My Eternal Prunus laurocerasusThursday, November 10, 2011
Today Thursday, with its sunny disposition and the threat of a storm to come meant that Rosemary and I spent it in the garden. Sometimes Rosemary gets depressed as getting a garden ready for winter is sort of like washing the dead before burial. There is that one difference that one knows that a garden’s death is only temporary. What is discomforting, particularly when one is of that certain age, that one may not be around come spring. I am not being morbid, just stating the facts.
I took the picture here sometime in the early 90s with my Widelux swivel lens panoramic and Kodak b+w Infrared film. The odd dual toning of what should be a monochrome b+w print is because I used Agfa Portriga photographic paper which I dipped in a hot and very strong solution of selenium toner (a known carcinogen). Portriga reacted like that in what came to be called split toning. Unfortunately the paper has not been available for years.
The photograph shows the march of time in our garden. Sometimes we think trees are forever and forget that all living things must face decline, old age and mortality. The last two shaped conifers on the right and the one on the left are long gone. They succumbed to root rot as at least 8 others of these Lawson Cypresses in our garden. Except for two, all the weeping birches on the boulevard, right, were cut down by the city as they had been ravished by the birch borer. We replace one of the dead cypresses on the right with a Himalayan Birch that has somehow managed to survive the birch borer that killed the birches on the street.
Since 1986 we have lost two cherry trees, one apple tree, many little dwarf conifers (they do not like wet ground) and four Japanese Maples. The latter died of something called Verticillium Wilt which is quickly lethal. But for a reason unknown to me our Acer palmatum ‘Senkaki’ (Coral Bark Maple) has soldiered one with vigor.
On Tuesday the folks from the Bartlett Tree Experts Company came to our garden to prune the stuff much too high or tough for one of the arthritic owners of the garden to handle. The name of the game, and even Rosemary understood this time, is that as gardens mature, they do not only become more shady but there is a tremendous reduction of light. Shade tolerant plants can deal with shade but all plants need light. The Bartlett people brought light into our garden with some judicious pruning that I did my best to tell the to do without adversely affecting the shape of some of our trees.
But in all this growing and dying in our garden our Prunus laurocerasus (common laurel) hedge has always been the same. It just grows and every year I must face it and spend many days pruning it to shape. At first, years back when youth was still a not yet gone memory I went at it with secateurs. Then I became a bit less of a purist and used normal but very sharp hand shears.
My arthritis would now render my elbows inoperable after a few minutes of the hand shears. Last year was the first year I used electric shears. The purist would scoff in disapproval as electric shears are not always able to cut thicker branches and the shears tend to go at leaves without cutting them clean off. This means that a month later a hedge can look pretty messy (for a while, anyway).
When we first moved in my eldest daughter’s boyfriend whose parents had a farm feed business in Ladner offered to bring me horse manure. I cringe when I think of how stupid I was. I shoveled horse manure under the hedge to make it grow. I was innocent to the chore that would eventually face me.
This year I have been cutting of (with secateurs) those hedge branches that would stick up. It does not look all that messy. But the hedge awaits and I know that come spring I will have to tackle it. Now if that apparently eternal laurel has any influence I suspect I will be around to do the job.