If I had the stomach for it, I would keep track of the time I spend every year trimming back this tree and seven others like it. Four are parked rightupnextto the house; the others are in front of a fence. It’s pretty obvious that the previous owner—let’s call her Betty—wanted vertical elements in these spots. Along the house, they make a certain amount of sense, because they break up an otherwise extremely dull expanse of siding. But couldn’t she have picked something that would’ve been vertical and a little less labor-intensive?
Our first summer here, I puzzled over these things for a long time, trying to figure out how to prune them. There is no central trunk; rather, there are dozens of stems, most of them dead, around which Betty apparently painstakingly threaded and twined the shoots of new growth. The trunks—for want of a better term—are tangled and interwoven in a way that is utterly confounding. And since most of the wood in the middle is dead, the new shoots tend to flop over, making a godawful mess that is absolute hell to cut back. I never know where to start. And it’s such a big job (the by-the-house trees were already above the soffits in mid-May) that I can never manage to cut all the trees in a single day, which means they never match. Something’s always too short, too sparse, or too overgrown.
This year I decided on draconian measures and just cut the hell out of them, lopping all of them from 10-12 feet down to about 6. I finished the last one, shown above, this afternoon. Yes, it looks sparse. But so did its brothers around the corner when I hacked them back less than a month ago. And just look at ’em now:
They already need trimming again. Feh!
To add insult to injury, when I came inside to recuperate, I felt a bug crawling on my neck. I brushed it away, and it fell right into my cleavage—never a good thing. I fished it out and it fell into our plush new carpet, where it burrowed like a mother. I finally extracted it, with some difficulty…and it was a Japanese beetle. I’d noticed holes in the tree’s leaves when I was trimming but didn’t think much about it, because frankly I just don’t care. Stupid high-maintenance tree.
So now I have a dilemma: Try to get rid of the beetles, or just let nature take its course? I know, I know: Japanese beetles + landscape plants = bad. But I’m telling you, it’s extremely tempting to just stand back and let the dominant species win.