Magazine article Sunset

Mountain Garden Notebook

Magazine article Sunset

Mountain Garden Notebook

Article excerpt

every November I walk through my garden - pruning saw in hand - casting a critical eye on my trees. I think large, mature trees should either have branches that run clear to the ground, like those on my Korean fir, or are pruned up high enough to walk under, as on my Austrian pine.

Low horizontal branches are hard to work under when I'm weeding and mulching, and they're a pain to mow under. So, except on weeping trees, I remove every branch between ground level and the top of my head, unless a particular tree is too short for such radical surgery.

To make sure I've pruned high enough, I walk through the garden right after a rain. Heavy with water, the branches are about as low as they'll be with all that new growth next year. If they're too low, I cut them out.

AMERICAN ARBORVITAE VS. CANADA HEMLOCK

The classic conifer for creating a screen is Thuja occidentalis 'Fastigiata' - a green, columnar form of American arborvitae that's usually sold as 'Pyramidalis'. But if you've seen how a load of snow can deform its branches, you've probably wondered whether there's a better alternative. Dick Rifkind, who works with a wide range of conifers at Bumble Bee Nursery in Kingston, Idaho, tells me he's increasingly recommending Canada hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). …

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