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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Aw, Nuts

Late on Monday afternoon I noticed that the passionvine that had been budded for Blooming Day had opened. I went back inside for about 20 minutes, then brought the camera out. As I turned the corner to walk toward the Passionflowers, something felt odd - where had those pecans on the fence come from? They hadn't been there 20 minutes ago!

I looked up to see a bend in one of the largest boughs - this year's rain has produced an unprecedented crop of nuts and the weight was apparently too much for the tree's structure. An enormous amount of branches and leaves were resting on the fence, tangled up in nearby shrubs, and in crepemyrtles and some young Arizona Ash trees on the other side of the fence. I called Philo out to look at what happened, and we tried to decide what to do. This job might well be too big for us to handle, but we also knew it was best to get the weight off the other trees and shrubs as quickly as possible.

We got out the loppers and pole pruner, thinking that if we cut away some of it, we could at least see what we'd be dealing with. As you all know, once a pruning job is started, with one small cut following another, it's almost impossible to stop. Pretty soon we had the ladder out, along with ropes, the chain saw, brown yard bags and twine for tying up brush.

Philo did the heaviest lifting and sawing, while I held onto ropes and hauled the boughs out to the center of the yard. He somehow hauled that enormous branch up over the top of the fence and away.

An hour later the shrubs were freed, battered but mostly intact, the crepe myrtles looked okay, and the flexible Arizona Ash tree was already straightening out. The fence is old and beat up already, so a few more nicks in the top are barely noticible.

We were impressed with the pile of debris, and set to reducing it, bundling up branches cut to the regulation 4 feet, with smaller stuff clipped so it would fit in bags. There were a few pieces that could be firewood, but pecans grow with many, many dense shorter branches. By 8 o'clock we were tired and hungry, and it was getting too dark to work safely. We thought we'd done pretty well for two people who get senior discounts at the movies - this was all that was left to be done the next the morning.

We're still wondering whether we'll ever get any edible nuts from these trees - whatever pecans were not eaten by squirrels each fall have been either hollow or wormy. Unfortunately the branch broke before the nuts were mature - the husks were still green and tight. And we've still got to saw that broken part smooth.

Aw, nuts.


  1. Good job! Coincidentally, I was pruning my pecan this morning but for a different reason...webworms. Like you, my pecan tree is bearing more than it has ever done in the 13 years I've lived here. Usually the squirrels have eaten all the pecans by now. This year the tree is still heavy with them.

  2. I'm impressed, you did way better than "pretty well". What a day's work.

    Did you ever get a picture of the passionflower after all that?

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  3. I was waiting for a punchline about the passionflower in bud being underneath that pecan branch. But I guess it must be growing in a safer location and we'll see it later.

    Pretty impressive lumberjacking you and Philo did!

  4. Hi MSS, Carol, and Pam, thank you for the comments. You're right - I did take a passionflower photo and will get that post up later tonight.


  5. Aw, man... that sucks. Are they bearing so much fruit because of the wet early summer you all had? If so, might that at least mean some good eating for you from the non-broken branches? Judging by the work it looks like you and Philo did today, you both deserve at least a few whole, meaty pecans.

  6. wow, nice pruning job. I laughed because I was totally in the same situation the other day "lightly pruning" some morning glory. By the end, half the vine had come down.

  7. That moment of disorientation when you know something is different, but aren't sure what, is so often followed by a big unplanned job. I sure hope you get some pecans from the rest of the tree! Good thing the fence was there to help hold that branch up...it looks like it weighed quite a bit!

  8. Wow, now that was a little gardening adventure! Glad that everything (and everyone) survived the branch mishap. Okay, now I can go up and read about the passion vine!

  9. Annie, your label, "Aw Nuts" made me scroll through your photos before I read it and I was thinking "tornado"!

    What a mess! You worked so hard to save your gardens. Good job!

  10. It's too bad you had to lose all those nuts. But those nasty rodents beat you to the nuts anyway so I guess you aren't out a lot except for a hard clean up job. I hate it when you come upon something unexpected like that. Usually it turns out to be a small emergency and you have to drop what you are doing to remedy the situation immediately.

  11. Aw nuts indeed! ;-) You did a great job pruning the tree. Once you've started it is very hard to stop. I have a shredder, very handy to get rid of all those tiny branches. The bigger branches are cut up, dried and used for kindling.

    BTW there's a little treat for you on Bliss. You find it under Walkies!

  12. Blackswamp Kim, the tree growth all over Austin has been phenomenal. Between squirrels, webworms and fungal disease, we've never had edible pecans from these trees. But we sure would like them!

    Hi Bonnie - you just kept making it 'even', right!

    Hello Leslie, there are so many surprises like this in life!

    You're right about the weight - a couple of abelia bushes would have been flattened rather than just beat up.

    Mary, don't even think that T word! And in return I won't mention the H word when talking about the weather in NC ;-]

    Ki, from what I've read, local trees get some kind of disease that turns the husks black and causes them to fall before the husks open. If we were on a farm I'd consider treatment, but our trees [and squirrels] just came with the house.

    Hello Yolanda, thank you! In IL we had a shredder too, and it was great for turning tree debris into mulch. In this climate we don't use a lot of firewood or kindling.

    Thank you!


  13. You made me laugh with your "Senior discounts at the movies". What a lot of work that was. Thankfully, the shrubs weren't damaged unduly.

  14. Some of our theaters use 55 as the guideline, Kate, and I've taken advantage of that discount for a few years. I'm younger than Susan Sarandon or Sally Field, but older than Emmylou Harris.

    I have no idea if any of them prune their own trees ;-]


  15. We "senior citizens" have lots of spunk left in us, don't we? LOL
    You and Philo did a great job and certainly got your exercise that day! I can imagine the initial gasp when you first realized what had happened...and that "aw nuts" feeling...there goes the plans for the day....
    The Passionvine and Hyacinth vine look so pretty intertwined. I'm glad they weren't ruined. Phew!


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