The Tree Whisperer

I walk my neighborhood once or twice most days. Since I am a tree hugger and have planted more than sixty trees at my various houses over the years, I will free a distressed tree when I see one.
I carry scissors in my back pocket, the little ones used in kindergarten. That way, if I see a tree tightly taped to its stake, I can cut the tape and release the pressure on the poor tree that is trying to grow.
The tape holds the baby tree to the stake that the nursery planted in a pot. When the tree is sold and gardeners replant it, they rarely cut the tape from the nursery stake, instead adding bigger stakes with rubber loops to go around the trunk.
Overkill, to say the least.
A few months go by, and the little tree needs more movement so its trunk can gain girth. If it is tied tightly to a stake, it can’t do it. The trunk will grow sideways if it has to.
I’ve freed dozens of front and side yard trees in my neighborhood, plus trees in the extensive greenbelts between our streets. l do it when no one is watching. I learned early on that not everyone wants to hear from me. I have no credentials except that I’ve planted dozens of babies that are now big healthy trees.
I’ve had to come back with wire cutters or sewing scissors if my little scissors won’t do the trick.
You can’t plant a tree and ignore it for five years. Trees are living things. They are going to get bigger.
My old gardeners planted my crepe myrtles in a neat row right against my wooden fence. This showed no foresight. The trees won’t have room to have any branches on the fence side. They are going to get larger. I prefer to stagger them anyway, so it doesn’t looked planned and matchy matchy.
I’ve seen trees too close to houses that are growing sideways. Someone didn’t think ahead. I’ve seen rows of redwoods where the branches are touching after a couple of years. Those things get huge.
Since I quit my gardeners, I’ve gained many tree volunteers in my yard. With nobody to pull them up by their roots, unplanned trees have pleasantly surprised me — baby Eucalyptus trees in the front yard and a beautiful red-leafed deciduous tree in the back yard.
I’ve moved a few volunteer pine trees to better locations. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. I have a valley oak in my front yard that is three years old and three feet high. Why not? It was free, and it’s a native to Northern California.
Two neighbors on my court got a knock on the door, with my explanation that their tree stakes were too tight. I couldn’t bring myself to cut the rubber off their birch trees or their magnolia, since I know them.
My son says to stop. He says I will get arrested someday. He’s probably right. Maybe I’ll print up a flyer and leave it anonymously under front door mats.
People are busy. I know they expect their gardeners to figure it out. But please, look at your trees.
Then set them free, and they will grow up to be beautiful.

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