Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All Good Things Must Come at the End

Now that we’re not farming as much, if at all, I can no longer ignore all of the other projects that need done around the property. Today I have concentrated on pruning trees. I started with a plum tree that someone in his infinite wisdom planted about three feet from the corner of the garage. A large portion of it was lying on the roof of the garage and had dented the gutter. This same tree has suckers (little babies sprouting from the root system) growing up all over the place. Add to this list the damn thing is near barren. We might get two or three plums a year. I removed three overflowing truck loads of limbs and managed to only pull the gutter away from the garage in one spot.

I then attacked one of the two filbert trees we have. Filberts? Hazel nuts to the rest of the world. Filbert trees in the orchards around here look considerably different from those in our yard. In the orchard they look like most any other tree with a trunk and branches. If left to their own devices, filberts will send up many long slender shoots from the base of the tree, and if they aren’t cut, they become the tree. Think of a fountain. Filbert wood is also somewhat brittle, so if the trees aren’t trimmed back, any strong wind or heavy snow will send branches crashing. And because the canopy of these fountained filberts can be rather dense, big branches that break off may not get to the ground. Instead, they’ll hang around waiting for someone to come along on a lawn tractor and then drop, bringing a few other limbs with them. Four truck loads. Tomorrow I’ll work on the other one.

That will leave the big Photinia in the front yard. The Photinia sans leaves. When we bought this place five years ago, it had leaves, albeit riddled with Entomosprium Leaf Spot, and it also had a big black streak of who-knows-what running down its trunk. I sprayed it with compost tea that first year, and that seemed to help some. Nah, actually it was just the dry weather, for over the years, and with our long wet seasons, the disease has progressed to the point where I want to take the tree out. I am meeting with resistance.

“Why do we need to take it out?”

“Because it’s diseased.”

“Can’t we do anything to make it better?”

“We can spray it with a fungicide every 10 to 14 days for the rest of our lives.”

“I’ll do it.”

“It’s a thirty-foot tree. It’ll be impossible to spray the whole thing.”

“How about if I just spray the black streak? That’s got to help.”

“It doesn’t work that way. The fungus is airborne.”

“You have to cut out the whole thing?”

“I can try to save some of it. I’d rather just be done with it.”

“It’s going to leave a big empty spot in the yard.” Thirty years ago someone went to a lot of expense to landscape this place. There are some beautiful specimen trees in the yard.

“I already planted those oaks and cedars, but they’ll take a long time to fill in.”

“What are you going to do with the wood?”

“We’ll use it for firewood.”

“But you said the fungus was airborne. Won’t the disease go up and out the chimney?”

“The fungus is already out there, everywhere.”

Well, to make a long discussion short, we’ll take the damn thing out and have someone come out with a big tree-digging machine and transplant one of the more mature trees in an adjacent lot of ours.

Now, I have to confess that while we were having the above conversation, I didn’t know the scientific name of the fungus. I just knew it was similar to the fungus, Black Spot, that infects roses. I looked up Photinias and then found their common diseases, looked them up and found the culprit, Endomosporium.

“Severely defoliated plants may need to be pruned heavily to have a small, easier to spray plant, to reduce the source of spores and improve air movement. It may be necessary to remove severely diseased plants that have also been damaged by cold injury and replace them with another plant species that is not susceptible to leaf spot. This disease is very difficult to control after plants are severely infected.”

I have just come back from getting a cocktail, and while I was pouring it I said to my dear wife, “It’s called Endomosporium.”

“The fungus?”

“Yes. And what I read said that severe infections are almost impossible to get rid of.”

“Well, okay, but promise me that you’ll talk to the tree while you’re cutting it down.

“I will.”

“And thank it for it’s many years of service.”

“I will.”

And as I was heading back downstairs: “What are you doing?’


“About what?”


“I just gave you the end to your piece, didn’t I?”

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