Since we humans have pulled our lumbering and flipper-legged mass out of the primordial ooze we have been hard-wired to fear the darkness. The setting sun would have us scurrying under rock, climbing into canopy or slithering into backs of caves. Huddled and shaking we clung to each other waiting for the warmth and relative safety of the morning light. For in the darkness lies danger. Danger known and danger barely perceived. For it was a night such as this that brings me to your internet doorsteps today.
In the darkness outside of my (slightly more modern) cave a great terror arose from over the Pacific Ocean. The great storm. Dark and terrible it rained down it’s icy droplets and howled through my village (of San Diego) with apparently powerful winds. All of which I slept through without stirring a titch. I didn’t even wake up when my beloved coastal coral tree was split in three and came crashing down on my roof, my fence, and the street respectively.
The last link there being one I should have revisited last winter. The winter I decided to not do my annual pruning because I was “too busy” to tend to it. Too busy to remove the great mass of branches and leaves that is likely the very reason why she couldn’t withstand the night terror of a storm that did her in. Mostly.
Friday morning found me doing the normal routine. Butt scratching, a shower, bask my glorious facial hair in the sun of a hundred gods, and then walk the dog. I left the house and began the walk when I realized there was a giant mass blocking our path. In my morning haze, it took a few ticks before I realized what had occurred. This was what I walked right into…
What would mankind be without rudely trying to bend nature to their evil wills? Imagine a world where man realizes that any attempts at control are merely an illusion and every creature danced naked in the woods in joyous celebration of total peace and harmony. Ahh, soothing. And the exact opposite of the grotesque horrors in the form of massive and aggressive amputations gifted to my new grapefruit tree. Poor oroblanco, you came here to suffer for my aesthetic whims. Rest easy though, your suffering will be remembered in song and lore.
All of this would probably be more warmly received if I didn’t twirl my mustache and cackle maniacally during the process. But I have my methods and plant sensibilities be damned. But I’m not doing this just to pander to my false sense of control and dominance. There are very practical reasons to espalier a fruit tree. The rather obvious one is that it looks insanely cool as a landscape design feature. Like a white-gloves touch to the garden. Classy as a MF’er. It also makes for a perfect space-saving solution to those with limited garden space.
There’s an even more impressive scientific reason for this ancient methodology of fruit production. When trained against a wall, the light is reflected back onto the tree and the heat is stored during the day to keep the area warmer during the cooler nights. When trained in an open space, you can line it up to be parallel to the equator to totally maximize its fruit maturing potential. Both strategies serve to lengthen the fruit maturing season. Science is amazing. Be sure to science more than you do now.
“The word espalier is French, and it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against. During the 17th Century, the word initially referred only to the actual trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it has come to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.
Espalier as a technique seems to have started with the ancient Romans. In the Middle Ages the Europeans refined it into an art. The practice was popularly used in Europe to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space and to decorate solid walls by planting flattened trees near them. Vineyards have used the technique in the training of grapes for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years”
-Brown, Sydney Park; Yeager, Thomas H.; Black, Robert J. (September 2007) [May 1985]
That’s not a phrase I usually cry in despair and self-loathing, but it was today. I’ve been side-eyeballing my potted ficus on the front lawn in a very un-trusting manner for that last few months. Shiny leaves with a lush and deep green happy vigor and an ever expanding crown reaching towards the heavens are usually a really good sign. But this tree is in a pot that’s way too small for such growth.
There is a very good reason for such a limiting pot. It’s not because I hate this tree or wish to see it stunted or sad. It’s because the location I chose for this ficus is directly over my sewer lines going out into the street. As illustrated in this high-tech 3D rendering of the “brown line express” (oh, how crass!).
As a homeowner, you can imagine how costly it would be to have some root invasion for this essential poop escape highway! Like several grand to replace these pipes. And the last thing I want is any backing up or flooding in the house to let me know that I have made a grave error! Gross and costly are not my favorite combinations! Gross and cheap is okay in a pinch. Continue reading “Help!! My Plant is Healthy!”