Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hacking my plum tree

Last winter we had a storm that took out about a third of the branches on an ornamental plum in my back yard. All the area that is clear sky in the first picture was filled in with lovely foliage. There is a chair there sitting below the tree and it's empty because what we used to call the "shade garden" has now become one of the sunniest spots in the yard. I used to go there every morning with a cup of coffee and watch the flowers grow. Now I go there to work on my tan.

The orange day lilies are the only happy recipients of this change. They like their bed a little sunnier and have given us a great show of color this year. But, day lilies are not the boss of me! I want my shade back.

While trimming the dogwood to the left of the tree last week, I cut out a nice sized cane that had a beautiful "v" shape to it. I was wishing I could magically graft it onto the plum when I noticed a long sucker coming up along the trunk of the plum where my shade branches once waved proudly. I was about to prune it off when I remembered how my wife and I had once shaped the angle of branches on some young fruit trees. We learned this from an episode of Victory Garden years ago. Essentially you can guide a trees growth by forcing the young branches to any shape you want by attaching them to forms or lengths of wood.

I grabbed the dogwood branch and cut it into a more manageable size. I then tied it to the plum trees trunk and gently bent the sucker to match the "v" shape of my dogwood guide and tied it down. You can see my sloppy rope and knot work in the picture below.

If this works, the branch should grow out into the open area and in a couple of years give me the shade that I miss. I'll check the branch this fall and decide then if I should remove my guide or not. I may leave it on to give it a little extra strength over the winter months.

Check back in September for an updated picture.

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