Monday, March 11, 2013

Pruning the Dogwood: Local Heritage Garden 6

Before we bought this house, we lived in Sleepy Hollow for a year (yes, the Sleepy Hollow of the headless horseman). Our rental house had a dogwood. We moved in in July and I spent a whole year wondering what color that dogwood was, and when it bloomed it was an amazing deep salmon color. Just breathtaking.

But white has always been my favorite dogwood color, and so when we had put an offer on Pugsley, I made Capel drive by one day after the dogwoods had come into bloom, just to see what color "our" dogwood would be. Here it is, in its spring glory, last year.

Here it is, in summer. If you look closely in the photos above and below, you can see a hole in the upper left (front) of the tree foliage. There's a branch that split, some time ago, and has been hanging. That branch really bugged me. 

The beautiful old dogwood at our last rental home had numerous dead branches and split branches up in its top, and much of the year it looked like it was on its last legs. So I swore to myself that if I ever had a dogwood, I'd keep it pruned and loved.

So, fast forward 9 months. I'd done my homework (late, as usual) sometime in the frozen deep of this winter, and learned that the best time to prune a dogwood is in fall or winter, before the sap rises. Well, missed the fall, and the winter was so bitterly cold there was just no way. Hate to say it not even dogwood love would pull me out into pruning mode. But, the minute it warmed up a tiny bit, this weekend, I said to Capel, "Honey ... "

Here's the split branch.

I kinda assumed I could get to it with a ladder. Laugh. So, after donning appropriate footwear, up I went, with more than a little trepidation. I cannot remember the last time I climbed a tree, other than since I was like, maybe 14. But here I am, about fifteen feet up off the ground, trying to figure out how to get the right angle on the branch to saw.

By the by, I use a Fanno 13" curved pruning saw I got from Amazon for $20. It's incredibly light and sharp, and even if you're slow, like me, it will eventually cut through anything.

All of the advice on pruning out whole branches is to make two or three cuts. The first two, a foot or so out from where the branch attaches to the tree. That's to keep its weight from splitting down into the good wood of the tree before you get it sawn through, and thus killing the tree instead of saving it. So here I am, hugging tight for dear life and leaning out, sawing into the split at least a good foot from the fork of the branch I'm taking out.

And, relieved, first cut has worked. Now to take off the remaining stump.

And here we go, all done, the branch cut neatly back to the "collar" -- that spot where the branch attaches to the tree. A good day's work.

Thank you to Capel for taking the photos and being ready to catch me should I fall out of the tree!

Oh, and by the way. Beach shoes make GREAT climbing gear for trees. Highly recommended and styling too, as you can clearly see.

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