Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Major (tree) surgery

The tree surgeons came today to prune my eucalyptus. I don't have the usual E. gunnii, which you see looming over many London gardens, but Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp debeuzevillei, or snow gum.
This is a very pretty eucalyptus and much more suitable for an urban garden as it doesn't grow quite as big (40ft as opposed to 80ft). The bark starts to peel around this time of year (August-September) revealing beautiful cream branches.
As its common name implies, it is one of the hardiest eucalypts, but its Latin name is completely misleading. Pauciflora means, literally, poor-flowering, but in reality, the tree is covered in white fluffy flowers in late spring.
Mine has been stooled (ie coppiced when young), so it is multi-stemmed. This has two benefits - it grows more slowly and it produces an attractive framework. So, if it's so wonderful, why am I having it pruned?
Well, the garden that backs on to my fence behind the eucalyptus used to have a lot of trees along the boundary, which meant that my eucalyptus started to grow forward, across my garden, in order to get its share of light.

A year or so ago, the next-door neighbours cut down all their trees in order to build a huge shed across the bottom of their garden, which meant that my eucalyptus now has permanent access to light from the south. My tree surgeon, Edward Payne, suggested pollarding, or cutting it right back, so that the new growth would go up rather than across.
I trust Ed, but even so, I was a bit nervous about this, so I asked plant-hunter Tom Hart-Dyke, who holds the national collection of eucalyptus at his World Garden at Lullingstone Castle in Kent what he thought. I sent him the pictures above and he agreed wholeheartedly that this was the way to go, so I got Ed to book his guys in.

The newly shorn tree always looks a bit bereft, but you can see that the basic framework of the tree is still there, and still looks quite attractive.

I've still got branches I can hang my bird feeders on. And Ed's guys are so good - they're fast, they tidy up really well, but best of all, they seem to really care what the tree looks like! And they didn't have an easy job on a morning like this one, which was wet and windy.

Because of the huge fatsia growing alongside it, the eucalyptus doesn't look as naked as it might. Now all it has to do is put on some new growth. Watch this space!