Sunday, March 08, 2015


Weather: Cold mornings, warm afternoons. Last snow 2/28.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas, rose stems; leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle, alfilerillo; June grass greening.

What’s gray: Salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach, apricot, apple, sandcherry and sandbar willow; purple aster leaves.

What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe and weeping willows; arborvitae have browned.

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: Local men took advantage of the warm weeks in mid-February to prune their apples and other trees.

Horticultural experts tell us, apples are headstrong. That is, they put out erect branches that bear fruit on the ends. To increase the crop and keep the trees compact, they suggest people trim the verticals back about a third to force the tree to activate the dormant buds along the side.

They also tell growers they need to thin the buds once they emerge to prevent pairs of apples from touching one another. Since that’s a chore, chemists have developed sprays that do the debudding.

I talked to a man in Santa Fé a couple years ago who said that was all wrong. He always cut everything out of the middle, so the fruit would be in easy reach on the outside where it got lots of sun.

Oliver Rackham saw this kind of lopping done in the Estremadura of Spain where live oaks are trimmed along the boughs about every nine years. There men believes it increases the acorn crop and lets sun get through to the grass below. The cut wood was used to be used to make charcoal.

Today, people seem to have a memory of lopping, but the only technique they see is the pollarding done by utility companies. The result is a kind of amputation. If a tree is large, its limbs are cut back close to the tree. If a tree is smaller, every branch is removed.

Nature of course does what nature does. If the tree’s an apple, it sends up headers. If there’s no frost, it produces some fruit. If there’s been frosts for several years in a row, it compensates and produces lots of fruit.

Notes: Oliver Rackham and A. T. Grove, The nature of Mediterranean Europe, 2001. He says, what others call Holm oak in the Estremadura are actually a species of wild native live oak (Quercus rotundifolia).

Photographs: All taken in the area 26 February 2015.

1. Recently amputated tree.

2. Amputated apple tree after a year.

3. Apple recently pruned the expert’s way.

4. Lopped apple tree after a year.

5. Recently amputated apple tree.

6. Apple tree that was severely amputated last summer.

7. Apple tree that was severely amputated two summers ago.

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