[Homestead] Hurricane pruning of trees
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Sep 23 20:48:23 EDT 2004
Too-dense foliage sneaks up on you without you being aware of loss of
vistas. It will stay open with palms other than palmettos.
Give you a chance to get rid of those noxious pepper trees.
The Live Oaks are bullet-proof unless there is a too-shallow soil over
coral so the roots have no anchorage. Too bad Banyan Trees can't survive
Gulf Coast winters---they are a lot like Live Oaks, but even more
bullet-proof in shallow soil layers.
The New York Times
September 23, 2004
Ill Winds Improve the View
*By ANNE RAVER*
THERE'S an old truth about hurricanes: they take out the trees that
gardeners don't have the heart to cut down. Like wildfires, they clear
the land of deadwood. They fell trees weakened by disease or stunted
roots, leaving only the strongest — or the luckiest — when skies clear.
Such ruthless pruning not only reveals which plants can stand up to a
100-mile-an-hour wind, but suddenly opens up a view long forgotten.
"When I saw the garden the day after Charley, my first thought was, `Oh,
the vistas,' " David Price, the director of horticulture at Historic Bok
Sanctuary in Lake Wales, Fla., said, speaking about five weeks after
Hurricane Charley crossed the state.
The 250-acre garden sits on top of Iron Mountain, at 298 feet above sea
level the highest point in the state. From there Mr. Price looked south,
through a grove of old live oaks that had held steady through the winds,
toward 1,700 acres of orange groves in the valley below. To the west
Mountain Lake shimmered through a tree line thinned by half in the
storm. "Now I'm tempted to cut down a few more oaks blocking the view,"
Just before Hurricane Ivan smashed through Pensacola in mid-September,
gardeners in central Florida and along the coast were beginning to lift
their heads from clearing the wreckage of fallen trees and mangled
shrubbery left by Charley, which roared by on Aug. 13, and Frances,
which crawled through three weeks later.
In many places Charley and Frances took 70 percent of the canopy,
stripping live oaks of their leaves, felling weaker trees like laurel
oaks, snapping branches off magnolias and leaving camellias and other
shade-loving shrubs to scalding sun.
Gardeners who are still "picking up sticks," as they say — big ones —
are being forced to think anew about the sorts of plants that might best
go in the bare spaces. No hurricanes have swept through Lake Wales since
Donna, in 1960. "But meteorologists studying rising temperatures and
weather patterns think we may be seeing more hurricanes the next two
decades," Mr. Price said.
No plant is hurricaneproof, as attested by all the native live oaks that
went down, despite their reputation for being able to survive storms.
Bok lost 23, including one 80-footer that crashed into the reflecting pool.
The McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, Fla., lost about a dozen live
oaks, some 300 years old, in its jungle hammock. The trees were
shallow-rooted, growing over limestone. Two tall slash pines, natives
that usually just bend with the wind, were lifted out of the soft,
saturated soil and crashed into a pool at the entrance. "I'm going to
miss those big old slash pines," said Janet Alford, the executive director.
At Mounts Botanical Garden, a 14-acre public garden in West Palm Beach,
the director, Allen Sistrunk, mourned the downing of his tamarind and
sapodilla trees, but saw the opportunity posed by the loss of three
70-foot eucalyptus trees. "They were planted too close together," he
said. "Now we may only upright one of them, the white eucalyptus, which
glows at night." And across the flattened trees, Mr. Sistrunk now enjoys
a view of three regal queen palms on the south side of the garden.
Palm trees hold up beautifully in storms: their limber trunks bend with
the wind, which blows right through their fronds. So savvy Floridians
know they shouldn't believe any tree company that shows up just before
hurricane season to prune their palms. "Hurricane pruning is a racket,"
Mr. Sistrunk said. "I've seen palm trees pruned to a Q-Tip."
Take too many fronds off, and you deprive the palm of its ability to
photosynthesize, actually hurting its chances in a hurricane. Unpruned
sabal palms have done fine for centuries without help from the knife.
Paurotis palms, native to the Everglades, have also evolved with the
high winds of seasonal storms, which do them the favor of cleaning out
their dead brown fronds.
Ficus trees, on the other hand, develop massive trunks and dense
canopies that catch the wind like sails, so they can topple over and do
great damage during a storm. Such trees should be pruned judiciously.
Some ficus trees put down aerial roots from their lateral branches as an
anchor to the ground. Prune too many, and you destabilize the tree.
Live oaks, which grow slowly, generally do well, because they have dense
wood and roots that can spread 150 feet — unless they are growing over
limestone rock, as at coastal gardens like McKee and Mounts. The live
oaks that went down at Bok had insufficient roots or weak points in
their trunks where two branches had grown together but had not fused,
Mr. Price said.
Old, weakened trees could well be growing in your yard, leaning over the
house or car — and high winds aren't confined to hurricane zones. All
such trees should be examined carefully, by a certified arborist if
possible, to avoid damage in the next storm. Advice on finding a
certified arborist is available from the International Society of
Arboriculture, www.isa-arbor.com or (217) 355-9411.
But left to their natural form, live oaks have dense interlocking wood
that is nearly impossible to cut down. "You have to tear it," Mr. Price
said. That is why the hulls of ships, like Old Ironsides, were built of
it. So if you have the climate, the room and the time to watch a live
oak spread out in your yard, it's a magnificent shade tree well worth
But customers are already appearing at nurseries like Rockledge Gardens,
near Cocoa Beach, Fla., demanding fast-growing trees. "They say, `I want
my shade back,' " said Kevin Reilly, the owner. They ask for laurel
oaks, sycamores, Chinese elms, all the fast growers that tend to have
weak wood. Many want instant shade to protect their camellias, but no
tree can grow fast enough to keep the sun from scalding the camellia's
lustrous green leaves.
At Harry P. Leu Gardens overlooking Lake Rowena in Orlando, a collection
of 2,500 camellias, all selected before 1940, are now frying in the sun.
The garden lost 135 large trees, including laurel oaks, sweet gums and
pines. "So we will probably move things around a bit," said Robert
Bowden, the executive director, and plant some sasanqua camellias,
"which can take the sun."
Many of the camellias look hopelessly mangled, with broken limbs and a
few green leaves on stumps. But if the trunk has not been gouged too
deeply the branches can be pruned, and new growth will burgeon. "There
were some little miracles," Mr. Bowden said, pointing to a great laurel
oak still standing close to the house, built in 1888.
Laurel oaks grow fast and offer generous shade, so they were frequently
planted in these parts. But with their weak, brittle wood, Mr. Bowden
advises against using them. He pointed out one old laurel oak leaning
across a walkway that perhaps should be cut down. The ground was soft
around the trunk and slightly higher on one side: telling signs for the
homeowner trying to secure the yard against the next storm.
Mr. Bowden worries that people with felled trees will rush to plant
fast-growing species like the camphor or the goldenrain tree for quick
shade. But both are invasive, growing like weeds, and should be avoided.
The garden's Web site (www .leugardens.org) lists storm-resistant trees
like bald and palm cypress, palms, Southern magnolia, holly, live oak,
river birch, yaupon holly, white cedar and trident maple. Susceptible
trees include Chinese elm, laurel oak, silk floss, hickory, Southern red
cedar and sycamore.
"Some people are just planting palms," said Mr. Reilly of Rockledge
Gardens. And though no landscape is stormproof, a yard planted with saw
palmetto, coontie (an American cycad) and sabal palms could be not only
striking and low-maintenance, but fairly secure in a hurricane. And
tropical plants like calatheas, with their strikingly patterned leaves,
and lily pad begonias grow so low that they can ride out a storm.
Mr. Bowden was amazed at how well his Southern magnolias had held up,
despite the size of their big leaves and the density of their canopies.
He stood by a lustrous specimen of D. D. Blanchard, a variety of
Magnolia grandiflora, which has shiny green leaves with orange-brown,
feltlike undersides, and declared that more people should plant them.
The Southern magnolia is a native of the coastal plain. So is the live
oak. But life is risky. Especially in a hurricane.
<http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html> The New
York Times Company <http://www.nytco.com/> | Home
<http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/privacy.html> | Search
<http://query.nytimes.com/search/advanced/> | Corrections
<http://www.nytimes.com/corrections.html> | RSS
<http://www.nytimes.com/rss> | Help
<http://www.nytimes.com/membercenter/sitehelp.html> | Back to Top
More information about the Homestead