PRUNING ESPALIER APPLES AND REPOTTING BAY LAUREL TREES

INCREDIBLE TO THINK THAT JUST 3 WEEKS AGO, THESE SHRUBS WERE ALL UNDER FEET OF SNOW. NOW, PANSIES ARE PLANTED IN NICE, RICH SOIL. I COULDN’T RESIST GETTING SOME COLOR INTO THE GARDEN.
I spent a good part of last year searching for a low cost, light weight pair of 36 inch wide containers for two of our largest bay laurel standards (topiary trained giants), and although I found some containers at Lowe’s early in the spring, their nearly $200 price was a bit high. I thought that I might take a chance, and wait until November, when garden pottery gets marked down on clearance to make room for the Holiday decor, and my bet paid off. I was able to get both pots for 60% off. I might have been able to wait for a lower price, but with pots this size, it seemed best to not wait any longer. Since the bay laurels were already in the greenhouse, it seemed best to wait until spring to repot these giant trees. Anything to avoid moving them in and out of the greenhouse one more time.

These plastic, rotomolded pots have a nice sandstone color and finish, so much nicer than what we had before, which one one lead colored square pot, and a second terra cotta colored plastic pot. Clearly, the far East is getting better in molding plastics ( I should know, as a designer at Hasbro). The only problem I can find is that they are light weight, which is both a good and a bad thing.

Easy to move around, but one heavy thunderstorm or wind gust, and these huge lollypop trees could topple. I had a few thick pieces from a nicer clay pot that were quite heavy that I saved exactly for this reason. Well, ok–not exactly, I was too lazy to haul them to the dumpster, and now I found a way to use them.

We use good quality Pro Mix BX for these large pots, augmented with sharp sand and some garden loam to help maintain porosity. After trimming the root ball down on these 15 year old trees, I centered them in each pot, made sure that the trunks were vertical, and then filled each pot with the soil mixture. Watered well, I was very happy — even thrilled, to finally having accomplished this repotting task, for as many of you know, I’ve been stressing about finding the right pots for some time now – about two years. After repotting…..I noticed a problem….

…one potted in pots exactly the same size, the two trees no longer looked like they were the same height. I never calculated the fact that one of the older pots was a long-tom Italian clay pot, which was about 10 inches taller than the other pot, so although the two trees were trained to look the same, the trunks were actually quite different in length.

A little creative pruning with a nice gift of hand tools that the nice folks at Troy Bilt sent each of us Saturday 6’ers as a thank your for being a spokesperson for them for the past two years ( I am no longer affiliated with Troy Bilt), I could see that I could trim up one of the trees, at least enough so that one cannot notice the difference as much. I am confident that with a years; worth of growth the difference will be minimal. Please look past the mess here, this was my first time working outdoors, and I have yet to clean up after the snomageddon.
PRUNING APPLE ESPALIER
It’s late to prune apples, but these espalier are more for looks and garden form than they are for fruit, but after a few nice apples last year, I am going to fuss with them a little more. February is the proper time to prune apples, but these trees were completely buried until 3 weeks ago, when I pruned them first. Now, I decided to work with them a little bit more, constructing a bamboo frame based of some photos that I took the last time I visited Japan.
Perhaps over kill, it was fun to build, and it should help support the branches in a less intrusive way than the typical method seen here in North America, where the stems are tied directly to the canes. Here, bamboo cross bars either support or suspend branches, branched which have been pruned more intensively than normal.
By the end of the day, I realized that I had spent most of my time fussing with the fruit trees (with more to come next weekend when the new pears and currants arrive). I actually got sunburned too, which kind of felt nice after, well, you know.

This was the first year that I decided to cover the tree peonies with Styrofoam cones which are designed for roses. These were costly plants which were a gift from Song Sparrow Nursery a few years ago, and I cherish them as this far north in New England, most of the fancy tree peonies are challenging to winter over. This year, each stem has a bud, and there appears to be no winter damage. I think that I will be covering all of my tree peonies next fall.

Lastly, many of the agapanthus were repotted, or potted up as well. The root systems on these tubs are massive, almost completely white with fleshy roots, but that is normal, and is to be expected. This species above is a rare and lovely one, Agapanthus innapertus, a nearly black flowered form with pendant blossoms which hang almost directly straight downward, it’s deciduous here, and it blooms late in the summer, so repotting this species in spring is fine, whereas most of the other species prefer to be repotted just after blooming.

A nice last note – a robin nests in this tree every spring, I doubt that it is the same robin, nor offspring but it could be, for it seems to nest in the tree before May 1st every year for the past 7 years or so, often before I can relocate the tree. I took these two trees out of the greenhouse yesterday morning, and I had them laying on the ground until I could repot them in the early afternoon on Sunday. There were only potted up for about one hour before I heard a robin sounding an alarm sound. When I looked up from making the espalier form, I could see that a robin had already pulled rope, sweet pea ribbon and strings that I had swept out of the greenhouse into the tree. Apparently, no time to waste this spring, but then, who could blame them this year.

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