Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Two Skinny Trees

Rain is needed. I can't tell whether the browned leaves on so many trees and shrubs are from the hard freeze we got 10 days ago or from the last 27 days with no rain. Both, probably.

The worst is my katsura and the bottlebrush buckeyes and the panicle hydrangeas, all are just piles of dry leaves now. Disappointment.

But it's the end of the season, and I'm pretty organized, so I'm busy making checklists of things that I need to get done in the garden.

Then I go out on a fall day and do spontaneous things that were never on any version of any list.

An example: I pruned the sweetbay magnolias a few days ago. And by "pruned" I mean I took off half of each tree. Just sawed each one in half.

This is what the smaller sweetbay at the corner of the house looked like in late August:

And now, after a random pass with the pruners, the whole left side is gone. Is this an improvement?

I had intended to take it out. It is smaller than the one nearby, it is too near the house, it was leaning into the corner, and it needed to go. But I thought I'd start with removing the half nearest the corner.

The problem is that it still leans into the house.

After removing the side of one sweetbay magnolia, I went after the other one that is right outside the bedroom window. It is larger, and taller. How I love to see the fluttery leaves lit up by the sun on a summer morning when I wake. This tree fills the bedroom window and the sun catches the leaves when it rises, just as I awaken. So pretty.

It had an awkward low branch, shown here in an earlier fall, that was getting too full too near the window. The arrow points to the half of the tree I took off.

Now, with that branch off and fully half of the tree gone, I have a tall, narrow, skinny sweetbay magnolia remaining outside my bedroom window. Is this an improvement?

Here you see the two sweetbay trees, big and little, all branchy in summer:

And here is what they look like now after I pruned them:

(The brown blob at the right is a hydrangea that the freeze or the dry spell zapped.) The sweetbay magnolias both look more architectural, and branches are away from the house now. But really, half of each tree is gone.

In high summer the gardens beneath their skinny stems are fuller, with a big baptisia below the bedroom window, which got zapped in the freeze and has already been chopped back.

They are interesting trees and I love Magnolia virginiana, but I do think they look weedy, even trimmed up and reduced. They are understory woodland trees, usually multistemmed, and would look better away from the house, or massed in a grove, or something.

I still might take out the smaller one that leans into the corner. There should be one sweetbay or a group of three, but not two unequal skinny trees at the back of the house.

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