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Monday
Feb012010

Confessions of a perfectionist

I like to be in control, at least as far as my garden goes. And I am a perfectionist. This is not to be confused with being perfect.

We have two dwarf apple trees. One is a red delicious and another is a golden delicious. These are not the best apple trees for our hot climate. Their flavor is mediocre, and they tend to be sickly and need more attention than I want to give. I have threatened to cut them down. However, last year they produced bushels of healthy, large fruit from which we made lots of yummy pies. So for now, they live.

Today I pruned them, cutting their tips back to about nine feet and cleaning up the interior to let in more sunlight. Lou offered to do this for me, but I initially delegated him to clean-up crew. I use some good Felco loppers, and with them I can almost reach as high as I need to cut. Almost.

Lou watched as I stretched and maneuvered between the branches.

"I could do that," he said. "I'm taller than you are." 

This made sense. I would supervise, and he would make the cuts.

"OK. Reach up there. No, not that one! Up a little. You need to cut above an outward facing bud. There. No, don't cut the bud! Above it! A clean cut! Don't rip it! " 

By the time he had made one cut, I was clinching my teeth. "You better let me do it," I said. 

"Yeah, I can see this is like plastic surgery. I'll get the ladder."

After that, we worked smoothly, with Lou picking up and hauling off the fallen branches and moving the ladder around the tree for me as I made the cuts. The trees look great now. Tomorrow I will spray them with dormant oil to protect against insects and diseases.

I wonder if there are any co-chief gardens out there, with two people equally and happily planning, planting, and maintaining their plot. I think it would be hard if Lou said too me, "No, I think this plant would be better," or if he said, "I think we should design it this way."

Fortunately, he is happy to be the garden helper, and I do ask his input and advice. Our team works well that way.

Just don't let me go near a car engine; I wouldn't want to do that anyway!

Other things I did in my garden today:

1. Fertilized emerging bulb shoots with a natural bulb-booster.

2. Embedded some flat stones and concrete blocks on a slope to make a secondary access to the woodland garden easier. Someday I may pay someone to build real steps. For now these work fine.

3. Transplanted an osmanthus fragrans about eighteen inches over to the right. Its position just looked a little off. I said I was a perfectionist.

4. Found flowers on my hellebores!

You may also like Pruning is fun and other basics you need to know.

 

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Reader Comments (12)

Once your apple trees bloom and set fruit, do you thin the fruit? If you don't, that can lead to erratic fruit setting. Bumper crops one year, scant sets the next.

As for pruning, we have a pretty good system. A spotter, and a lopper. The spotter on the ground can better appreciate the overall tree structure, and the lopper on the ladder makes the cuts with directions from the spotter. It does help if your lopper knows where/how to cut though :P

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

First Deborah, I am extremely envious that you have helleborus in flower. There is still so much snow here I fell that I will never see spring.
I am glad that Ian is not interested in the garden. I think that I would have a hard time giving up the vision that I have for the garden. Ideas that I have thought about for years, planning how one day, I would have a garden that I could do this in. Ian is great at the labour end, and does gives ideas occasionally (no painting the wood on the Kitchen Garden), but does not push them.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah at Kilbourne Grove

Your post made me laugh....just yesterday, I was helping my brother-in-law prune his peach and apple trees. I was directing and he would prune. Thankfully, that is how it works in my garden as well - my husband lets me have my way in the garden and provides the muscle when I need it :^)

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle (azplantlady)

How true! I don't trust anyone else with the loppers!

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrower Jim

Lovely hellebore! I'd love to have apple trees, but ... it's a rocket science for me. As for the helpers, yes, they need very close supervision and allowed to do only primitive things like hold, carry, dig and a very important -enjoy the garden!

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

I'm so jealous of your hellebores! We're months away from most any kind of bloom here in eastern Canada. Your photos are wonderful.

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Bond

Beautiful hellebores! I think it would not work for me if F. were too into gardening. As it is, he is willing to help -- very occasionally. And he does heavy stuff for me with no complaints. He might make a suggestion if he is passing through the garden and sees an easier way to do something. Otherwise, I am on my own, and I must say it works for me because I like the solitude out there, and I, like you, enjoy being in control of that space. I don't know if I'm a perfectionist in the garden, but I know how things should be done -- and I'd rather not have diseased or underperforming plants because of a mistake that I knew not to make. ;)

February 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

Although I don't have a clue what I'm doing (yet) in the garden, I still find myself biting my lip if someone else is there. I know I'm making mistakes, but I want those mistakes made MY way!

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Idiot Gardener

Lovely post..the photos are stunning! I love the macro of the center of the flower..magical!
KIki~

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

This post does remind me of my husband and I. He is fine with being the helper outside or doing the heavy work that I physically can't do. I've wondered what I would do if he wanted to do more on his own,
I've tried spraying my apple tree once with dormant oil but I didn't notice any difference with the amount of pests. This year I'm going to try the coddling moth traps to see it that helps with the worms.
You've got some beautiful hellebores, I'm glad you found so many blooming!

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Lovely hellebores and makes me think of all mine back home that I'm missing!

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

I'm so envious you have hellebores blooming! I must confess to also being a perfectionist and would much rather do the pruning myself!

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

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