A very popular tree in San Francisco, these trees do well be they are well suited to sandy soils and coastal, Mediterranean climates. They come from the south coast of Western Australia.
The goal was to give this tree a thinning out, but to keep a natural shape. The job took me and Mike about 5 hours, including set up and clean up. I did the pruning and Mike monitored the ground for pedestrian safety, advised me on the overall shape (we call it an eyeball), and did most of the clean up.
It is VERY important to take proper care of Ficus trees. Pay a little extra and hire someone who knows what they are doing. Often you see Ficus trees with long naked limbs with lots of green on the ends. This is called “Lion Tailing.” It’s not a safe or healthy way to trim any tree. This is especially true for Ficus trees since they have characteristically weak branch attachments. Ficus trees are notorious for dropping large limbs. I’ve heard that some insurance companies won’t cover you if you park your car under a Ficus tree.
If you look closely, you can see that the tree below lost a limb this way. The limb was once directly over the street.
In the Bay Area, Birch trees are best pruned in Sept/October, right before the leaves fall. Pruning Birches in the Spring and Summer can lead to infestation of the Bronze Birch Borer. Pruning Birches in the Fall and Winter can lead to intense, unwanted suckering in the spring.
If you have a birch tree or would like to plant a birch tree check out this website.
I pruned two Birches in this clients yard. The first tree had to be brought down somewhat because it blocked a neighbor’s view. The second tree simply needed to be cleaned up. When I prune birch trees I like to accent the trailing branches and remove the vertical ones.
Cordyline australis, or Cabbage Palm comes from New Zealand. In its natural habitat it can grow up to 20 meters tall with a trunk of 1.5 to 2 meters wide. They are very common in San Francisco. Unfortunately they are often misplanted; too close to foundations, too close to walls, too close to retaining walls, in small spaces where they eventually get too big.
They tend to get very dense and bushy as you can see from the “before” shot below. For that reason they offer birds a protective habitat to nest. On several occasions I have had to halt pruning these trees because of nesting birds. It may be a better to wait until fall or winter when baby birds have most likely left the nest.
The flowers appear in panicles about 2-3 feet long. The have a sweet aroma and attract bees and other insects. Birds love the fruit. The spent flower stalks are persistent on the tree and look ugly. They should be removed for aesthetic reasons.
There are also many different cultivars. Cordyline australis is one of the most cultivated New Zealand trees. It is all over Europe, England, and the United States. They are often used poolside or for tropical effect.
“Red Star” is a favorite for gardens in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
The Cabbage Tree was used by the Maori as food, medicine, and fibre. Check out the Wikipedia page on Cordyline australis for more detail on its many uses and its fascinating history.
Today I took on the challenge of transforming this overgrown Camellia. It had been badly pruned many years ago and left alone until now. I thinned, removed dead branches, removed many stubs, and worked on setting up the groundwork for better, more attractive layering.
After my initial pruning this shrub looks a lot better. After a couple years of continued care, it will look really stunning.
When a shrub or tree is left untended for too long, especially after a hacked pruning job, it may take several years to reclaim its full potential beauty. A hack pruning causes excessive sprouting that eventually shades out the interior of the plant. When the plant’s interior gets no light, the inner green leaves die. You end up with a mess of dead branches that once removed leave behind bare, leggy scaffold branches.
Berkeley gardens are typically full and wild; grasses, roses, wild flowers, and small shrubs fill the space. One can grow so many plants in Berkeley because there is lots of sun, heat, and people who love their gardens. The owner of this house on Delaware Street has plants and trees everywhere. In exchange for several tickets to the San Francisco symphony, I agreed to tend to his trees.
These two trees in front are an olive (left) and a Campbell Magnolia (right).
Olives get thick and bushy if left alone. With some thinning, no more than one third of the canopy, I allowed its natural shape to appear: in this case, a graceful s curve. When pruning olive trees, it’s crucial to know when to stop.
The magnolia was full of buds. I only made about six small cuts because I prefer to prune Magnolias after they have bloomed. The secret to pruning this tree was less is more. With just a few small snips I was able to even out the shape.
In the back, there were several fruit trees, vines, shrubs, roses, and lots of flowers. This Bay Tree was front and center. To me it felt like the Incredible Hulk next to all these delicate plants. So I did my best to thin it out and keep a natural shape.
Last Wednesday I got to participate in the re-nesting of a Red Tailed Hawk.
Check out this blog entry for the exciting story.
1319A Florida Street
San Francisco CA 94110
2926 East 19th Street
Oakland CA 94601