Pruning reveals

Pruning in the southeast quadrant continues

Our yard, southeast quadrant, part 2

The southeast corner of our yard, from a 2nd story bedroom.  Left to right: orange Japanese Maple fall color; purple berries of Callicarpa (Beautyberry); Pacific Wax Myrtle; Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies'; bluish leaves of Osmanthus delavayii; Pinus contorta (Shore Pine); and red fall color of Berberis thunbergii 'Rose Glow,' the last barberry left in my yard.  My story today begins with the pine.

The southeast corner of our yard, from a 2nd story bedroom.  Left to right: orange Japanese Maple fall color; purple berries of Callicarpa (Beautyberry); Pacific Wax Myrtle; Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies'; bluish leaves of Osmanthus delavayiiPinus contorta (Shore Pine); and red fall color of Berberis thunbergii 'Rose Glow,' the last barberry left in my yard.  My story today begins with the pine.

Every time I prune on this pine, I am reminded anew how fun it is to "reveal."  

Pinus contorta, Shore Pine, native to the Pacific NW coast.

Pinus contorta, Shore Pine, native to the Pacific NW coast.

I started this Shore Pine as a baby, with its trunk and a branch making "V" angles to the ground. I had transplanted it as a seedling from my parents' cabin at the beach.  (I remember the day I planted it, my children barely kindergarten then, and now they are 26 and 28. Much is tied to the sweet feelings I have for this tree.)  

I used to candle this pine annually, until it just outgrew my ability (time wise) to keep up.  Now I let it grow, and make thinning cuts every third year or so. It seems to get lovelier with age each time I open it up.  

Or maybe I just fall in love with it all over again, each time I prune for this form.

Pinus contorta, Shore Pine, after pruning.

Pinus contorta, Shore Pine, after pruning.

I prune from the inside out (literally stand on the inside of the tree, and make thinning cuts from inside).  The pleasure here is in the sculpting of the sensuous form it wants to be, and also in the soft bed of needles.

Pine needles make the softest woodland floor.

Pine needles make the softest woodland floor.

These needles--I never throw them away!  Never rake them up, never compost them. (If you ever run across someone trying to trash their pine needles, do offer to take the debris off their hands!) They make a fantastic mulch layer for acid loving plants. And they are the best top-dressing over a woodland path. Almost no weeds will grow. And it is soft as a carpet.

Pruning for air circulation and sunlight, relieving overcrowding

Adjacent to the Shore Pine, there are more "formerly medium" shrubs, now "large," continuing to evolve. I rescued this Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies' from the ever-expanding Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica).

BEFORE: Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica, aka Morella californica) in center, before pruning. It is swallowing a Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies' at center right.

BEFORE: Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica, aka Morella californica) in center, before pruning. It is swallowing a Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies' at center right.

I limbed up the Mahonia, and pruned out Myrica and Pinus branches that were crowding the Mahonia. Wherever there was a conflict ("remove the pine branch? or the Mahonia branch?"), I always favored the Mahonia.  Giving the beautiful winter flower of 'Arthur Menzies' more light and breathing room, in this instance, was always the right decision.

AFTER: Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies,' after limbing up and removing neighboring branches that crowded it. It is flowering early this year--beginning mid- to late Nov. Freezes may catch these blooms, but if they last, the Anna's hummingbirds that overwinter here LOVE these flowers. It is great to place this and similar crosses such as 'Charity' where you can watch from windows.

AFTER: Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies,' after limbing up and removing neighboring branches that crowded it. It is flowering early this year--beginning mid- to late Nov. Freezes may catch these blooms, but if they last, the Anna's hummingbirds that overwinter here LOVE these flowers. It is great to place this and similar crosses such as 'Charity' where you can watch from windows.

A bit of a side track...but this is how the same plant looked four years ago, in spring. If pruning and editing is about the evolution of a garden, this is a show of "Four Years in the Life of" an Arthur Menzies Mahonia. In spring he features patterns of foliage and cascading blue berries.

Arthur Menzies Mahonia in June 2013.

Arthur Menzies Mahonia in June 2013.

To the left of the Mahonia, there's this beautyberry, which also received a little attention from simple hand pruners.  I removed a bit of the criss-crossing branches that make Callicarpa look tangly. This blooms on new wood, and late winter is best for heavier pruning, but a little selective thinning in fall is a treat for your vases indoors.

Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion' in November, Scappoose OR.

Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion' in November, Scappoose OR.

In the last of my pruning/removals stories from this section of my yard, next week I finish with these lovelies.  Tune in Monday...winter berries and evergreen foliages...the rewards of pruning.

Red berries of Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington Hawthorn). Planted here with yellow-and-green variegated evergreens Ceanothus 'El Dorado' and Elaeagnus ebbingei 'Gilt Edge'--a fantastic winter combination.

Red berries of Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington Hawthorn). Planted here with yellow-and-green variegated evergreens Ceanothus 'El Dorado' and Elaeagnus ebbingei 'Gilt Edge'--a fantastic winter combination.

Story and photography: Alyse Lansing©, all rights reserved.