Indeed, in the Ogham — the alphabet used by Druids for divination, among other things — the name of each letter is represented by a tree. Some feeling of this ancient mystery still lingers. As I say, to cut down a living tree feels criminal.
So I wasn’t feeling too good yesterday when most of the afternoon was spent slicing off large parts of the damsons at the bottom of the garden, not because they’re dead or diseased, but because they’re standing in the way of my soon-to-arrive garden office.
They haven’t been completely demolished, just rather radically pruned. They had twisted themselves into unorthodox shapes anyway. Until last year a neighbouring brute of a Leylandii had lowered over them, younger than they but nevertheless fifty feet of bullying density, which cut off their light and made them stretch attenuated branches across the garden. The shape wasn’t great, but actually jolly useful when it came to picking the damsons, as you can see in the picture above.
In arrangement with the neighbour’s heirs (he died last year) we split the cost of removing the Leylandii and it’s been worth every penny. The bottom of the garden is no longer sucked dry of water and plunged in gloom. I'm even feeling optimistic about the the drastic prune. The damsons look more normal now, and I’m hoping that new branches will break upwards.
It's not the best time to prune them. The threat of silverleaf, the fungus that attacks the plum family through wounds and pruning cuts, is greatest from September to May when the spores are produced and when the plum tree is not producing a gum in its tissues that prevents the spread of the fungal threads.
Still, I didn't really have a choice. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how the trees recover from their major amputations. If you've had experience of drastic plum pruning, then do click on Comment below and let us know what happened.