OOTS-Three Awful Things (And Three Awesome Things)

We could go down a lot of different gravel paths with this title, let there be no doubt, but we have chosen this time to name and show things in threes that I have noticed as spring tries to emerge from its winter-ish wrappings while out and about in this small, Southeast Tennessee town. So be brave and continue reading, for after the badness comes the goodness. (Above irrelevant shot of maple tree in bloom.)

Although I try to avert my eyes, almost to a tree are the hacked upon by professionals, if being referred to as a professional means someone pays you good money to commit this atrocity, poor dear crape myrtles, Lagerstroemia indica. This topic has been discussed ad nauseum in blog posts, magazine articles and social media by gardeners who know better than to commit the crime of crape murder. Yet, there it is, slapping me in the face from private yards and commercial green space that is a requirement of our city in order to have beauty in a sea of concrete. Ack, argh and yikes is my reaction. Such sublime trees, the limbs sprinkled with cinnamon as the bark peels and curls to reveal silvery young skin underneath. What a pity.

Moving on to the next horrible thing, the trek was made in the gas guzzler around town to pick the most glaring mistake in the realm of gardening, public and private. We saw the obscenity of volcano mulching, the piling on of mulch up against the trunks of trees into a cone shape with the tree spewing from the center. Bad on so many levels, this has been discussed and dissed by television programs, garden writers both in print and online and the powerful Facebook/Twitter crowd. How is this still happening? There was poor placement of trees and shrubs that were not given proper spacing to grow to their full potential and so have to be continually pruned back hard to keep them from blocking sidewalks or eating buildings. So much from which to choose, but it was the colored mulch that is so offensive that it causes stomach queasiness that was to be the second appalling thing. No matter the color, although the red is the most offensive to these eyes, dyed to an unnatural color to prevent the mulch from fading to the natural color of decomposing wood is a crime against nature, a totally unwarranted use of chemicals. Icky-poo.

Winning the dubious honor for most horrible of all cutting crimes has to be the tree pruning done by the utility in order to keep the power lines free from falling tree limbs. In some parts of town, newer homes in fancy, a relative term if ever there was one, subdivisions have solved the tree limb/electrical line problem with underground installations. We even paid to have our electric lines buried and a pole installed at the property edge in the big renovation of our present home in 2000. But we are a lone island of underground, for every other wire is strung across tall poles that dot the landscape in my center city neighborhood, including ones that eventually feed to Fairegarden. There are mature trees in our neighborhood, things of beauty for this is an older part of town. Or they were things of beauty until this atrocity was perpetrated. This large Southern Magnolia grandiflora makes my heart cry out in painful dismay at its decapitation.

It might sound as though this is a hellish place in which to live. Far from it. In recent years there have been new projects around town that make my heart sing with gladness. At the public library, in what was formerly a flood plain, a water retention pond has been built with an arbor and benches on higher ground for public enjoyment. Native trees, shrubs and perennials have been planted and it promises to be wonderful. There is signage all about to explain what and why to the curious. It will be grand. Look at the pile of boulders that were excavated from the site, to be used as artful decor in the finished ecosystem. Drool.

Just a few blocks away is a corner of food plantings in a formerly vacant lot. Last fall there was machinery used to plow planting strips and posts set in place for grapes and raspberries. Blueberries and fruit trees have filled the space with promise of a yummy future. (Please forgive the illustrating image, this was a true drive by shooting, for this plot lies at the corner of an intersection of two major arteries. Turning and clicking is not my forte.)

Last year, sidewalks were installed by the city along many streets to make this a walking friendly place. Concrete was used in most instances but beautiful paving stones were laid by hand along the large tree shaded main thoroughfare nearer to my house. Daily, walkers can be seen taking advantage of the paved walkways. I have used them myself and can vouch for the friendliness. So in truth, three horrible things and three wonderful things sort of offset each other, the yin yang of Asian philosophy, as with all things.

This post is being offered as part of the OOTS series, Out On The Streets, sponsored by my dear, in real life since we have met face to face twice now, in Malvern, UK and in Seattle, USA, friend VP, Michelle of Veg Plotting.


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17 Responses to OOTS-Three Awful Things (And Three Awesome Things)

  1. Carol says:

    Those were awful sites. The three awesome sites offer hope, but I must now immediately go to Pinterest and look upon beautiful sites to get the awful out of my mind!

    Ah, you have been sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest, Carol! Be sure and keep a tether to reality when in there!

  2. It is so appalling when landscape companies don’t know what they are doing and people pay for their services. When I see these error obviously the homeowners are not gardeners and they take the professionals word as gospel. The town I live in planted rows of trees all under the utility wires. Whose brilliant idea was this? They will most certainly all be topped off as they mature. Poor planning and uneducated decisions make even more work and cost the city more money. If they would only do it properly the first time!

    I don’t blame the non-gardening homeowners for the atrocities done by paid professionals. Not shown in the food planting photo because I had already shown three bad things, are rows of Bradford pears edging the perimeter. These have to be taken down and replanted every three years or so due to storm damage. If only someone would tell the city about other alternative trees. It makes me cringe.

  3. Laurrie says:

    Frances, thanks for this tour. It hits on all the atrocities we see here too — red mulch, hacked shrubs and decapitated trees. Why do these practices persist? At a new school in our town the landscapers planted maple trees directly beneath the utility wires. Directly beneath, like they used the wires above as planting guides. They are small now, but in 15 years the hacking will commence.

    I like that you balanced the atrocities with great public projects going on. That’s great to see!

    Thanks Laurrie. I didn’t want to be a naysayer, there is nearly always a silver lining and these projects around town are well done and welcome. Now about those new tree plantings under power lines, is it possible they are dwarf or Japanese maples? Probably not, but it’s a thought.

  4. Layanee says:

    I always wonder what pruning companies are thinking (other than the electric co.) and why would a homeowner prefer that decapitated appearance. I cannot grow crape myrtle and I always want to spell it like the food ‘crepe’. That is just another crime against nature. LOL

    Hi Layanee, really, what are they thinking, those pruning companies! I have seen articles in the Knoxville paper showing the right and wrong ways to prune crape myrtles and still the practice persists. It is horrible and nearly every one of those fabulous southern trees is treated that way. It is better to simply leave them alone, or limb them up a bit to show off that pretty bark. Deadhead the old spent blooms if you are that kind of person, but don’t cut all the branches off!!!! I feel sure the homeowner of the magnolia does not prefer this look, it was done by the utility. It would be better off removed entirely. I have spelled crape as crepe in the past, but saw that Tony Avent spelled it crape in his murder article so figured he knows best.

  5. Ginger Goolsby says:

    When I started reading your post about the awful things one finds out and about, I thought you could be from Morristown where I live. The crape myrtles at the office where I work look just like the ones you photographed and they were trimmed by the lawn service owned by one of the owners of the business!! However, when I got to the good things you saw, I knew is wasn’t my town – we have none of those good things. Too bad!
    I read your posts every day and have found much inspiration from them. I do so envy your upcoming trip to the spring bloggers festival in Asheville – how I wish I had a plant blog myself and could attend – maybe I will when I retire in the not so distant future. Regardless, I look forward to your posts from the festival.
    Thank you for your inspiration and helpful hints.

    Thanks for your support, Ginger, I do appreciate you! It is very easy to start a blog. Go to blogger or wordpress dot com and follow their instructions. Blogging has changed my life for the better, including meeting other bloggers for real at these flings. The best thing about it is you get to make your own schedule and decide what you want to write about, total freedom. As for those silly crape myrtle prunings, we must keep harping about it and maybe it will stop. Someday.

  6. a strawberry patch says:

    Amen! I am on a personal mission to stop the good people of my community from the yearly crepe myrtle massacre!

    Amen is right, SP! This practice is so prevalent here. I think people see all these denuded trees and thing that is the way it should be done. Ack and argh! We have to keep beating this drum!

  7. Crape murder is rampant. It is such a shame. Working with some folks who did that to their Crapes, correcting it one year at a time. As for your other awful things..volcano mulch piles –bahhh! and they should just take down that poor Magnolia. augh!

    Yes, Janet, rampant is the word for the crape murder. Driving around town running errands today, I did see some crapes that had been left alone, just cleaning up the lower branches. That is the pruning I do, when they are young, to remove suckers and the lowest side shoots to allow for those long gorgeous crape legs to be shown off to their best advantage. I hope they do take the magnolia down, it would done so at the homeowner’s expense, of course.

  8. I like the OOT idea and it is new to me…you hit upon 3 of the things that top my yuck list…I am not as familiar with the crape myrtle in my area of central NY…I hate the colored mulch…it is so garish to the eye not to mention it is so bad for the plants and environment in general…next is the hacking of bushes that were not placed smartly so we have to hack them back so sidewalks are passable…I cringe for the poor bushes and almost hear their cries…last is the atrocity perpetrated on trees throughout our towns and cities in the name of high wires…we live in a newer area that has the line buried but in too many places we commit these crimes against these majestic beauties…it is nice to see the good things happening but my God can we stop the madness with the other things…

    Thanks for adding in here, Donna. The crapes are not hardy in your zone, yet, but those other atrocities make me want to scream and cry. The large magnolia is especially sad, but even the maples and pines and other trees so treated are cringe-worthy. The worst thing about the other crimes is that they are being performed by paid professional landscaping services, not deluded homeowners.

  9. Crape myrtles won my heart the moment we first met, in Dallas. But someone has amputated those poor crape myrtles into crap myrtles! Grrrrr. And mulch volcanos. Grrrrrrr! And RED mulch volcanos. Double grrrrrrr! We get Y-shaped trees in Toronto, courtesy of the utility company; just as awful. But I’m not so certain that the good things cancel the awful things out.

    Amputation, mutilation and outright murder, all done in the name of the public good! Tyranny, I say! The good things here are so surprising, someone is trying to offset and more power to them!

  10. nancybond says:

    The photo of the tree that was hacked off at the top because of the power lines — I’ve seen it around here as well. I know they have to care for the lines, but there must be a better and more attractive solution than just “scooping out the middle”. I’d almost rather they cut it down. :-p

    I agree, Nancy. Just cut the poor tree down, for goodness sakes. On a nearby street, large maples were finally taken down and replaced with, wait for it, crape myrtles! But so far the pruning has been minimal as the trees grow larger. I am hoping they don’t commit the pruning atrocity when they are at their peak of beauty.

  11. Les says:

    When you do make a mulch volcano, red mulch is best as it looks more like lava.

    That is just naughty, Les! Good thing I know you are being sarcastic.

  12. My neighbors down the street commit crepe murder every year and it makes me want to scream, “Just because a company has a truck and a chain saw doesn’t make them experts!” Love the new plantings around your town.

    Isn’t that the truth, Casa M! Also in that vein, just because you see that pruning technique used around town does not mean it it the proper thing to do. The new installations around here offer hope for our town. I especially like the use of natives and planting of food crops.

  13. Yes, unfortunately those types of scenes are common around here, too. But more likely in gated condominium or retirement communities. The weird things in my neighborhood are more likely to be just messy prunings and silly plantings that right themselves over time. I agree that a trip to Pinterest is good therapy after seeing such things. 😉

    Yes, it is the hired professionals, paid for by those with funds to waste on such maintenance that commit the crimes. It is the same mow, blow and go group that gives us terrible noise and air pollution, too. Pinterest is an oasis, isn’t it?

  14. sequoiagardens says:

    I remember clearly first considering forced euthanasia when one of my neighbours did the same to a beautiful crepe maple in her yard – for no obvious reason. That was when I first realised that sometimes I prefer plants to people 😉

    Those mutilated trees will die of disease and insect damage soon enough, sad to say, Jack. I do believe it is ignorance on the part of the homeowners. They see this done around town and believe it is the proper thing to do. Sad.

  15. We have trouble with our town council cutting the boundary hedges of our allotment site. They use a flail on a tractor and slash away! Looks dreadful and damages so manu trees and bushes. We complain but they say it is policy!

    I think we have similar contraptions here that keep the foliage of wild trees and shrubs from growing out into the roadways. Instead of men with power or hand clippers, it is a device like a lawnmower up high and sideways that rips and tears the greenery and branches. It looks awful, but saves them money!

  16. Janet says:

    Ah kindred spirits…I share your horror. All of these atrocities happen out here in California too, even with all the public education that goes on. I actually had a certified arborist tell me that sometimes tree topping is a good thing. My jaw dropped.
    My suggestion is to go to your city council and politely ask them to look at alternative tree placement and maintenance. Tie your message to cost control. A healthy, well-placed and maintained tree is a less costly tree. And don’t be afraid to call landscape maintenance companies to ask questions. Say you’ve noticed their truck and would like to speak to their certified arborist about some damage being caused by their crews. The more people speak up, the faster the message spreads among those who can actually do something about the problem.

    Thanks for those good suggestions, Janet. Maybe someday, if we keep letting folks know what is good and not good for trees, this will no longer be so common.

  17. VP says:

    Ahhhhh we have the dreaded red mulch here too and the ‘professionals’ who try to lay to waste our public landscape 😦

    However, I do like the glimmers of hope you have gleaned from the bad. We have something called Incredible Edible Todmorden over here which is a town aiming to become self sufficient in growing its own food using lots of planting space in the town. Its a model which is not only being looked at by other towns in the UK, but by other countries too. Your fruit planting reminded me very much of their work.

    Thanks so much for remembering OOTs dear Frances! 🙂 xxx

    Hi Michelle, thanks! I remember OOTS often when out and about town, running errands. I see good things and bad things in plantings but usually don’t have my camera with me. More OOTS-ing will be posted in the future, as time and inclination allow. I so like this idea. That experimental town sounds perfect and promising. We really need to think about making better use of the Earth.

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