Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reprieve for a tree

This tree has annoyed me almost since the first day I planted it. Why? Because:

1) I wanted a plum tree that actually, well, produced plums. Go figure. The guy at the nursery swore up and down that it would, but has it? Nope. Nary a one in, what, six years? I guess it was merely an ornamental plum, which would be all right except for:

2) As an ornamental plum it hasn't been all that, well, ornamental. Both the flowers and leaves have been rather lame. If you aren't actually going to put ripe, juicy plums on my breakfast table, then skimpy blooms and scraggly purple-green leaves just doesn't cut it.

And now that winter has come and gone and things are leafing out, it seems that some of its major branches have gone and expired on me (see photo above, labels "A" and "B"). Plus! It has always had these annoying suckers that spring up from the root stock that I keep having to whack back (see label "C"). I hate that.

I decided on Monday that enough was enough. The tree wasn't pulling its weight and in my gardening book, that means you get sacked. A tree like this expects a little extra pampering, and I am simply not going to fall prey to that kind of wishy-washy, sentimental, unsustainable thinking. "No grit, no grow," I always say.

So I marched out there with a shovel, stuck it in the ground for the first good dig...and saw this:

Oh, fine. Get all lovely and elegant on me now.

So the tree got a last minute reprieve. I took the pruning saw and surgically removed the offending dead branches:

This is your last chance, Mr. Tree! Prove up or it's curtains next year! I mean it this time!


  1. How funny! I almost dumped an entire flat of bell peppers after waiting 6, read this 6 weeks for a sprout! Went out there already to just turn it upside down and viola! had pepper plants to share.

  2. Hi Susan- I have one similar to this (Thundercloud Plum). It's limbs grow strait up and not out at all. It looks ugly. I am going to prune it tomorrow, fertilize the heck out of it and see if it earns it's keep this year. If not, then you know. The nursery keeps telling me the limbs will relax as it grows but 7 years in they still haven't. Dumb tree:D

  3. Darla--isn't that the way it always goes? They fool you, these plants. Devious.

    Heather--I'll bet it's the same tree. I never got the name of this one, but that describes it exactly.

  4. This is a great chance for you to experiment with grafting! Find some other gardeners with plums that they love and nab some scion wood from them. I recommend the book Plant Propagation by the American Horticultural Society. Or you can probably get help from your local Master Gardeners. I also wonder if the variety you have needs another variety for pollination, in which case you could graft on the required variety.

  5. John Dromgoole, a local nursery owner, says that you should have a heart to heart talk with a plant like this, and tell it that if it doesn't change its ways then it's headed straight for the compost pile. Might be worth a try!

  6. I agree - there are some plants that just don't pull their weight - ok if you have a big garden and they are stuck at the back somewhere - not so good if they are in your face.
    Well you gave it a final chance. Lets see if it responds!

  7. Hi, Susan, that looks like the tree at the end of my garden (Prunus cerasifera). It suckers in just that same way (green shoots on a purple-leaved tree). I also have a Victoria plum, and if I had to make a choice, I know which one I'd rather keep...

  8. Ha! I love it! I've had some things do this to me, but haven't we all. I'm very impatient with my bald cypress right now actually, and it sure better grow at least 2' this year or--I--will--go--nuts. Platned the thing in '07. Let's go. Let's go.

    (And how apropos, the word verification for my comment it "triming.")

  9. Michelle--Grafting? Hmmmm...intriguing. I do like a new challenge...

    MAry, EG, Victoria, and Benjamin--the danged tree is on a short leash, as far as I'm concerned.

    Victoria--let me guess, hmmm, which one? Hmmm, might it have your name in it? ;-)

  10. It reminds me of the wimpy, little Christmas trees from the old Charlie Brown cartoons. :)

  11. Poor tree!
    They do that deliberately, pull on your heart strings by promising something good ...
    It will be interesting to see what you decide to do this time next year

  12. Natalie--you are so right. I hadn't thought of that, but I can totally see it now.

    Karen--tug at my heartstrings indeed. We'll see if I wait until next year, though--those green suckers make me crazy every time I look at them.


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