Take the Camellia Challenge


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.

A Beautiful Berkeley Garden

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.



Trees in political news.

San Francisco trees are in the news.  There is talk of the city passing on the responsibility of 24,000 street trees to property owners.Check out the article by Alex Zielinski

Red Tailed Hawk

Last Wednesday I got to participate in the re-nesting of a Red Tailed Hawk.

Check out this blog entry for the exciting story.

Wild Rescue

Small Ficus tree




Ficus trees (Ficus macrocarpa) are very common street trees in San Francisco. Many large specimins magnificently line 24st in the Mission District. They are in every neighborhood. Unfortunately they are pavement busters and are known for dropping limbs.

This tree collapsed on itself in San Francisco last year.


I have heard that insurance companies wont cover auto damage caused by ficus trees.

This doesn’t happen every day, but I wouldn’t park your 1958 Ford Thunderbird under a large ficus. I won’t park my truck under a Ficus tree simply because it is almost a guarantee that the birds will have crapped all over it by morning.

They do a great job cleaning the air. They trap more pollutants than any other tree in San Francisco. After an hour in a ficus tree my face looks like I’ve been playing in a chimney.

In the Moraceae family, Ficus is a genus with over 850 species. Some of the more famous onces are: Ficus benjamina, a common house plant; Ficus carica, the common fig; Ficus benghalensis, the Banyan Tree, known in tropical climates of its aerial roots that create massive trunks.

In San Francisco ficus trees are often topped. I’ve seen them sometimes re-sprout and sometimes die. Never top your trees. They can be pruned harder than most trees, but if you remove all of the green you may end up with a dead tree.

Corymbia ficifolia, Red Flowering Gum



The goal here was to raise the skirt to comply with the city code for height over the street (14′) and over the sidewalk (8′).  We also wanted to lighten the end-weight of the branches.  This will lessen the risk of a branch breaking in heavy wind or rain.  These trees get particularly heavy because of the large seed capsules.  They look like large, hard olives.

The Corymbia ficifolia, previously known as the Eucalyptus ficifolia, is from Australia; the south coast of Western Australia.  Like California, Western Australia has a Mediterranean climate; a temperate zone with wet winters, and warm, dry summers.  So it’s not surprising that many of the trees in California are from Western Australia.

Although the Red Flowering Gum is not in the genus Eucalyptus any more, both are part of the Myrtle family: Myrtaceae.  Other members of the Myrtle family that are common street trees in San Francisco are the Callistemon citrinus (Bottle Brush), Metrosideros excelsus (New Zealand Christmas Tree) and Eucalyptus globulous (Blue Gum Eucalyptus).

The Flowers of the Red Flowering Gum have many
stamins (those fuzzy red things) but no petals.  This is a hallmark
of the Myrtle Family.
File:Corymbia ficifolia Flowers.jpg.jpg

The flowers come in various colors from pink to red to orange.

The flowers of the Bottle Brush (Callistemon citrinus)

The flowers of the New Zealand Christmas Tree (Metrosideros excelsus)

The flowers of the Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulous)