Tag Archives: pruning

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!

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Doing The Crabapple Tango

Don’t worry, it’s safe to read this post – the Crabapple Tango is nothing like the Green Apple Two-Step. I won’t even mention diarrhea. (Okay, technically I just did, but that’s all for this post.)

Most people have probably never heard of the Crabapple Tango, but anyone with a fruit tree knows what I’m talking about.

First you need a fruit-laden tree and a stepladder. Ideally, the tree will have been pruned by an irresponsible orangutan with the express intention of creating an impenetrable mat of tough branches garnished with millions of spiky twigs.

Like all fine dance performances, proper preparation begins months in advance. Throughout the summer the tree should be repeatedly drenched with road dust, pollen, tiny black bugs with an affinity for human mucous membranes, and that particular brand of sticky dirt that’s peculiar to apple trees.

The crabapples must be at that precise pinnacle of ripeness whereby half of them rain down upon the performer’s head at the slightest disturbance of the branches, but the rest are so firmly attached that it’s necessary to twist and yank them loose. This sets up the proper blend of tension/release in the dance.

As always, stage layout is critical. The ground beneath the tree should never be flat or level. And the tree should be jammed in the inside corner of a five-foot tall fence, making it impossible to safely access it from any angle.

Ideally, the Crabapple Tango should be performed on a windy day in bright sun. This adds to the entertainment value while the audience waits to see whether the performer will be thrown bodily from the tree by wind-tossed limbs or merely blinded by looking directly into the sun while reaching for the topmost branches.

Once all is prepared, it’s time to introduce the star of the performance.

Me.

Yes, the crabapples were ripe this weekend, so that was my cue to drag out our stepladder and attempt to inflict grievous injury upon myself. Fortunately I failed, but anyone watching would have given me points for trying.

I had the requisite sun and wind, and after picking everything I could reach from the ground I took to the ladder to reach the apples twelve feet up.

Having suffered abrasions to both epidermis and equanimity while contorting myself through the web of branches, I poised precariously on the second-from-the-top step. With one thick branch pressing into my stomach and another crushing my kidneys, I made a 90-degree pivot, locking myself between the branches… just as the wind gusted.

Trees move in the wind. A lot. And their branches don’t move as a unit. More like scissors, actually.

Balanced on one foot on the ladder, I performed my most emotive tango yet, arching and dipping and twisting. I managed to escape, but it was a near thing.

And the whole time I was thinking, “I don’t need all these crabapples. I don’t even want all these crabapples.” But I was powerless to stop the dance, possibly because I was brought up to never waste food, or maybe just because I’m an idiot.

But I’ve got almost four bushels of crabapples to show for it.

Anybody got some new crabapple recipes? I’ve got jelly, jam, applesauce, apple butter, cider, spiced crabapples, cake, muffins, and pie…

* * *

P.S. I was the irresponsible orangutan who pruned the tree. Next year I’m going to wait until the apples are ready and then just go up the tree with my saw to do my pruning and picking all in one efficient act. Juggling a sharp object on an unstable ladder… what could possibly go wrong?

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