Monthly Archives: December 2015

Pruning…Why do we do it? Cutting Woody Plants Down to Size

The Pruning Series, 2


This Fagus sylvatica has been in this pot around 20 years. I grew it from seed 30 years ago from a mother tree in Sellwood that has a canopy 100′ across. It is approximately the same age as the trees pictured below.

I’ve heard it said often enough that trees and shrubs got by just fine for millions of years before we started pruning them, so why do it now?  That’s a good question and if you can’t answer it, you shouldn’t be pruning.  Horrible examples are all around us.  Trees repeatedly stubbed off their natural branching form and elegance destroyed.  Others sporting long scars where someone removed a branch with a single top cut causing the branch to drop pulling a long tongue down the trunk where it was still attached.  Still more with split trunks and scaffold limbs where multiple sprouts, vying for dominance fail and tear down.  Poor pruning has lead to the collapse and premature deaths of many trees and reduced many shrubs to inelegant space fillers jammed up agains buildings.  The first thing you should ask yourself is, ‘Why I’m I doing this?” Continue reading


Waterfront Parks: Success and a Question of Purpose


Okay, this is not Vancouver. It is Victoria Harbor, looking at their Fisherman’s Wharf across from where we stayed. I haven’t been back to Vancouver for a few years and as a result of an accident and poor back up, I lost all of those pictures. Right country, almost the same latitude, with a gorgeous natural harbor you would have to try hard to screw up!

Vancouver, B.C., has a beautiful waterfront south of downtown along False Creek merging urban development with pedestrian scale Park.  This is a busy international city, Canada’s major west coast port and a major center of the arts.  Granville Island pokes up out of the inlet housing the ‘Emily Carr University of Art and Design’ among other centers.  BC Place, the site of last summer’s Women’s World Cup Championship, resides a little more inland still close to the water.  Here the city is built  to advantage along its waterfront.  Of course on the north side is the famous and beautiful Stanley Park and a more urban edge snugging up to Vancouver Harbor, with an amazing view across it and on to the snow covered mountains including Grouse and Whistler not far to the north.  Pedestrians abound. while commercial shipping on a large scale moves in the middle distance, along with the many float planes private, tourist and small commuters.  It is around False Creek where the City has more recently redefined its relationship with the water.  It is a gorgeous setting.  All combined Vancouver’s, new and old, waterfront is my favorite along the West Coast, ahead of Seattle and San Francisco. Continue reading

Chilling, Freezing & Surviving: Understanding Hardiness & Preparing Your Plants for Winter


Parrotia persica, Persian Ironwood, has long been among my favorite trees, for its leaf shape, substance, fall color, the overall plant form and for its exfoliating puzzled bark. Hardy to zn4 this plant is tough as nails here requiring no protective effort at all.

[A note to the reader. This is not a scholarly treatment of all of the peer reviewed material on this topic.  There are no footnotes or listed sources.  This is a product of my more than 35 years of horticultural field experience and gardening along with what I’ve gleaned from reading several technical peer reviewed articles on the subject.  Such material is difficult to read and can be off putting and intimidating to even the educated layperson.  This posting is my attempt at interpreting the research and reviews that I read in a way I think is understandable without overwhelming the reader with bi0-chemistry and the technical esoterica scientists must consider in their pursuit of understanding.  Any faults are mine.]

I’ve been thinking about plants and their response to cold having watched the deciduous trees drop their leaves, dug tender plants out of the garden and moved pots around to where they would be adequately protected from freezing temperatures.  We all know what happens to water when it freezes, going from a liquid state to a solid one, its molecules forming crystalline structures, expanded and rigid, responsible for burst water pipes and snowflakes.  Water possesses some amazing qualities, as a solid, kind of counter-intuitively, it becomes less dense floating rather than sinking even taking on some insulative qualities and stopping the convective flow of heat that is normal in liquid water.  At the instant of freezing water releases a small but measurable amount of heat. What happens inside plants when temperatures drop below freezing? How does the plant keep from bursting its own cell walls like the water in pipes within an unheated crawl space or wall cavity of a building?  You’ve seen what happens to plants like Coleus and the sodden black heaps they become upon thawing out. Continue reading