The Crabapple Dirge

I’ve been gardening for a long time, and I like to think I (mostly) know what I’m doing.  I usually have pretty flowerbeds and tasty veggies.  But fruit trees?  That’s another matter entirely.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember the tale of Doing the Crabapple Tango.  In it, I mentioned that my crabapple tree had been pruned by an irresponsible orangutan:  Me.  (Or rather, not pruned; merely allowed to grow into a mess of crisscrossing branches.)

Fast-forward to 2016, when I eagerly planted two cherry trees, two apple trees, a crabapple, a peach, and a plum tree at our new place.  I use the word “trees” loosely here – they were actually more like whippy little twigs.  But that was okay, because I had resolved that this time I was going to prune my trees properly right from the start.  And I’d never have to do the Crabapple Tango again!

So I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and read long dissertations on the correct methods of pruning and shaping… and then I went out last weekend with my pruners.  (Yes, it was time — the sap was already rising in the cherry trees.)

I just want to say that I hate pruning.  I like growing plants, not hacking pieces off them.  But all the gardening websites say it has to be done, so I steeled myself for the task.

I consulted the videos again.  I walked around and around my trees, studying the bud locations and visualizing where and how the new limbs would grow.  Then I trimmed out crossing branches and branches going toward the centre of the tree, and made heading cuts to encourage new branches at the height I wanted.

Then I crept back into the house weighed down by a huge black cloud of guilt over butchering my poor trees.  Where before I had perky little saplings, now I have sad little truncated twigs standing forlornly in full view of all the windows, where I’ll be forced to look at them every day and contemplate my sins.

I feel so awful about what I’ve done that I’m not even going to post pictures — it would be like a murderer posting photos of her innocent victims.

I hope they live.  All the gardening sites say they will, and I really did follow their instructions; but the poor wee twigs are heart-wrenching.  I don’t know whether it would be best if they survive to absolve me of the guilt, or die quickly so I can buy new unmutilated ones and pretend this whole sorry affair never happened.

Maybe from now on I’ll just let them grow the way they want.  Really, the Crabapple Tango wasn’t so bad — there was a high probability of personal injury, but at least my conscience was clear.

Would somebody please tell me that this is all normal and my trees are going to be okay?  (Feel free to lie through your teeth if necessary.)

’Cause I’m really hoping I won’t have to write a Crabapple Dirge.

*bells toll solemnly in the background*

Book 14 update:  Chapter 44 and counting.  My books usually come in around 50 chapters, but this one is ballooning.  Time to sharpen my editing knife!

23 thoughts on “The Crabapple Dirge

  1. Be patient. The first couple of years it is better for the tree if you remove all of the fruit and let the tree concentrate it’s energy on putting on lots of healthy roots. Do NOT overdo the nitrogen or your plants will be spindly.

    Then in future years, if you want the fruit to be good tasting and large, follow the adage “look up, not down, when you thin.” If you look down at the ground at all of the small fruit you’re removing you’ll panic. Only look at the branches and make sure you aren’t letting them overload. 😉


    • Ah, that’s excellent advice! I’m hoping my trees are putting out major roots. Some pruning sites say that you should prune young trees hard because it allows their roots enough time to catch up with the top growth; other pruning sites say you shouldn’t prune young trees hard because they need all the energy from their leaves to build strong roots. *sigh*

      I’m just hoping they live long enough to produce fruit for me to thin.


  2. My former neibour said to prune trees so a large bird could fly through it. Her husband and I did not think they meant a 747. But apples to no end so it must have worked.


  3. Chill, Sista. Your trees will LIVE!!! And GROW!!! And FLOURISH!!! I mean, seriously. Think the kind of production others get with zooks. Yeah, like that.

    Am I omniscient? Am I prescient? Am I completely clueless? Okay, okay, one outta three ain’t bad, I guess.

    No, what I am is CONFIDENT!!! You got this, Sista. Really. I mean, BOOK FOURTEEN, okay? Tree pruning? Pbtpbt. You got this. Chill.

    Me? I can hire the best professional, and mine would still tank. But that’s just me.

    And at the eight-thix-and-approxthimately-thiz-theventh perthent point on writage and THITH FREAKING CLOTHE TO DONE WITH PLOTTAGE??


  4. Oh if you want to more than 50 chapters that’s fine by me more to read and longer before we are champing at the bit and trying to get you to write the next one quicker


    • The length of a book is always a tough choice – I feel as though anything over 50 chapters is turning into a slog. If it really needs more chapters to tell the whole story, that’s okay; but it might just mean that the whole thing needs to be tightened up. First I’ll finish pouring out the story, and then I’ll put on my ruthless editor’s hat!


  5. I an just amazed that you can grow fruit trees at all! We have some apple trees around here, but they are stunted and can often be seen shivering in the cold months (September thru May). I didn’t know that a lot of fruit even grows on trees as I have only seen the fruit in a grocery store. I just assumed they all come from the tropics, like Iowa.


    • “The tropics, like Iowa” – LOL! I’m surprised apples don’t do well out there – even in Manitoba’s deep freeze and Alberta’s crazy yo-yo weather, my apple trees thrived. Maybe it’s too windy for them near the Great Lakes?


  6. Wellllllll . . .

    It’ll either turn out like our burning bush did, which was fine – glorious, even – or like our butterfly bush, which died. To be honest, I don’t think the pruning killed the butterfly bush, it was just a horrible coincidence. So . . . it’ll be fine!! And if something dies, IT’S JUST A COINCIDENCE . . .


  7. I’m sure your trees will recover.
    I remember my mother chopping a candle 🕯 many years ago she didn’t live it down for many years but it was a candle and they burn down as apposed to growing back.

    Your trees will look fabulous remember you sometimes have to be cruel to be kind, your trees may respond by growing more and better fruit in years to come.

    I hope I’ve helped


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