Seen below there is a typical example of an Agonis fluxuosa. They are a drought tolerant tree from Australia in the Myrtle family (Eucalyptus family). This particular tree is at 16 Seal Rock Drive, all the way out in the outer Richmond District in San Francisco. It is a ten minute walk to the Cliff House. These trees are one of the few that can withstand the conditions in this neighborhood: ocean influenced wind, sandy soil, and a lot of fog. While these trees prefer full sun, they can take the part shade created by the constant fog.
One of the characteristics of this tree is that they often develop without a strong central leader. This tree, pictured below, is the perfect example. They always need to be trained by an arborist if they are to be used as a street tree.
As you can see we shaped this tree up so that it has a high center and strong, balanced structure. We will most likely have to come back in a year or two to make further adjustments.
Here are a picture of the flowers. They are small, but fragrant. The leaves smell like peppermint when crushed.
The Agonis fluxuosa also comes in purple.
This Juniper started out as a bonsai specimen that the homeowner tended frequently. Somehow it got left to the wayside for a number of years and became a hedge. Our job was to restore it to a bonsai. We can do this with just about any size tree or shrub. It just takes a little more time than your average job. Working, grooving together and getting into the feel of this tree to discover its inner shape and beauty took three of us about three hours. Om shanti.
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.
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.