Many pruning chores are underway at my Bedford, New York farm.
Yesterday's temperatures were relatively mild here in the Northeast - the bright sun melted more of the snow from last week's Winter Storm Stella. It was a good time to prune the row of Osage orange trees that line a fence near my tennis court. The Osage orange, Macular pomifera, is not an orange at all, and is more commonly known as hedge apple, bowwood, or bodark. The fruit is wrinkly and bumpy in appearance, and considered inedible because of the texture and taste, but they're very interesting and fun to grow.
Enjoy these photos.
Along one side of my North Maple Paddock by the run-in shed, I have a row of Osage orange trees. Despite the name, it is actually a member of the fig family.
There are a handful of taller Osage orange trees and about 300-saplings we planted several years ago.
These trees must be pruned regularly to keep it in bounds. It is a fast grower – the shoots of a single year can grow up to three to six feet long. Here is Chhewang pruning one of the taller specimens.
The branches are armed with stout, straight spines. Before the invention of barbed wire in the 1880s, hedges were constructed by planting young Osage orange trees closely together.
Because of the thorny branches, it is important to wear protective glasses, long sleeves and thick gloves when working with these trees.
This is how the Osage orange tree looks when it is all leafed out. It is a small deciduous tree or large shrub.
The Osage orange produces a large, warty, inedible fruit that has a distinctive orange aroma.
When mature, the Osage orange fruit, is filled with a sticky latex sap, which has been found to repel insects.
Here is one of the trees bearing several fruits a couple years ago. The leaves are three to five inches long and about three-inches wide. They are thick, firm, dark green and pale green. In autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow.
We prune these trees yearly. Without pruning, Osage orange trees grow in dense unruly thickets as multi-stemmed shrubs.
Chhewang prunes out competing leaders, retaining only one strong upright with evenly-spaced branches.
One of the tools Chhewang likes to use is my Martha Stewart long-handled tree pruner from one of my past gardening collections – these trusted tools are long-lasting and durable.
Chhewang also uses this longer, 10-foot long tree pruner, to cut taller branches that are more difficult to reach, especially because of the sharp thorns.
Chhewang removes dead or damaged branches and any crossing branches that rub against each other.
The Osage orange tree is native to North America. It is said that the Osage Indians made hunting bows from the beautiful hard wood of this tree.
In this tree, Chhewang found a small bird’s nest. A bird was smart to build it here where it was protected from predators because of the thorns.
The heavy, close-grained yellow-orange wood is very dense and is prized for tool handles, treenails, and fence posts. It also withstands rot.
Osage orange trees can reach a mature size of up to 40-feet tall with an equal spread.
Although it is difficult to see, this Osage orange tree has been well-pruned and will look very pretty when its leaves return.
I hope these trees produce a good amount of fruits this autumn.