Tag Archives: pruning

The wren sings and insists.

ebird.org

The song of a Bewick’s Wren came through my bedroom window as I was waking to the morning. I’ve never heard one of these birds carrying on so long.

If you are not familiar with it you can listen here: Bewick’s Wren

What busyness in my life all at once. June warmth makes my blood to move faster, and days fill up and empty themselves, as the thermometer on my patio rises and falls. A few of the many things:

**Half the plants in the garden need trimming already! I severely pruned the plum trees, trying to keep them small, as per Grow a Little Fruit Tree. Santa Barbara daisies, wallflower, helianthemum, gazanias, bush lupine and salvias, all needed a midsummer shearing. Then there were all those one-gallon salvias and such for which spots must be found in the ever more crowded landscape. I’ve been gardening for hours every day.

**Still seeing butterflies and wasps that I don’t know, and which I can sometimes identify. These wasps that my Seek app says are paper wasps ignore the sunflowers that are open, and hang out on the fat buds. I wonder what they are doing…

**Rats seem to be eating my garden as they did in 2016. Then it was tomatoes. This time is was the single collard plant that came up from some old seeds. After it grew back for a few days they ate it again. Then they tried the unripe Painted Lady runner beans but evidently didn’t like them. I’ve planted fresher collard seeds and am trying to figure out how to protect them when they sprout. Rats spurn Swiss chard, and all the other current offerings, though they did nibble on snow peas back in April.

So as not to attract rodents unnecessarily, I’ve been bringing the bird feeders into the garage at night. At first light finches and mourning doves and even crows are waiting for the sunflower seeds to reappear.

View from my bedroom window.

This morning, as I often do, I pulled on my robe and went out to hang their “chapel” feeder on its hook above the patio, and then I looked up into the redwood tree, because I could tell that the wren was broadcasting from there at that moment. But I couldn’t see him. A junco and titmice and a hummingbird flew back and forth from that tree, to and fro across the yard from tree to rooftop to tree; but the wren followed his routine of staying out of sight while visiting in turn every tall tree in the neighborhood, making sure he communicated to each household, insisting on joy.

**I’ve been cooking a lot. I love having fresh tarragon with which to make the Tarragon-Parsley Salsa Verde. This time I used walnut oil instead of olive oil and it’s great. The yellow in the picture above  is lemon zest.

I took all the remaining Painted Lady beans I’d stored and soaked them together. The older they get, the more they turn dark and red and shiny. The older beans took longer to soak, and longer to cook to tender.

**My computer comes and goes with my Computer Guy, and while he’s always interesting to talk to on almost any topic, the other day when he came merely to pick up the PC he wanted to talk for an hour before he even unplugged it. He has lots of ideas for how to improve the state of the nation. I told him he’d need to be king so he could make unilateral decisions.

new shower curtain

**The construction workers came back! The new bathroom is perfectly usable now, though it has a couple of details unfinished. I soaked in its tub the night after my most strenuous day of pruning. Lovely. My master bedroom walk-in closet is almost done — maybe tomorrow I will be able to start moving into it, after more than a year of shifting my belongings from one room to another. This was the closet that I basically wanted to get unextravagantly spiffed up before the major remodeling was begun. And it has been the biggest inconvenience. That is sometimes most aggravating to think about, but on days like today, the wren makes me laugh aloud.

**I pulled this weed out of the germander and was impressed by the little black seeds. I think it is Black Medick.

**Yesterday morning I was surprised by daughter Pippin appearing in my front garden and calling “Mama!” up to me where I sat by a sunny open window. Such a familiar voice and word… ❤ How she happened to be here is too long a story, but we enjoyed the best hug ever — well, at least since I saw them in March. And then we sat in the garden and chatted and it was so good for our mother-daughter hearts. She and I are not phone-talkers at all; we really need to be together in person to be fully satisfied.

Violas surviving in the shade of asparagus.

**I don’t like to write much here about things that are expected to happen in the future, because they aren’t real yet. But the excitement I feel is terribly real, over the imminent arrival of Kate and her family; they will stay with me for several weeks! She is my youngest, whom I went to India to see, and whose two babies I was blessed to see come into the world, one in India and one in DC last summer. Her family actually contracted the coronavirus and got over it while cooped up in their DC apartment; otherwise they would have been leery of coming to California to see all the grandparents before they go abroad again.

We’ll see what kind of blogging communications I will be able to accomplish in the next while — maybe it will be the little boy voices that wake me morning by morning to the important realities of this particular summer season. That will also be music to my ears.

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the universe.”
-Psalm 19:4

Pink flowers are not all she gives.


It may not have been fellowship exactly, but my time today with my fellow creatures the plants was intimate and  lovely, and I spent hours pruning three of the trees. That is something God does to us, and maybe that’s why it makes me feel particularly tenderhearted toward my horticultural “children.”

First the plums, for which I had to move up their solstice pruning a week because I won’t be here at the summer solstice. Lots of other weeding, feeding, planting — and naturally, trying to take pictures of insects. I was eating breakfast in the garden when I noticed syrphid flies on the toadflax, and wondered how I could ever have confused them with bees. They don’t have the same flight pattern at all, and they even buzz more like flies.

 

The last thing I did was to spend an hour with the manzanita bush that I’d named Margarita a few years ago, about the same time I told her history. (You can see more pictures of her via that link.) It was this task that brought me into the sweet communion with the plant that is enjoying her 15th spring on the property! I can tell she is happy because she’s putting out lots of new green leaves, while the berries are still mostly green, too. I must never have paid much attention to this tree in other Junes, because I hadn’t seen the contrast of the new growth with the old leathery leaves, many of which are turning brown, which is normal.

In order to survey the wandering branches and find the dead wood and make decisions about how to thin Manzanita while keeping her twisty and graceful form, I must have walked around and around her a dozen times, noticing and snipping twigs and whole branches that were revealed as needing removal, one by one with each changed view. I mused about how she has grown and changed; countless parts of her have died and been cut away, but she gradually has become a little taller. Since her youth when I realized that she wanted to grow northward, time and again I have helped her to do it in a nice way, and every year she gives me pink flowers for Valentine’s Day.

She is a dear.

Gardening in sunshine and breezes.

The picture below shows clearly how I’ve kept one of my Elephant Heart plum trees (far left) to about half the size of the other, by my prunings over the last few seasons. I don’t know why that is, but I seem to have continued the trend today. I pulled on my jeans and was out with the loppers before breakfast, because my gardener-helper was coming and would be able to clean up after me.

The north side of my garden is especially shady on this winter day, but it is a sunny and drying-out kind of day in any case, in the midst of a series of also welcome waterings. Everything is damp, and the sunshine drew out the scents of all the plants that we were trimming and cleaning up: a little bay tree in a pot, rose geranium, lemon. Alejandro said that even the fig branches gave off a pleasant smell where we sliced off a few branches in our team effort to shape that tree.

I found a flower on the fava beans, and buds on the azealea. The strawberry runners that I staked into the soil have taken firm root under the rice straw that is now so sodden that we threw it out. I hope it’s true, what those “old-timers” predicted when they saw the lizards last summer, that we will have a mild winter.

But the midwinter of 2018 was mild, prompting the fruit trees to bud early enough that they got frosted later on, ruining at least the plum crop — at least, that’s what Mr. Greenjeans, my youngest old-timer friend, told me.

I hated to stop my gardening this noon; I never get my fill of seeing the new buds, and pine boughs waving in the breeze – but A. and I both had tasks elsewhere to tend to. As the days grow longer there will be plenty more work to provide us with happy times in the dirt and leaves and fresh air. Every day in the garden reveals change and new beauty.

Growing a littler fruit tree.

Ann Ralph does make it seem easy. She is all about the backyard gardener being the one in control, managing the tree, and not letting it decide on its own how big to get.

If you didn’t have to climb a ladder to tend your fruit trees or pick the fruit, wouldn’t you find it simpler to keep up with the maintenance and to enjoy the harvest? Most of us don’t need bushels of fruit from one tree, so it’s good stewardship to reduce the quantity of fruit likely to go unused anyway.

I read her book in the fall, and wished I had known about it when we were choosing trees at the nursery two years ago, because you can make the most of this method if you start with a specimen that has a couple of lower-than-average limbs to begin with. Mine are not ideal that way, but I think I can still be the boss. I pruned my plum trees severely before Christmas; but at the summer solstice, according to her plan, they should get their second pruning. I did that a day late, this morning. It took me exactly 50 minutes – I know, because I had set my timer so I wouldn’t be late for an appointment.

I had reviewed the pertinent paragraphs right before I set to work, so as I walked around the tree and made some preliminary cuts, and circled around to the other side to look from that perspective, and on and on in that fashion, I had some  phrases lingering in my mind to guide me and give me confidence:

If you see something that cries to be corrected or pruned away, prune it. As always, prune out limbs that annoy you. Picture the height of the tree you have in mind. Don’t allow the tree to get taller. As Scenic Nursery’s Jim Rogers would remind us, “insist.”

Limbs that annoy me? Well, yes, I did find a few of those, that were angled down, or toward the center of the tree; maybe there were a couple that just seemed a little pushy in the wrong direction and not beautiful…. Must we analyze every annoyance?

I wish I had taken a Before picture. In this After picture you can see I hadn’t really finished, because the clippings are lying all over. But I have just hired someone to help me in the garden on a continuing basis — my heart is dancing for joy about it — and will let him do that part (as well as trim the wisteria vines which are coming into the picture from above, hoping to twist on down into the tree).

In the foreground below are yarrow, lavender, and hummingbird mint, favorites of the birds and bees. The picture is taken from a different angle on the same tree. Both of these pictures make me wonder if I shaped my trees enough… those gangly limbs… I trimmed them less because they had the nice curve and direction I am encouraging. They are small and not getting out of hand, so I thought they could wait until the main pruning in winter.

I’m feeling so relieved and restful about the garden now that I’ve engaged my Helper Gardener, cleaned the greenhouse, and pruned the plums. I can think about tackling a few other categories of projects and tasks on my to-do list. And also, sit down in the garden with a book, listening to the hum of contented pollinators.

a contributor to the hum, on the teucrium