Circle the week on your calendar. Last week of May. What's it for? Decandling your Black and Red Pines. This date has come by much trial and error. It is based on the time we need in Portland to grow a new set of needles before the trees harden off in September and October. So that means of course that you have been fertilizing the heck out of everything up to now. And while you are at it, you can thin out the needles and do any wiring and styling that you need on these trees. Pines can handle that just fine and it opens things up for light to get in for back budding now that you have stimulated the trees by having decandled them. The whole process and technique for decandling is something that needs to ideally be taught hands on, so we can't really cover it here, especially without illustrations. But if you are familiar with the technique, you now have the date to go with it. You just have to trust me on this one. It doesn't matter what they look like now - it's all about the time on the back end. And remember, Black and Red pines only. Anything else and results may vary (including death of the tree).
What if I don't have any those kinds of pines to work on? Now is a great time to work on deciduous trees. It's a great time to start an air layer, either in a landscape tree to create a bonsai, or to improve the roots and base of an existing tree. I will be showing that technique in the next meeting. It's also a great time to do hard pruning and cutback on deciduous trees. They are usually up and running at full steam right now, so if you cut them, they can pop out all over. Plus, they have a month or more to start growing new foliage to protect the branches and especially the trunk before the heat of summer arrives. Try not to totally defoliate a tree unless you have a specific purpose and you are able to give good after care. Most trees will not need total defoliation. Be careful with those scissors, they can be more dangerous than you might think. And finally, now is a great time to start wiring that nice spring growth. Let branches continue to elongate, but wire the first four or five inches into interesting curves, very carefully. Then as the wire begins to cut in later in the summer, or possibly all the way into fall, you can remove the wire. During your fall pruning, you can cut back past where you stopped wiring to anywhere you need. You probably will not use all that you wire, but you will have the options at pruning time and letting it elongate will set the branch and let it thicken, if you are developing a new branch. Aluminum wire works great. You can use copper too, but it would be best to protect tender species with a wrap of paper around the wire itself before it is applied. Fold a normal paper towel several times into itself - accordion style, then cut across to make some quick strips. You may also choose to use guy wires in some circumstances, which helps with wire scarring.
Have fun with your tree and enjoy the arriving sunshine. Scott E