Saturday, November 11, 2006

Off with Their Heads

This is my lovely Buttercup Tree, Cochlospermum vitifolium before I chopped off its head. It is a rare tree in the landscape here. I do not know why, maybe because this double flowered one is sterile and very hard to root from stem cuttings. It took over a year for the cutting that is now this tree to root for me. Since then I have found that root cuttings are a great way to propagate this tree.

The wood is very soft, moist and a bright yellow when cut. The bark is a smooth gray. They form multiple stout trunks forming a wide round canopy. The Buttercup Tree is deciduous and sheds its palmately lobed leaves completely in December, turning first yellow then brown.

By January when the tree is bare, fully double vibrant yellow blossoms the size of an orange form on the branch tips. They fall to the ground by the hundreds and will last for days without water just sitting in a basket. The bloom period lasts for two months at the least.

The thing is when you live on the side of a steep volcanic mountain and there is a view out there, the people above you are pretty much guaranteed to hate your trees. Lawsuits and fights, neighborhood tensions, knocks on the door by committees and stealth murder by poisoning have all occurred because of trees blocking views.

Now most people being neighborly and not wanting to be obstructionists will call in the tree trimmers and hack away at the trees. There seems to be some notion that a tree is no different than a shrub and you can train them to be neat little boxes and balls. Most trees think otherwise and the result is a lot of brutalized trees until the years of expensive training is ended and the tree gets cut down.

Fifteen years ago I knew all this while planting my garden and selecting what trees and palms to plant and where to put them. I think I did pretty well. It took almost twelve years before two of my trees became an issue for my landlords above me. That is an eternity in a Tropical Landscape as far as growth rates are concerned.

I can't bear the thought of chopping my Buttercup Tree down, so for the last three years I have chopped off its head. I wait until late fall, so unfortunately I lose a lot of blooms, but it will not start growing vigorously again until June. After it blooms it remains dormant for a couple more months. This way I only have to behead it once a year and the entire view remains for the longest length of time.

My Buttercup Tree's companion The Hideous Plastic House has a new roof and still mocks me. One day I will live in a land where plastic houses are roadside attractions and are not parked on my driveway.


Annie in Austin said...

Thanks, Christopher, for giving us a different perspective on living with wonderful views - I've been envying your sky photos, but now understand that you pay a price for seeing the sunsets.

My neighbors didn't like my Moon Vine growing into their tree and cut off any part of the vine that strayed over to their side of the fence, but it's just an annual and I'll plant it somewhere else next year. Chopping the Buttercup Tree is a real sacrifice.

Does anyone grow the Buttercup tree as a commercial flower crop? Something that can last out of water would seem pretty valuable to floral designers.


Pam/Digging said...

Your buttercup tree is/was beautiful. What a shame to have to top it. At least you are compensated with a lovely view of the ocean.

The County Clerk said...

Hey brother... you do what you have to do.

Oddly, every year finds me living farther away from neighbors.

I feel you man.