Last Tuesday — armed with an empty yard waste bin, sharp pruners, and a small saw — I got to work.
Three and a half hours later the 64-gallon bin was nearly full...
And there was a pile of large branches in the driveway.

I didn't get back out to take my "after" photos until later in the week. But Vive La Différence!

Structure, revealed!
I am thrilled to see that beautiful bark again.

And my, the Podocarpus alpinus ‘Orangeade’ (that's what I bought it as, the name may have changed?) has grown!

There is one downside to this satisfying project however, and the advice is everywhere (hereherehere) you should only remove a third of the branching structure, or foliage, when pruning a tree or shrub. This is usually cited as something of importance to the plant. I'm here to tell you it's also a great rule of thumb for the health of the gardener.
I know I removed more than a third of this Manzanita, mainly with my hand pruners. Later that night — while making dinner — my thumb and the entire side of my palm kind of seized up. By the time I went to sleep that night I couldn't even bend my thumb without excruciating pain. I alternated ice and heat, and then hit the Ibuprofen. Finally two days later the pain was subsiding, but even now it still lingers. Lesson learned, ease into the massive pruning jobs in a new gardening season!

Oh and if you're going to prune while the plant is blomming, watch for the bees...

Weather Diary, March 26: Hi 50, Low 39/ Precip .03"

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden (dg). Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

30 comments:

  1. I think that taking it slow is one of the hardest things to make a gardener do at the beginning of a new garden season. When there is work to be done we just want to get at it. Amazing how we can be our own worst enemies sometimes. But your shrub does look gorgeous.

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    1. That's so true! And with weather complicating things (here rain, there snow) once you've got a great gardening day you just don't want to stop!

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  2. Oooooh. Nice. I want to be like you--albeit with more reserve. My thumbs can't take it, not to mention my inability to stay on target for that long. Looks good.

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    1. Thank you! I'm trying to picture Manzanitas in your garden...how many do you have?

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  3. You did a great job, it looks much better, but boy do I know those aches and pains. Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on your point of view I guess) arthritis in my hands keeps me from overdoing it with chores like this. I wonder if my pink-flowering arcto that I have in the front is 'Harmony'? I've lost the tag. It's flowering now, with zillions of clusters of tiny little pink flowers and smaller leaves and branches.

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    1. There are so many pink flowering Arctostaphylos, but this one is definitely flowering now, whereas 'Austin' is done.

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  4. Someone needs to develop warm up stretches for gardeners! At least you have the comfort of knowing the product of your pain and effort looks marvelous. I need to give my Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Ghostly' a trim. It's the only one of my arctos big enough to open up. I also am going to have to be more rigorous in controlling its new growth to make it branch out more instead of having 3-foot, perfectly straight stems!

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    1. Garden Fever used to have a "gardener's yoga" class on Saturday morning, not being a morning person I never made it to the class. Boo for 3-ft perfectly straight stems...that's no fun.

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  5. You don't often hear about repetitive stress injuries in gardeners but it's real! It's so easy to get into the rhythm of a job, only to find yourself suffering the ill effects for days later - I hope your pain is soon a distant memory (reminder). The more photos of well-pruned manzanitas I see, the more I question why I don't grow any. Suggestions that they could feed wildfires here have made me hesitate but, with some debunking that theory, I'm thinking maybe the back slope could use a manzanita.

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    1. Yes! The back slope could use three Manzanita, I'm sure of it.

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  6. Wow, the difference your skillful pruning made is fab. Looks so much better now. Sorry to hear about your thumb but glad it's feeling better now.

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    1. Skillful....ha! Don't get carried away there Mr. Nice Guy.

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  7. Here they have their own bare-branch structure from the beginning, due to lack of water! No green blobs here.

    Either way, yours is a beauty. Sorry to hear your hand was hurting. I hope it's better now.

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    1. Interesting. I hadn't ever thought that through to realize that's why they look so great in CA. Of course mine never gets a drop of water from me, but Mother Nature can be pretty generous at times up here.

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  8. Now the Cistus one is the "bad" one. :) . Such a beauty, revealed! We appreciate your pain!

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    1. Well I wouldn't go that far... (but thank you).

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  9. Wow, what a difference. The trunk of this plant is such a rich color. The blooms make it pop or is it the trunk making the blooms pop? Either way Nice. I hope your hands and fingers get rested and you are feeling better.

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    1. Thanks Lisa, I'm excited to think I'll actually be able to see the show this year when the bark exfoliates.

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  10. I have always just let Arctos find their own branch exposure, which seems to happen in my garden with all but the most prostrate ones. Maybe I need to take a harder look at several of them for pruning potential. Hope your thumb and hand have recovered and are feeling better now!

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    1. You've probably just bought better behaved Arctostaphylos. My 'Austin Griffths' has pretty much found it's own way, this one is just so determined to turn into a blob though.

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  11. That's some fine arcto sculpting -- now take a well-earned pruning break!

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    1. But there's so much more to do!

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  12. my blob is a primrose jasmine that tried to swallow my backyard. still hacking away at it.

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    1. I wasn't familiar with that plant and had to look it up. It does look like it could become quite the monster, good luck!

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  13. Excellent example of great pruning. I've become more confident about pruning shrubs as the years have gone by, but you're a pro! That is a beautiful shrub! How's the vase life on the flowering branches? The flowers are so pretty, too.

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    1. The flowering branches last a very long time. Can you believe I didn't bring any indoors? Just wasn't in the mood I guess.

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  14. you did a great job ! There is a business park about a mile away from my house that has done some really horrid Arcto pruning.I plan to post at Crimes Against Horticulture.

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    1. Thanks KS, they're really easy to do well, so it's sad to think of work done so poorly you'd want to report it. Wait, that does make me think of the time I saw a whole row of Arbutus unedo pruned into parking lot cubes...

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