7/30/17: Some Observational Moans

I allow myself one column per year to sound off about things I care about. It’s cathartic.... 


Every day, as I wander many blocks in the half-light of early morning, watching Bryn busily sniff the news, I pass by homes with shrubs that have trees growing right out of them, some taller than I am. The shrubs will finally expire, as competition for space and minerals will be too intense. These trees are completely out of place, growing where their seeds landed and rooted. It’s easy to get rid of them. Why not do it? 

I see daylilies near the sidewalk desperately competing for space, doing what they do- squeezing together, closer, closer, until they’ve effectively strangled themselves. I’ve always thought this habit odd. There is usually space outward; but no, these flowers move inward, and hug each other to death. 
Daylilies aren’t very smart, but they are gorgeous. I wish homeowners wouldn’t allow the shriveled remains of their brethren to hang there, ‘flower-tongue’ drooping, while the fresh blooms- glorious for exactly one day- try to look their best next to the ruin. If residents could spare 20 seconds to deadhead every morning for just a few weeks, their display would shine. 

Daylily clumps must be periodically dug out, divided and replanted every three years or so. Toss the weaker ones. Note: after three years, separation becomes much more difficult. They hold on to one another so tightly that the gardener must fight hard to separate them. It’s a frustrating, exhausting, nearly impossible job. 
My advice to those facing this mess: abandon the super tight tangle and begin again. 

When a hosta’s flowers, blooming on tall, fat stems, are done (in just a few days), the naked poles are usually left to tower above it. The sight makes me wince. It’s not difficult to cut these stems away, to simply reach down down between the plant’s leaves and snip/snap them off. The hosta looks wonderful once again, exactly as it did before the flower poles formed. 

I love to admire the huge, venerable maple and oak trees that line my neighborhood. These giants were planted nearly a century ago, and have managed to survive in spite of the buildings around them, and the sidewalks, and the paved over (formerly brick) streets. No riding mowers and string trimmers existed when they were reaching for the sky. But in recent decades these machines have inflicted slow motion, fatal wounds to many elderly giants, as well as countless young trees. Imagine that whip-like plastic string hitting one’s fully clothed human torso at full blast. Its power is incredible. A single assault begins the ruin. Huge mowers occasionally bang against the bark, as well. The result? Wounded old trees begin shedding huge chunks of bark, and the young ones show obvious distress in a year or two, and die in a decade or so, just when they would otherwise be growing up straight and strong. Doubt me? Go outside and walk around your block. Look at any young tree’s base. There are probably rents, open wounds, discolorations, and other signs of shock and distress. Shootlets,-thick, bushy ‘ground-based’ branches- often grow out from big and little trees’ damaged lower areas, grabbing all the nourishment. Soon the tree’s high branches begin balding. 
It’s doomed. 

Homeowners, church officials and those running commercial buildings, such as apartment complexes- might want to emphasize to workers how the big rider mowers and powerful hand-held string trimmers will surely kill, in slow-motion, every tree those deadly whips touch. At least two feet of mulched earth should be laid, from the trunk to grass line, and that circle should be kept free of grass blades. (Should operators see grass invading that space they’ll instinctively inch closer to whack them short, just that once...and 
The damage is done.) 
I’d ask that they put red flags around trees, three for each, set in a triangle formation to remind operators to be vigilant. This flagging takes just a few seconds, is cheap insurance, and might well be a tree’s salvation. 
Mowers and string trimmers kill more trees than bugs, I think. It just takes longer. 

One other thing really saddens me- coming upon huge shade trees’ massive centers that are cut right out, leaving only side branches. These massive, ugly amputations present a pathetic picture to passersby. Why does it happen? Power cables, set high over little trees years ago, are now threatened because the trees, now much taller and broader, could sway too much in storms, which could snare/sever a power line. So- their potentially offensive centers are buzz-sawed gone. 
The disfigurement is truly appalling. The tree, terminally shocked, immediately begins to die. After sixty or more years of a healthy life it’s mutilated in a morning because another solution (perhaps zigzagging across the street to reset the pole and its wires there, for example) isn’t considered, or deemed too costly in terms of time and money... 
Mature trees greatly enhance property values, and their lovely branches shade our sidewalks and streets. Many decades, another human lifetime, must pass before newly planted saplings can offer that pleasure again.

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