Friday, November 25, 2011

Splitting at the Seams

Plating Quince Bark

Now that this veteran quince has regained vigor and the branches have grown thicker, the bark is splitting under the pressure of the increased diameter. The plates formed by the exfoliating bark add to the beauty and ornamental value of the tree.

The beloved and beautiful quartet of quince (Cydonia oblonga) trees at the center of Bonnefont garden, an iconic image of The Cloisters worldwide, was showing its age when I first came to The Cloisters as consulting arborist in 2007. The trees were nutritionally deprived, had suffered from both summer and winter drought, and were subject to several fungal diseases, as well as insect infestations, especially apple maggot. (For information on organic methods for controlling this orchard pest, visit the Cornell website.) The trees were defoliating early in the season, further depriving them of energy and water.

The provision of proper nutrients, the application of a pine-sap based anti-transpirant to alleviate drought stress, and the removal of the fruit to conserve energy as the trees recuperate, have all added to increased stem growth, leaf retention, and disease resistance.

Trees do not invest in wood production when very stressed. Now that the trees are healthier, they are investing energy in wood growth. Although this stressed tree did put on annual growth rings, the rings were very small.  As the trees have resumed healthy growth, larger rings have formed, and the increased diameter has literally split the old bark.

Some leaves are still on the quince in November. The prolonged retention of the foliage has contributed to the vigor of the trees. The beautiful and dramatic mosaic of shedding bark is a sign of renewal that I’m very happy to see.

—Fran Reidy

Fran Reidy is consulting arborist to The Cloisters, and is engaged in rejuvenating and sustaining the trees in the gardens and on the grounds.

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Comments (11)

  1. Altoon Says:

    I’m so glad to hear that these trees are regaining health. I visited the Cloisters a couple of weeks ago and thought the bark was so beautiful that I photographed it.

  2. jean Says:

    The quince trees are among the most magical memories I have of hours I spent at the Cloisters when I lived in NYC, right up there with the Unicorn tapestries. Thanks for nourishing them!

  3. lawn care peachtree city Says:

    This tree looks gorgeous, strong and mysterious in the same time. I reminds me of the Tim Burton’s movies!

  4. Karen Orlando Says:

    Enjoy the work on this blog so much. Cannot think of a time recently that I read about rejuvenating trees.

  5. Frances E Reidy Says:

    It’s nice to know the work done is being appreciated everyday and brings people such memoreis and joy. Fran

  6. barbara bell Says:

    When I worked in the gardens, the quince often prompted the visitors to ask about those beautiful, unusual trees and their fruit. Thank you, Fran, for bringing many of the trees back to good health from someone who had the privilege of working beneath them!

  7. Sean McNeill Says:

    We shall give this quince a nickname: “Lou Ferrigno”, in honor of how the Incredible Hulk split open all of Bill Bixby’s suit jackets.

    Seriously though, very tangible evidence of a remarkable change for the better in the health of this beautiful tree. Nicely done!

  8. Sue Montana Says:

    These pictures really don’t do sufficient justice. You should get yer butts up there and see for yourselves how amazing this place is. And that they’ve found someone to maintain the trees so they can accurately represent the practices of the period is fantastic!

    What else is going on with the trees on the grounds?

  9. Ray Lembo Says:

    Great Job Fran. The trees are breathing a sigh of relief. I always wondered if the air quality over manhattan had any detrimental effect on the growth of everything underneath? Is that an issue?

  10. Frances E Reidy Says:

    Manhattan’s air quality does indeed effect plants. When washing the trees with a vegetable oil soap the runoff is dirty. Think of how many people you know who are suffering: Sinus problems, frequent ‘colds’, bronchitis,etc. Unlike humans, plants are able to absorb and utilize a certain number of metals and chemicals. They are ’sinks’ for many of our waste or hazardous materials. Human survival does depend on our co-inhabitants of this planet, yet I don’t believe theirs depends on us. Thank you for your kind comments. It is rewarding when trees respond and provide the proof of their health with flowers and fruit, autumn colors and beautiful bark. How can you not LOVE them?

  11. Kathy Montgomery Says:

    Wow Fran- Now THAT is impressive– preserving the life of a tree in an extremely challenging environment. I will visit the Cloisters just to see that tree. I didn’t know that the species could survive cold weather. It is a unique work of nature.

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