Safety in Numbers, 2.0…

“My trees are too close together” or “My trees are touching.” I hear that a lot. I respond, “They are holding hands. and it’s O.K.” Trees like to be in the company of other trees. It helps them communicate. It helps them share the load of wind stresses, it helps them share resources, it helps them fend off attackers, it keeps them from being lonely.

A Douglas fir or Ponderosa pine or California black oak all by itself is a lonely tree indeed. Not to say there aren’t some stoic or stellar examples of singular specimens out and about, but for the most part, they need companionship.

There is no such thing as a single tree forest!

If you are considering planting a tree in your yard, why not two? Or better yet, three? You can choose different canopy types, growth rates, shapes and such and “form to fit” them into a landscape plan more often than not.

Everyone knows Eucalyptus are shallow-rooted, failure-prone hazardous disasters just waiting to barf a limb or fail in total and crush everything in their path, right?

Hogwash! Just look at the vast groves along western Marin and Sonoma County a few hours south of us and crunch the real numbers. You will find the failure rate of these “forests” are actually pretty darn low. Yes, when they do fail, it is serious business if they are huge, but overall they are hell for strong, the strongest tree you’ll ever see…

Our recent big wind events have proven to me that I will never again buy a spruce tree that was raised in a plastic pot ever again. I can’t count the failures of various spruces around town on less than five hands. Every single one with the exception of a twin top puking was a blowdown failure due to uprooting.

All of these failures was a single tree taking the brunt of the wind without the aid of their brethren to dissipate the load and their poorly formed pot bound start in life just didn’t have the capacity to provide anchorage.

Most really large total tree failures are loners. Trees in a grove that fail are almost always the edge trees, and that makes sense, right? Hard to fall flat on your face when standing in a crowd. Truth be told, I can’t stand crowds, but have great friends so there’s that…

Give your tree a couple of great friends and you can’t go wrong!

When planting multiples, watch out for arrangement with “threes.” Two trees will always be in a straight line no matter what you do but three trees lined up is avoidable. Unless, of course, you are going for a formal row kind of thing planting scheme.

I visited a private arboretum on the east coast a few years back, and the curator had literally thousands of plantings that you could call “stuffed” together. Funny thing is, they all fit together PERFECT! It was the most impressive planting scheme I have ever seen, it looked like the whole collection evolved in place and in a sense, it kinda did as the various plantings took place over time. This collection had just about every different type, shape, texture, size. color and it fit together like a big beautiful puzzle!

Guess what else?

Yep, every tree was TOUCHING! Thousands of trees touching each other, holding hands, chatting like old friends. The first tree in semi direct contact with the last, all happy campers.

Prune your conifers now, and prepare for fruit tree pruning next month.

As always, plant high and often…

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