February - the 2nd Level of Awakening

Yellow—pruning—pink—warmth—spring azures out, and subtle things awake.

Start with the beautiful parts, the first balmy warm days, the flush of early bloom, most of it yellow (acacia, oxalis, daffodils, mustard) or pink-to-white (flowering plums, magnolia).  Birds starting to sing again, and all outdoors beckoning.  End with pruning.

The time of year when pruning happens.  Once upon a time, pruning was something that made healthy, great-looking trees look even better.  But now a different set of “pruning” seems to be gaining yearly in popularity; we could call it minimalist pruning.  Its aim appears to be to get rid of all the messy, twiggy clutter that might be able to produce a leaf or a flower, leaving a sort of sculptural-looking, cartoon-tree made of branches no thinner than a 4 by 4.

Just this year, revisiting my/our old home place, I was dealt a heart-sickening shock to see what mayhem a couple of the new owner/tenants had visited upon the trees in their yards (one huge, old pear tree in particular), presumably in the name of pruning.  The poor things looked like those pathetic remnants of trees you see in pictures of no-man’s land in WWI.  The vegetable personification of agony—silent, truncated snags that were once so beautiful, fine trees, raising their handless arms to heaven as if to beg for a quick death.

If real, proper pruning is a haircut and manicure, this new kind of “pruning” is amputation.

Wouldn’t it be better to just prune at ground level and get it over with?

The latest development in this new style of pruning is to apply it not only to the traditional deciduous trees but to evergreens as well.  You should have seen that stone pine, freshly divested of every green part—it looked like a skinned gibbon.

Some people actually pay money to have things done to their valuable trees that would more properly be rewarded by a lawsuit.