Pruning and Planting Trees

Despite cold nights, recent days have been mainly sunny and feeling mild. I like February, the sun starts to have some strength and the increasing daylight allows more time to get things done.

After being cooped up for weeks decorating, plumbing and generally immersed in DIY, finally being able to get outside and catch up around the garden is pure therapy.

Back in the Autumn, after rebuilding the stone steps here, I decided that as a finishing touch I'd plant a tree down at the edge where they meet the lawn. Well it had to be a Cypress de Provence. Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta to be exact, also known as Italian Cypress or Pencil pine but as I blog from here in France, then from Provence it is.

Just as soon as the we get a break in the frosty nights (anytime from Thursday onwards) I'll get on and plant it with as much TLC as befits my most expensive plant purchase for some time. Spadefuls of manure, compost, handfuls of hoof and horn, maybe a little light conversation, that kind of thing, certainly better treatment than my method of transportation, I drove the 50 kilometres or so from the nursery near Bergerac with the tree sticking out of the car window. At some 30 kph below the average speed limit and in a country where tail 'gating' is the national sport, trust me when I say this was an interesting journey.

Beautiful days such as these are just made for pruning. This is an activity I enjoy, you feel like you're back in control after months of gloom and neglect. I have to climb on a step ladder to get to the back of the nameless yellow rose here on the gable end to the long barn.

Pruning away, all feels good in the February sunshine, even if the temperature drops like a stone at nightfall.


  1. The cypress will be lovely on your grounds. There is something so elegant about the tree. I love their spare and solitary appearance.

  2. I put 2 Italian cypress with rootballs touching. 13 years later they are a tall narrow column, about 2o'.

    At about the 10' mark songbirds nest in it each year.

    Waking to snow, I've been known to go out in my bathrobe & beat it off the Italian cypress with a broom.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  3. Rob All looks good in the sun I wish we could have a bit over here in Surrey UK.

    That is quite some tree to be planting already very tall.

    The steps look excellent.

  4. I would definitely label it "Cypress de Provence," as well! The picture of the cypress extending out the car window is delightful, and the sign of a true gardener!

  5. Excellent choice, beautiful scene.

    Pruning never ceases here, nor does planting.

  6. I love Italian cypress. They remind me of big explanation points in the landscape!

  7. Don't forget to caress it gently. Trees love to feel taken care of. Tell it how it looks better than the first day you met. Perhaps suggest that there could never be any other tree, even a young tree with very large and perky fruit.

  8. Rob, the cypress is perfect! and we do love them. We have 7 placed around the property and they are wonderful, maintenance free and punctuate the landscape. Ours were only about 3 feet tall when we planted them... you will miss that joy. ;)

  9. The Cypress is going to look great there. How in the world did you get it in your car? :)
    That yellow rose looks like a tree right now, it's so big. I'll be getting out the pruners in a couple of weeks.

  10. Hi Rob, I recognized your beautiful step project right away! The tree is imposing, to say the least. We have often admired them in photos of grand gardens in Europe, like pillars in the landscape. That is some expert pruning on the rose, what a specimen it is. We love pruning too, being detail oriented. Our roses get pruned on Valentine's Day here, Feb. 14. A ritual of love that also includes the planting of sweet pea seeds outside in the ground. :-)

  11. The Cypress will look wonderful there. I love the color of those stairs.

  12. I am adoring that golden stone work. Seems like everything is shades of grey around here. The beach, the rocks, the sky. But February is definitely better than January.

    I long to be out in the garden, doing a little hands on work. Crocus are blooming here, but the rain is consistent. We know that will change soon. Can't wait.


  13. I love to prune, can I come help, Rob? Your photos/blog ... so inviting, I just couldn't help myself! Like Jen, I'm itching to get outside in the garden, but looking out, see nothing but a blanket of white. Enjoy the gift ... the cypress is perfect!

  14. A fine tree Rob. Sounds as if you had a memorable trip home. Send some of your sunshine this way please - yet more snow today.

  15. Ha ha....I had quite a hearty chuckle at the mental image of all the irate French drivers behind you as you pootled along with the cyprus sticking out of your window! Hilarious!

    The pruning looks very good. I remember not being able to see the buildings from the lawn last summer when we did the tour of the garden. Now can you come and do some pruning over here please?!

  16. Bien sûr, l'arbre est le français! :-)


    PS Do you grow the beautiful trees that line the roads entering so many villages? Are those sycamore?

  17. Got your comment on my blog, so posting my response on both blogs:

    Rob - loved the photography site since we're going to the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

    I had set about looking up the difference between our sycamore and the plane tree and found this:

    The bark is by itself sufficient to distinguish the Plane from the sycamore (Acer pseudo-platanus), which is commonly confounded with it, especially in Scotland; but the sycamore has also its leaves in opposite pairs and far less smooth, whilst in autumn they are almost always marked with the round blots of an ink-black parasitic fungus.

    My husband, with a forestry degree says this quote is talking about a maple (acer), whereas our American Sycamore is platanus occidentalis - American Plane Tree.

    It seems that the French Plane Tree is Platanus orientalis ... as far as we can tell from here! :-)



  18. I was with you up until "pruning...this is an activity I really enjoy."

    But the weather looks beautiful.

  19. Wow Rob what a beauty!! She will look striking at the foot of your stairs. It sounds like your are a bit biodynamic in your planting philosophy. Are you going to fill the horn with something... I forget what the recipe is. You may be joking too! Your place looks so tidy and lovely. Happy gardening and pruning...

  20. Hi again Rob, I can completely relate to the tree out the window… although in my case it the window was the sunroof of the car ;-)

    Nice Cyprus you have there now. I can also relate to pruning… I love it myself. Almost as fun as planting :-D

    Glad you caught my Cambo posting. I did a few over the weekend and tonight I posted on another area you might be interested in… The North American Prairie.

  21. Must admit I'm normally pruning and things by now but it's been so cold up in Brittany with -6 forecast for next week will hold off for a little longer... Miranda

  22. Just starting to do the winter prune here in Charleston, SC. I love the way it makes the landscape look so clean and ready for spring.

  23. I'd love to have an Italian cypress like that, I saw some at the nursery last year. Our weather for February has been horrible. We have had so much rain, and when it is sunny it has been very, very cold. Not the usual weather for the south. I need to prune roses and other things too so hopefully sunny days will be along soon.

  24. Your stone path turned out wonderful... and I love that last photograph on this post.... I can almost feel myself there, there's so much beauty in the barren landscape, so much mystery in the air that surrounds that corner... mistic... I just love it...



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