The $600 Trade-Off

devil-pod-tree

The late devil-pod tree, towering over the house

{gronk!} Well, if it has to be a trade-off between shade and gunk in the pool, I’ll sacrifice the shade. And, to the tune of six Cs, that’s exactly what I just did: it cost almost $600 to get rid of the devil-pod tree and to score four plants and two 7½-foot trellises to fill in the vacant space.

To be fair, the guys also did a fair amount of trimming and thinning of the overgrown olive, palobrea, and vitex trees, too. They charged $465, when all was said and done, and then the bill from Home Depot was $111.

Well, I did pick up a few small things besides the garden stuff: a sanding block, a hose timer, some wire to tie the trellises to the wall.

Mike and Sidekick preparing to wrestle with the corpse

It took two men in climbing gear about three hours to pull down the monster. Really, I do feel bad about killing a tree, particularly a large shade tree. However, it’s nice to know I’ve hauled my last bushel of devil-pods and strap-like devil-pod leaves out of a ten-foot-deep pond of expensively chlorinated water.

The arboricide is a day late and a dollar short for Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner, though. The devil-pod tree killed him. One last massive blast of yellow polleny puffball stuff so clogged the pool’s system that the gunk broke apart both the pump pot basket and the skimmer basket. It also shattered the plastic filter on Harvey’s backside. He’s still staggering along, but not well. And that thing doesn’t look like a separate part: it appears to be one with his molded carapace. Tomorrow I’ll take him in to the Leslie’s guy but don’t have much hope of getting him fixed.

Cost for a new pool cleaner? $350, when it’s on sale.

So, that’s been one expensive goddamn devil-pod tree!

This operation left that corner of the yard pretty bare. The wall that borders the street, as you can see, is about five feet high on my side, but on the exterior, where people walk past on the sidewalk, it’s about six feet high (i.e., the grade inside the wall is a foot higher than the grade outside). The city forbids walls higher than six feet, a rule best honored in the flouting. However, because it’s right on the street and easy for prowling city employees to spot, I’m not willing to invite a citation and an order to tear down an added row of block. And as you may be able to tell, the neighbor across the street can see right into my backyard.

But I have a plan. The city does nothing to prevent you from growing tall shrubbery where it prohibits tall walls, and so the view-blocking tree needs only to be replaced by view-blocking shrubs. Preferably xeric, low-litter, cold-hardy shrubs.

As it develops the green hopseed bush fits that description handsomely. It does make some papery seed pods, but they don’t look any more menacing that bougainvillea blossoms, which do litter the pool but which the cleaning system handles easily. These things get to be 12 to 15 feet high and are said to grow fast. So within a year or so, the foliage privacy screen should be back, only this time with a fraction of the pool litter.

I bought three of them (maybe one too many…), and then to brighten up the corner, a Texas yellowbell, which also gets to be a good-sized plant and is very pretty. These freeze back in the winter here, and so it probably won’t get out of hand unless we go several years without a hard freeze.

That naked shrub on the left in the backyard snapshot above is a vitex. It’s deciduous. In the summer it develops pretty blue flowers, which will contrast nicely with the yellowbells, which seem to bloom all the time. The yellowbell is going in front of the tree stump, which I couldn’t afford to have taken out. Soon enough it should hide that thing.

The vitex was quite a handsome specimen tree when I had it planted at the time I moved in here. However, over the past five years or so, the devil-pod tree, which grows as fast as a eucalyptus, has shaded it so much it quit growing and became all distorted. Mike (arborist) thinks it will recover now that it can get some light.

The one in the front yard has grown into a full-sized tree, and so presumably when this stunted one in back takes ahold, it will provide some nice shade to the pool and help to block the view in back. Although it does drop its leaves in winter, they’re small enough not to clog Harvey (or his descendant…) but large enough to be caught by the skimmer and pump pot filters.

And speaking of blocking the view of passers-by and nosy neighbors, that’s what the 14 feet of trellises are for. I’m going to wire them horizontally to the top row of decorative blocks and staple shade cloth to them. They can come down after the plants get big enough to do their job, but until then, they should protect my privacy a little.

First thing Charley did after the men left was attempt to excavate the tree stump. My god that animal can dig! And he’s fast, very very fast.

Couldn’t get very annoyed with him, though, because he unearthed a long-lost irrigation hose. I thought there was a dripper somewhere near that tree, but it’s been hidden under the debris for years. This is good. Very, very good.

It’ll make it easy for me to run water to all four new plants and to rejigger the water for the vitex. So I won’t have to worry too much about forgetting to water all this new foliage, which you can bet I will do.

Tomorrow’s project: pull this thing apart, connect it to lengths of hosing, and attach a half-dozen emitters. Then dig holes and plant shrubs!

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Melissa@LillePunkin January 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

Wow! That was one expensive tree. Still I know what a pain those trees that drop little pods incessantly can be. I think your new plan for the shrubs sounds great. Greenery is sometimes the best fence.

Carol January 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm

It must feel great to finally get rid of the majorly annoying devil-pod tree. And there’s something very soul-satisfying, at least to me, in setting out new plants. I even enjoy the physical labor and the getting dirty part.

frugalscholar January 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Yea! Hope this is a stress-reliever.

Ash January 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Not a bad charge for such an enormous tree but the reduced pool charges will be gratifying. Do you use the pool much? I don’t recall you talking much about that.

Stephen January 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

You should get one of those metal detectors and go walking with Charley. Just imagine all the treasures waiting for Charley to dig up.

Funny about Money January 13, 2012 at 5:52 am

LOL! I was just thinking, while banging holes through the caliche, that it sure would be nice to be able to train him to dig on command — where and when the human would like.

paul January 16, 2012 at 7:05 am

“I bought three of them ….”
It is too many!

funny January 16, 2012 at 7:15 am

@ Paul: Mixed reports from nurserypersons on that score. Two say that to provide thick enough cover to block curious eyes, it will take four plants to cover the 15-foot spread. One recommended five. Websites claim a single plant can get to be 15 feet wide (I’ll believe that when I see it). Decided to compromise with three, since the vitex should fill in now that it’s getting adequate light and water.

One of the hopseed bushes probably will not get enough light to keep it happy except in the summer. With the sun swinging far to the north right now, it’s in the full shade of the ugly tin shed Satan built on that side of the house. So chances are it won’t grow very large.

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