Some thoughts on tree transplants PDF Print E-mail

Background:  I spent the last 20 years of my professional career at the L.A. County Arboretum, frequently starting trees from seeds or cuttings and growing them on in containers for varying lengths of time (over a decade in the case of some very tropical ones in the greenhouses).  To paraphrase the (typically perceptive) Yiddish-American joke, "By the LASFS, I'm an Expert. By Expert arboriculturists, I'm no Expert". That said... I'll present my thoughts and opinions ramblingly, rather than by strict email protocol.

As I mentioned in a LoC Marty generously published in his APA-L zine, the patio of the (proposed?) new building looks dreadfully barren.  I may have more to say about that after I've actually seen the place and checked-out the paving & drainage.  I suspect that we'd do best to settle for a few plants in relatively-inexpensive containers or half-tubs at least until interior renovations are completed and paid-for.

I'm strongly in favor of Time-Binding, in fandom, and support the idea of carrying-over plant material from the present/old site to the new one, but it looks as though this will have to be done in containers -- to which that lemon tree (or its offspring) isn't well-suited.

I've been following its progress (since it was first planted) with some initial doubts and much later admiration. The citrus family is notoriously undependable about coming true from seed, and we're lucky to have gotten good-tasting lemons from the random seed Rick Young planted -- and to have had that tree set out in a place where it could thrive under the benign neglect it received.

Yes, citrus trees _can_ be rooted from cuttings -- but it isn't easy or (IMO) practical without specialized equipment & conditions (an automatic intermittent mist system and bottom-heat).  That's part of the reason they're usually propagated by grafting a scion onto a seedling (commonly thorny wild lemon, I think) rootstock. 

Yes, a cutting or seedling from our Rick Young tree _could_ be grown on in a container, and I rather hope this is done, though I'm not volunteering to do it.  (I do intend/hope to obtain some seeds and try  to get a plant for my own yard, despite uncertainty about my living long enough to see it mature.)  Doing this successfully for more than a few years, however, seems extremely problematic.  Keeping such a naturally-large-growing tree small requires careful, frequent, and consistent attention to pruning, watering, feeding, and pest-control (with the latter becoming an increasing problem with age and frequent stress that renders it more susceptible to pest infestation).  Frankly (& bluntly), after c. 50 years of observation, I cannot trust that the LASFS can be counted upon to provide adequate care indefinitely (or even for more than a few years at most).

Sentiment aside, if we want a (small) lemon tree I think we'd be better off to buy a smallish plant of the 'Meyer Dwarf' variety, which can do well in a container for decades. 

Trees in containers might look (and be) nice -- I don't yet have enough of an idea of the patio to say much about this -- but generally the canopy can't be larger than about a maximum of twice the diameter of the container, and even that's a bit iffy in case of strongish winds, so a big tree or many small ones would seem to be right out.  If it comes down to a choice between using the area for people and using it for containers/trees, I think people would get priority. 

If we feel a Need for trees, I'd suggest smallish (sometimes grown as big shrubs) Australian or South African ones as possibly being rugged enough to survive (& even look pretty good) under the conditions and haphazard care they're likely to get. And, for other decorative containers, Australian & South African small shrubs, and succulents -- and of course geraniums, which can tolerate under-watering & occasional over-watering, and frequently have colorful blooms.  (And yes, I do happen to have some reasonably-suitable geranium plants grown from cuttings I stole liberated from the planters the second door down from the current LASFS building.) 

I'm planning on dropping by soon -- perhaps this coming Thursday -- and will try taking some cuttings of the LASFS Rosemary & perhaps cuttings or divisions of other plants, just in case they might be useful in a year or so. I might even try for getting some seeds from that Xanthorea quadrangulata, though I'd have to beg some old pantyhose from some member of the club. [It's kinda complicated, but the bloom/seed spikes need to dry for a year or more, and then the seed-pods explode; plant people have found that enclosing the spike in something like that is the best way of collecting the seeds.  And... errr... I don't happen to have access to any pantyhose (I hope no-one is surprised) and am too /t/h/r/i/f/t/y/ stingy to spring for buying a new pair.]   And I'll get a few seed-clusters from that Callistemon next the driveway -- they take a year or so to dry & release the seed, and it'll take a few years of training to get a trunk that heads-out reasonably high, but I'm game to try for it... while promising nothing more, of course.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 May 2011 )
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