In the shade of our old pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius), we are all smiles, but we took this picture knowing that its end was not far off. On Wednesday the 4th, one of the vice-principals at Venice High School had told me that the tree pruners were coming on Saturday and I was not to 'interfere' with them. On Friday, the 6th, we gathered after our Friday Potluck to pose before the magnificent old tree to say goodbye.
L to R on the ground, Felicia Tomasko, myself and Tré, Kattarina Erickson in the yellow hat, Juie Mann, Tuck and Arthur; in the tree, Eric Weinstein and Laurel. Last names supplied where I know them...
That comment came to be made because the last time the tree pruners were here about three years ago, I became enraged at the way they were doing their work and the lousy work they were doing and refused to let them go on ruining the trees in the Garden - and ruining the Garden at the same time. This same vice-principal was then hauled in on a Saturday morning to mediate the dispute.
I don't, per se, have a problem with trimming trees and even cutting them down, if needs be, but this is one of those jobs let to the lowest bidder and care of the trees is not a priority. The real focus seems to be to do something that will be noticed by the payees and damn it all if it's right or proper.
The pepper tree was doomed. I had known for about two years that it needed to come down - I had seen the fruiting bodies of fungi sprouting from the main trunk for at least the last two years. In my world, with that information, I resolved to tell everyone if they heard popping sounds, "Grab the dog and run!" This doesn't fly in the world of the Unified School System, so when the head of their tree department told me it was coming out, I was sad, but not devastated.
This tree had served not only as shade, but as a clinic of how not to prune trees. I never took a definitive count, but I saw better than forty bad cuts without even batting an eyelash - it had been butchered its entire life on this planet. It was enough to make one wonder why they hire people who either don't care about trees or actually hate them to do this kind of work (simply because they are the lowest bidder, of course!) In fact, it was one such cut done twenty years ago or more that killed the tree, not the work that is being done on it as I write these words.
In the center of the tree, one major branch was cut back incorrectly; you can see it in this photo, it is the somewhat flat piece in the very center. This exposed wood was left behind in a position where the tree could not heal the cut. This allowed termites into the interior of the tree, when it rained, water flowed into the tree's trunk and in came fungus and that was that. So, if one wants to get pissed off, it's the 'lowest paid' worker from some twenty years ago that killed this tree. Most of us, with our short attention spans, can't fathom a death that takes twenty years, yet, in trees, I see it all the time. There are two trees in my neighborhood that were badly cut two years ago I know have been cut so wrongly that they are just as dead as this pepper tree. The homeowners paid off their cheap labor and are living smugly thinking they saved a buck or two - but they will be surprised when they have to pay to remove a dead tree. Their savings are false economy.
I planted a California Coast Live Oak next to the pepper tree to take its place as our patio shade tree. Sadly, I need to report, our lowest bidders dropped a large chunk of the pepper tree on the little oak tree breaking it in half. It will survive, I believe. I am hoping it wasn't set back too much, although, my saying, "I'm patient, I'm a gardener" might come back to haunt me.
For us, our wonderfully shaded patio is now in blazing sun! We will be warmer and brighter - we will loose some of our plants that liked the shade they no longer will have. The atmosphere of the patio has been drastically changed. It's a whole new ball of wax.