Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Hidden Threats

With so many trees in my collection it's not always possible to give them the attention they deserve and I often miss threats lurking hidden behind their foliage. I recently noticed that one of my trees had half its leaves stripped off, but I have no idea what creature was responsible.

Today, while watering my trees, I was lucky enough to notice one of these threats hidden in plain sight.

When I first spotted this arrangement of "branches" on one of my younger trees, I thought that there was a thin twig growing across a dead branch, but on closer inspection I realised that the thicker "branch" was in fact a caterpillar. Of course he had to go.

The photographer in me wouldn't let him go without one more shot, seen here on a bamboo cane I use for moving creatures I don't want to touch.

I don't believe in killing anything bigger than an ant, so when I was done I moved him into a pot full of weeds. Hopefully he'll be happy to stay there and won't find his way back onto my trees.

Monday, 20 March 2017

An Entire Growing Season Wasted

It's been a year now since I last mentioned my fig tree, so I thought it was time for a quick update. Sadly things haven't quite gone to plan.

It was doing really well in spring, but the leader was getting far too long.

October 2016 - before pruning

I decided to shorten it so that I could get some ramification.

October 2016 - after pruning

The tree responded well. Within weeks there were lots of new branches developing more or less where I wanted them.

New growth - November 2016

Then disaster struck. Four days after the photo above was taken we were hit my a massive hail storm and all that lovely new growth was ripped off, leaving this:

November 2016 - after the hail

It's now four months since that storm and sadly the tree hasn't replaced those branches. After some lesser hail late last year, it's looking worse than ever.

March 2017

With winter approaching it appears that the entire growing season has been wasted. I guess all I can do now is wait to see how it responds next spring.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Clip and Grow Ficus - the Third Chop and Beyond

This little Ficus Natalensis has far exceeded my expectations in terms of the progress it made this summer. When I wrote about its second chop back in September, I was expecting to let it grow unchecked for the rest of the season.

August 2016 - after the second chop

However when I saw how much it had grown by December 2016, I reconsidered my decision.

December 2016 - before pruning

While I knew that the new leader still needed to thicken more, I followed my mentor's advice and cut it back to the third branch to allow it and the two branches growing from it to develop in better proportion. As the leaves were looking rather ragged due to hail damage, I decided to defoliate the tree at the same time.

December 2016 - after pruning and defoliation

It soon filled out again.

February 2017 - before pruning

A few days ago when I brought it inside to get a  photo for this post,  I realised that the branch on the right was becoming too dominant so I shortened that one.

February 2017 - after pruning

And that I expect will be the last work I do on it for quite some time. Hopefully now the branches will thicken in better proportion.

The two bottom branches on the left will probably be removed at a later date as there is no branch to balance the composition on the right hand side. With the frame that is starting to develop higher up, I suspect that once the tree fattens up, it won't need branches so low down anyway.

The root cutting has finally decided it wants to become another tree.

February 2017 - base of trunk and root cutting

With winter approaching I've decided to leave it with its parent tree until early next summer, so the move to a larger pot will have to wait.