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Stop topping, start pruning

Piece of Mind

June 10, 2010

I had a note the other day from landscape architect Larry Moss decrying the recent butchering of some eucalyptus trees on Angeles Crest. I haven't seen them (I'm out of town this week), but I gather from his comments that someone engaged in the all-too-common practice of topping trees instead of properly pruning them.

It's quicker work to just hack back the nether reaches of a tall specimen instead of taking the time to choose the right branches, but topping weakens the tree. It sets up the potential for disease, and, in the long term, can make the tree more dangerous than it was before. It turns a once-beautiful tree downright ugly. Have you ever driven along Lynnhaven and Princess Anne right after the liquidambars on one side of the street have been topped to keep them from damaging the power lines overhead? It's a ghastly appearance.

"They'll blame it on the wires . . . [but] have they every heard of lacing out?" Moss writes of whoever took a chain saw to the eucalyptus. Then he describes a deodar, one of La Cañada's "protected" trees that he spotted on Alta Canyada Road, north of El Vago: "There's one deodora that looks like it was amputated."

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If you don't know Larry from his life's work, or from his many years of serving on the city's design commission, you may know him as the co-owner, with his wife Penny, of Penelope's Café Books & Gallery. Several years ago the couple took over a ragged building where we used to buy paint and wallpaper and turned it into an inviting bungalow surrounded by plantings that, not surprisingly, are in perfect concert with the structure. Nary a topped tree is in sight.

Larry and I have had an ongoing correspondence recently over a guest column he's working on for us. I won't go into great detail, but let's just say he'd like all community members — not just the saints (my word, not his) at La Cañada Valley Beautiful — to take a greater interest in improving our surroundings. It will likely be ready for next week's paper, assuming all goes as planned, so please look for it.

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