Category Archives: Pruning

Crape Myrtle

We’re all familiar with the tree commonly known as crape or crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). It’s not native to Georgia, but given how many crape myrtles we see in Atlanta yards, sidewalk strips, and parking lots, you might have assumed it is. It came to us from China and Korea, first to Charleston in 1790 and then everywhere else.

I’m here today with a reminder: if you are responsible for one or more of these trees, there is no law that says you must “top” a crape myrtle. The reason some people cut back these trees is because they believe it’s a technique to get more blooms and larger blooms in the summer. The reason that others top these trees is because, well, everybody else is doing it.

You can google the phrase “crape murder” to read all the reasons why it’s not a good practice to decapitate trees, putting aside aesthetics.

A few years ago, the Natalie asked Tree Watch to plant some crape myrtles out in front of their lovely building on Waverly Way. Look how elegant they already are.

Earlier, I wrote that “there is no law that says you must ‘top’ a crape myrtle.” In fact, for what it’s worth, the City of Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance deems “topping” an illegal destruction of a tree, for which a fine may be imposed:

Topping, tipping, or any similar improper pruning practices will automatically be deemed as destruction of a tree.

So please pause a minute and consider whether you really want to chop your crape myrtle in two, especially the ones that are in the public right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street. Most varieties of crape myrtle (Tuscarora, Muskogee, Natchez, Sarah’s Favorite, etc.) do want to be trees, not shrubs. If you want a shrub, plant a shrub!

Arborheroes

Tree Watchers Chuck Young, Chad Altemose, and Jim Abbot were at work pruning oak trees in our parks on Saturday, November 20. Next time you’re walking by or through Delta Park, Triangle Park, or Springvale Park, you may have the feeling that they seem more . . . capacious. That’s because we raised the green “ceiling” by removing or sometimes shortening lower branches on several oaks.

Chuck Young
Chad Altemose

About Tipping

No, not that kind of tipping.

I’m talking about snipping off the ends of tree branches to shorten them.

In the drawing, the blue line indicates roughly where someone snipped off the ends of branches a, b, c, and d. You can see how the tree responded: a spray of profuse new growth (“shoots” or “water sprouts”) from near the ends of the tipped branches.

Why?

At the tip of a tree branch there is a so-called terminal or apical bud. This specialized bud regulates growth of the entire branch. (After all, the tree needs to grow up and out to reach that all-important sunlight!)

A hormone is involved, called auxin. Think of auxin as being like a sleep potion. All those many other buds lying under the bark along each branch? Auxin keeps those buds dormant.

But if I snip off the terminal bud, some of those dormant buds along the branch “wake up.” They send out shoots which will become twigs which will become new branches.

Tipping a branch to clear a sidewalk or street is usually counterproductive. Within a year or two, the problem will be twice or three times as bad. Look how many sprouts were growing on this tipped Bradford pear. (Located on Austin Avenue at its intersection with Euclid. Thanks to Meghan for identifying this hazard to pedestrians.)

Instead, always cut a branch just beyond a node. A node is simply where a leaf, twig, or secondary branch attaches to a larger part of the tree.

Put differently, your goal is always to leave a bud which can become the new terminal or apical bud of that branch, controlling that essential hormone auxin, so that the tree can grow up and out.

Repair work:

We are small but mighty!

Jaime Kirsche and Jim Abbot were the inaugural volunteers at the first-ever Whack, Yak, and Snack, which will take place every third Saturday of the month, meeting on the porch of 946 Waverly Way at 9:00 a.m.

Jaime and I got a ton done on Saturday, September 18. We worked along the sidewalk that lies between Springvale Park and Edgewood Avenue. The goal was to improve sight lines into the park, remove invasive trees, and clear the sidewalk of low-hanging limbs.

Mission accomplished.

Jim in the jungle
Jim (left) and Jaime (right) with their pile

Delta Park

I had a pleasant walk with the German shepherd this Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend: cool and quiet in Inman Park.

We walked past Delta Park, near the intersection of Edgewood and Euclid.

It made me think of something I read about years ago: a theory or model in environmental psychology. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

Continue reading Delta Park

Whack, Yak, and Snack

Beginning Saturday, September 18, and continuing every 3rd Saturday of the month through the spring, Tree Watch will be hosting Whack, Yak, and Snack.

WHACK: Prune trees, trim bushes, free trees of choking vines, yank up invasive plants, and in general, take care of our leafy green friends along our streets here in Inman Park and in our marvelous parks and greenspaces.

YAK: One of the things Inman Park does best. Yak while you whack. Spend a morning in the beautiful outdoors catching up with your friends.

SNACK: An Inman Park event without food doesn’t deserve the name. We’ll have a bagel, a pastry, or piece of fruit for you to start your day, and weather permitting, and also depending on interest, we will also have sandwiches or pizza and a cold drink of your choice afterward, courtesy of Inman Park Tree Watch.

Meet on the porch of 946 Waverly Way NE before 9:00 AM on the third Saturday of each month: (in 2021) September 18, October 16, November 20, December 18; (in 2022) January 15, February 19, March 19, April 16, May 21.

Bring water to drink, gloves if you have them, and your favorite tool(s) (saw, pruners, loppers, rakes, etc.), though we can also supply you with everything you need.

No experience necessary. Just a willingness to get your hands dirty and an aptitude for having a good time.

Rain or shine, as long as it’s not super yucky outside.

  • What: Whack, Yak, and Snack (Maintenance Projects)
  • When: Third Saturdays starting in September, 9:00 a.m. to noon
  • Where: Gather at 946 Waverly Way NE
  • Who: Inman Park volunteers and their friends
  • Why: Because it’ll be fun and rewarding, we promise

Contact Jim Abbot with questions through this website. Or if you’re an IPNA member, you can find my personal email and cellphone number in back issues of the Advocator and in my IPNA website profile.

Who actually owns our street trees?

The answer should be clear.

It’s not, at least not to me.

  • “The City of Atlanta owns them, Jim. That’s obvious. After all, they’re in the public right-of-way. You’re forbidden by law from removing or injuring those trees, but the City itself can do whatever it wants with them. Clearly, the trees belong to the City.”
  • “You own them, Jim. After all, you’re the one who’s legally responsible for maintaining that strip along the street (e.g., keeping it level with the sidewalk, keeping it free of holes and weeds, pruning the trees themselves). If the City has to step in and do the maintenance for you, it can charge you with the expense. If the City abandons its right-of-way along the road, you’re the one with the reversionary right. And so on. Clearly, the trees belong to you.”

Totally confusing.

Continue reading Who actually owns our street trees?