By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Barbara Jennings has a small forest providing privacy and character for her yard. Bob Wagner has a giant deodar cedar that is a character itself in his yard, having survived high winds and other weather for decades.
Friends of Trees, a 25-year-old non-profit, also helps local homeowners select appropriate trees at low cost: www.friendsoftrees.org and (503) 282-8848.
The city offers tree planting tips at www.portlandoregon.gov.
When Barbara Jennings bought her home in the Grant Park neighborhood 15 years ago, she worked with a landscape designer to replace grass with perennials, shrubbery and trees in the small yard.
“I love plants, but I didn’t want anything to get too tall,” Jennings said. Then, like many Northwest gardeners, she discovered that nearly everything gets bigger than expected. However, Honl has shaped trees to help her maintain her vision for her yard.
“He completely gets with the specimen,” she said. “He works with its own structure.”
Bob Wagner’s family moved into the house beneath the big cedar about 20 years ago, and Harrity has trimmed it and cleaned up its debris since then.
Irvington neighbors have told him how the cedar lost its original top in the high winds of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, Wagner said. Other winds have brought down limbs. Then, last December’s high wind took out a giant limb that was almost like a tree crashing down, tearing out power lines as it fell across Thompson Street, Wagner said.
A city arborist said the damage was extensive enough to remove the tree, but Wagner and Harrity decided to try saving it.
“It’s been there a long time and it provides a certain character to the yard,” Wagner said. “My kids grew up around it. The neighborhood kids grew up around it. I’ve been landscaping around it for 20 years. . . . It’s meant to stay there.”
The cedar has a new look, however, including a scar on the north side where the immense limb once extended. One long, slender limb juts beyond shorter limbs remaining near the scar.
“We’re going for a little of the Monterey coastal pine look, but on a little larger scale,” Wagner joked.
Jennings and Wagner have different issues, but the situations are familiar to tree specialists.
In selecting trees, Honl and Harrity advise clients to look at the planting space they are considering. Selecting the right species is important so it doesn’t grow too large, for example, with girth crowding a deck or roots raising a sidewalk.
Honl also asks clients what they value for light or shade in the yard, whether they want a flowering tree or one with fall color.
Harrity cautions clients about selecting trees that produce nuts, berries or the spiky balls, characteristic of sweet gums, that can become nuisances for homeowners and their neighbors.
The arborists discourage clients from selecting trees considered fast growing. They may outgrow their surroundings, the pair said, and the trees tend to have structural problems.
In deciding when to prune, Harrity and Honl both advised, “Cut when your saw is sharp.” However, they added, it’s also important to know the characteristics of a specific tree.
With trees that produce sprouts, Harrity said, “You want to wait until they have hardened off,” which means the sap no longer is rising as it does in spring. In Oregon, he said, “hardening off” may occur in mid-July for some trees.
Honl said he prunes no more than 10 to 15 percent a year from some trees, such as dogwood, preferring to return the following year for more pruning and shaping. He believes that’s safer and healthier for the tree.
In addition to selecting trees for shade or fall color, some homeowners look at tree bark for texture in garden design. Stewartia and paperbark maple have cinnamon-colored bark that peels in fine flakes, Harrity said.
Harrity and Honl offered a few suggestions for small trees: Japanese maples for color and shape, but keep out of afternoon sun. Snow bells and crepe myrtle are more tolerant of heat. Medium-size trees: magnolia and dogwoods, with kousa dogwood resistant to leaf diseases. Larger trees: ginkgo, tri-color beech and black tupelo with bright fall foliage.