Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Crown lifting a pair of Holly trees

This was an interesting job - the Client has a pair of variegated Holly trees, one male, one female (which is a cunning plan to ensure that there are berries!) and they have outgrown their space somewhat.

Here they are, back in January, and you can see that they are swamping the  border, which is suffering from too much shade.

You could say that they are overpowering the underplanting, as it were!

They are also encroaching outwards, onto the grass, which is an annoyance for the mower (who happens to be my friend Ian, but that has nothing to do with it, honest).

This meant that it was time to take action: and, being a variegated arrangement, my first task was to carefully check for and remove any reverted shoots: that is, shoots which have gone back to being plain green, and have lost that lovely green-and-yellow variegation.

Why? Because reverted shoots are "stronger" than variegated ones. This is because they are completely green: lots and lots of lovely chlorophyll for photosynthesis, compared to the variegated ones, which are partly non-green. 

I say "non-green", because variegated plants come in shades of yellow, silver, red: but anything other than plain green is going to have a lesser surface area of green, and is therefore going to be less efficient at processing sunlight.

This means that the shoots with green leaves tend to grow bigger, faster, than the variegated one, and - if left to their own devices - they will outcompete the variegated shoots. After a while, you find that the plant is no longer multi-coloured, but is mostly all plain green again! 


Right, first job, then: check for, and remove, all reverted shoots. 

Next job, remove a few of the lowest branches, right back to the main stems - right.

What a difference!

As you can see, even a few cuts generates a fair sized pile of cuttings.

As an aside, as a Professional Gardener, I always find it advisable to do this sort of job without the Client watching: or, at least, to dispose of the piles of debris before they come out to check on progress, as sometimes they panic when they see the sheer volume of waste which is produced by even a fairly light pruning job.

And there's nothing worse than being stopped part-way through a carefully planned pruning, after I have chosen exactly how much material to remove in order to leave it both healthy, and balanced in appearance....

Having removed the reverted material, and made my chosen cuts, I can then step back, assess the result, and make any further small adjustments: often you find that removing a couple of the lower limbs reveals that some of the upper ones are flopping downwards too much, or you notice the odd sticky-out bit which needs to be nipped off, in order to leave a pleasing shape.

Usually, I then take a break and dispose of the cuttings, which gives the tree a chance to "settle", and gives me a chance to assess it with fresh eyes, as I return from the bonfire pile. 

Sometimes, this fresh look makes me aware that a little bit more finessing is required: sometimes it all looks fine, in which case, the pruning part of the job is done.

I can then rake up the odd bits of debris on the lawn, rake out a year's worth of dead leaves from the border, and then, oh joy, I can get underneath the trees without being stabbed to death by prickly Holly leaves, to properly weed that border, check on the underplanting, and replace any smothered plants which have died, or which are so feeble that they are better off being removed.

And then - final job - I can re-cut the edge of the grass properly, which will please me, because I like nice neat edges!

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