The Strong-Willed Tree

Over the winter I wrote a post titled  A Tale of Two Trees, which was inspired by Bradford pear trees I saw at neighboring commercial properties in State College. Planting a Bradford pear is a mistake, but one of the properties (I called this one Nimh) made lemonade with their lemons while the other (I called this one Oz) tried ignoring the problem with disastrous results.

Sadly, the mismanagement of trees in Oz is not limited to pear trees. The property also includes a group of weeping cherry trees that have run amok. 


Cherry trees that refuse to weep.

These cherry trees have thrown off the constraints of human manipulation and reverted to their true form. Notice the band of pink flowers at the bottom of the canopy. That is the grafted scion, and is intended to be the entire canopy. The white flowers are from branches that originated from the rootstock (below the graft). Those branches, often referred to as suckers, should have been removed when they were small.


Who's the sucker now?

In the picture above you’ll notice several thick branches that are vertical. They should not exist. The desired branches are the small horizontal-ish ones in the middle, slightly above the thick vertical ones.

If a weeping cherry is cared for properly it should look something like this:


This cherry tree is weeping because it's happy.

While the pink and white trees might look sort of interesting to some people, to a horticulturist they look like failure. They are proof that someone was lazy, ignorant, incompetent, or just plain bad at their job. The trees are not to blame. Spare the pruners and spoil the tree.

Now I’m a big fan of plants that do not need to be pruned. In fact, when I recommend plants for people I do my best to avoid recommending plants that need regular discipline. By selecting the right tree you can vastly cut down the amount of work you need to do.

Consider these two plants:

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’ (weeping cherry) – Is strong willed and requires attention. If you leave it alone it will cause problems. If you take this tree with you when you run errands it will shop lift. Give it a crayon and it will write on the walls. At a restaurant it will throw food. To further complicate things it is prone to illness.

Cornus kousa (Japanese dogwood) – Is pleasant and easy going. If you leave it alone it will probably work on improving itself. If you take this tree with you when you run errands other people will complement you on how well it behaves. Give it a crayon and it will draw you a picture to hang on the refrigerator. At a restaurant it will clean its plate. And it has the fortitude of Cal Riken Jr.

I’m afraid Oz looks like a daycare full of Dennis the Menace clones.


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Filed under Horticulture, Thoughts

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