Those of you familiar with this blog will know that the last job I undertake in the garden Winter cut back is to reshape my big Bay tree. I shaped this tree into a donut shape some 7 or more years ago and ever since then I have to do battle with it each Winter to bring it back into shape.
The process of fighting with the Bay tree is not for wimps. For weeks before the big day we glare at each other as we look for weaknesses in our respective defences. If you can imagine one of those boxing matches where the contestants belligerently eye each other up at the weigh in then you will have a flavour of what takes place. There are lots of false starts, sometimes as I walk by the tree I will kick the trunk just to show it who is boss. The tree in turn bashes me with its branches in high winds and drops things on my head.
As the day of the big cut back arrives, a deadly hush falls over the garden, all the plants know what is coming as they have seen this battle of the giants play out year after year. Neighbours set up chairs close to my fence and take bets on how many times I will fall out of the tree and how much blood I will lose. I can feel the excitement is getting to you so let’s get on with it.
7th February: Things I have been doing lately.
🌳 Reshaping the large Bay tree. Now lots of people in Spain have a Bay tree in their garden, and most of them are just amorphous, shapeless lumps (the trees not the people). Now it needn’t be this way, the Bay tree is an attractive evergreen which complements many Spanish gardens and if shaped correctly it can add focus and texture to your garden as it is a useful foil to Yuccas and Palms etc. The photos below show my large Bay tree prior to its annual reshape (click on each photo to enlarge).
You can if you wish just shape the tree up by running a hedge cutter over it to make a rounded or pointed shape. But in my case I wanted to copy the Spanish style of donut shaped trees that you see in the large towns and cities. To achieve this you first need to get up into the tree (or get a professional) locate what is obviously the central trunk, and then cut this out with a chain saw. Be careful as Bays can have substantial trunks, and make way for the trunk as it falls straight down through the tree to the ground.
Once the main trunk is gone cut back any secondary large branches to leave a supporting “spiders web” of substantial branches supporting an outer structure of foliage. Then climb out of the tree and with a hedge trimmer begin the process of shaping the outside edges of the tree into a nice rounded shape. The photo below shows the array of tools I assemble for this task.
As you shape the outside of the tree you must be careful not to break through this outer ring into the centre of the tree, or you will ruin the effect for this year. The photos below show the initial shaping process half way through, (click on each photo to enlarge).
The final part of the process is to climb back into the tree make sure you are safe in the centre where the trunk used to be (or call in a professional) and with a hedge trimmer begin to open up the centre of the donut. Once you have done this you can flatten the top of the donut foliage and level off the foliage underneath. The end result should be a reshaped Bay tree that is eyecatching and will add interest to your garden. The photo below shows the Bay tree donut in all its glory. I took this whilst lying exhausted under the tree.
☠️ Being attacked by a Yucca. After the battle of the Bay tree I was sauntering past Cruella (my wife) when I mentioned my triumph, she mumbled something about sacred trees and retribution. I paid her no heed as she is always mumbling incantations. Anyway, as I wondered round to the compost bins a large gust of wind suddenly sprang up and a huge Yucca that grows close by suddenly bent forward and smashed 10 or more of its spikes into my scalp. Now I will let you into a little tip. Yuccas that are irrigated will have long green, but ultimately pliable spikes that will bend at the point. Unirrigated Yuccas will have hard brittle spikes with black ends that become like daggers.
Yes, you have guessed it, this Yucca was unirrigated and therefore delivered 10 or more stab wounds to my scalp all of which became imbedded. I was forced to approach Cruella for help to try and remove them. She offered her help with alacrity, which in itself should have been suspicious. But anyway, using a needle, tweezers and medical alcohol she pulled, stabbed and tortured me as she removed most of them. She left only one that was so imbedded it was impossible to remove.
Three days later I could stand the pain no longer and decided to shave part of my head to get at the last spike. Well. I managed to get it out after a struggle, but the photo below shows what Cruella has done to my skull. I confronted her, but she says it’s just a way of remembering her lottery number and not to worry; what do you think?