An “Awwww” Moment in Pruning

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

While cleaning up after pruning an old pear tree today, the client popped up with his five year old daughter. She looked at me and said, in that loud, declarative, five-year-old way: “What are you doing, right now!”

I replied, trying to echo her clarity, “I’m trimming (sic, what five-year-old knows what “pruning” is) your pear tree so it is pretty and healthy.”

She queried further, “Where’s all of its hair?”

Not understanding, I asked her  to repeat the question and she did. Her father and I exchanged puzzled looks and immediately and simultaneously understood.
“It dropped its leaves,” he said and “They’re right there on the ground”, I said.

What is the opposite of aesthetic pruning?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Well, according to one of our clients, it’s pathetic pruning. Last time, I talked about how to prune a tree. This is about how NOT to prune a tree. Here are some examples of what you don’t want your trees to look like.

#1. This Japanese maple isn’t bad, yet. It’s just awaiting some good pruning to open it up and remove the whips.

#2. Trees should never be “topped”. It looks unnatural, it will never heal over, and it may kill the tree.

#3. Bad Neighbor Blight. Yes he had the legal right to cut anything entering his property, but was this really necessary?

#4. “Lion’s tailing” or only leaving a bundle of foliage at the end of the branch. Puts too much weight out there and can break branches.


What is Aesthetic Pruning?

Posted by on Apr 15, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Aesthetic Pruning is the creative interpretation of small trees and shrubs.  This living art form combines the artistic skill of the pruner, the essence of a tree, the science of horticulture and the needs of clients and surroundings.

With its foundation in Japanese garden pruning, bonsai and arboriculture, aesthetic pruning incorporates visual art and design principles to work with plant material in its unique setting. Due to the universality of its approach, aesthetic pruning benefits all situations and garden styles.

Aesthetic pruners focus their work on trees and shrubs under 15 feet tall.  They are dedicated to the craft of pruning, versed in many styles and have a long term vision with an emphasis on beauty.  Aesthetic pruners make the right cuts for the right reason.

Our overarching goals are to:

  • Keep the tree in scale with its site.
  • Maintain the health of the tree.
  • Avoid anything that looks too “pruned”.  Over interpreting a  tree to some rigid form is never the goal.
  • Help a tree to express its essence. So maples sohw off what is important abut a maple (in another blog), a pine shows its “pineness” and so on.
  • Individual goals for individual trees. Even two maples in a yard might have different needs depending on their placement and microclimate.
  • Add gravitas. I love this word. It means that we add add age to a tree. This makes it seem like it’s been on site for a long time and adds a comfortable groundedness to the garden.

Next week: what’s the opposite of aesthetic pruning?

Water shortage? But it’s raining, isn’t it?

Posted by on Mar 27, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Well, yes, but mostly no.

As of this morning, after that pleasant rain over the weekend, we have 58% (10.45 inches) of normal (18.12 inches) for the season The season is measured from July 1 to June 30. Last year on this date we had 106% of normal to date. Normal for the season in Oakland, which I’m using for reference, is 20.18 inches. When I’ve spoken to people about this over the last couple of months they sort of give me the “Chicken Little Lives” look and say, well it’s all about the snow pack . . . mumble something. That’s fair and true, except the last bit.

The snowpack in the Sierra is also at 50% of normal. In fact it is barely above the lowest year on record, 1976-1977. Anyone remember that year? When everyone let their lawns die. We don’t need to do that.

So, if the sky is falling (or the rain isn’t) what do we do?

  • If you’re not going to remove your lawn, reduce it.
  • Get your existing irrigation in its optimal, most efficient, condition. I can’t tell you how often I go out to a new client and they say that their system is working fine and when I turn it on I find a broken head flooding the sidewalk or heads are poorly adjusted and over-spraying the sidewalk (which is illegal now, BTW).
  • Your lawn should have “head-to-head” coverage, i.e. the spray from one head should touch that from the heads on either side–if you don’t get good coverage, you need to run the water longer.
  • Convert old sprays in planting beds to drip–approx 50% efficiency vs 90% efficiency. Don’t water your fences. They’re never going to grow. Trust me on this.
  • If everything else is working, check your watering schedule. Most people over water.
  • Add a rain sensor to your controller so you’re  not watering if it ever does rain.

So it comes down to: Assess,  Replace, Upgrade. Rather reminds me of my nursing days.

Matching a stone wall

Posted by on Mar 17, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

The owner had previously had some retaining walls built out of concrete and had the veneer stone put on it. For something that was closer to the house and behind the veneered wall, they were looking for something a bit more natural. We built a dry-stack wall with Connecticut Blue stone (full range) and inter-planted it with stonecrop. The stonecrop has taken off and makes the wall look like it’s been there forever.

Trees in Art

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

There is a current exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco about trees. They have this to say about it: “Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought is an exciting opportunity to explore the subject of the tree in Jewish tradition through the lens of contemporary artists who enable us to see the world in new ways and to encourage us to find fresh meaning in tradition. The tree is a universally potent symbol . . .  especially now as global environmental concerns have begun to impact contemporary Jewish practice.” It’s a fascinating look at the subject and I think the “universal” part is important to note. Trees are symbols in many cultures through time. Besides the Judeo-Christian link, they are important in the mythology of the Navajo, Buddhism, The British Isles, Paganism, the Greeks and Islam, among others. Information on the exhibit is here:

This piece from the exhibit is by Terry Berlier, Reclaimed Time, 2011

Aesthetic pruning, phase I

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Pruning and rehabilitation of Hollywood Juniper: this tree had been poorly pruned and then left for several years. This is the first step to getting it back to a pleasing and naturalistic form. Since the center of the tree was essentially dead and filled with several pounds of old needles, the first step was to get that out, allow air and light in. This will start to expose the wood, which is just as beautiful as the foliage.

Dry-stack stone wall

Posted by on Feb 18, 2012 in Blog, Feature, Stonescaping | 0 comments

Dry-stack stone wall

The home security system takes position on the new dry-stack stone wall and steps. Fremont stone is used for all of the elements of this dry-stack retaining wall.

Pocket garden with custom trellis

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 in Blog, Feature | 0 comments

Pocket garden with custom trellis

This is a custom shoji-style trellis. It rests on hinges to lay down for pruning and cleaning. By using  thicker wood (2×2’s) for the trellis infill, we keep it open so that the background is visible, but the structure remains architectural.

Garden Design: Mary Fisher Gardens