Whacking away at palm fronds. Click picture to enlarge. whack (29K)

Haircut day

Buzz cut for the palms

Follow-ups: Alan (27-May)

All over town, the palm trees are getting their spring haircut. What I want to know is, Who gives the signal? Somebody must give a signal. How else to explain coordination that would do a synchronized swimming team proud?

Maybe there's a calendar somewhere, perhaps a desert edition of the Farmers' Almanac, with a helpful reminder: "Memorial Day: Give palm trees their summer haircut." Or, more likely: "Dé a árboles de palma un corte de pelo del verano." It's simply a fact that most of the gardeners are Spanish speakers.

Or perhaps there's an "all-hands" meeting to pass on the word: "Everybody, listen up! Yesterday was Memorial Day, so I want to see everybody up a palm tree with their machete." You didn't think they use a scissors, did you?

At any rate, I've never seen a reminder of this in Sunset Magazine. There's nary a mention in "What do do in your garden in May" (Southern California checklist — until I moved, I didn't realize that Sunset actually publishes different editions customized for where you live.)

Trimming the trees appears to be another horticultural oddity that happens with great predictability. I've previously described the fall scalping of the grass and the spring reseeding.

In contrast to the grass rituals, giving palm trees their haircut takes a certain amount of derring-do, for the trees must be climbed all the way to the top, and then the fronds must be whacked off while clinging precariously to the trunk below the target of the whacking. Although the palm fronds look all airy and light, they are in fact quite heavy and have sharp — serrated almost — edges. You would not like to be hit by a falling one, nor sideswiped by one as it plummets to earth.

And one should mention that as you do this task, you are inexorably deprived of whatever shade was being provided by the very fronds being so mercilessly lopped off. (As I sit on the patio writing this at 10:30am, it is about 95° — "feels like 93°")

Perched up in a tree. Click picture to enlarge. perched_sm (16K) Prepare to whack! (Click picture to enlarge)
Palms after their haircut. Click picture to enlarge. after_sm (10K) Palms, after their haircut (Click picture to enlarge)
Carrying away the fronds. Click picture to enlarge. carry1_sm (14K) Toting away the fronds (Click picture to enlarge)
Carrying away the fronds. Click picture to enlarge. carry2_sm (17K) Wonder if all this goes into the landfill … or somewhere else (Click picture to enlarge)
Pool littered with fallen fronds. Click picture to enlarge. pool_sm (17K) Maybe I'll take my afternoon swim in the other pool (Click picture to enlarge)
fronds littering the ground. Click picture to enlarge What a mess!