MERRY CHRISTMAS TREE – Christmas 2022 – Memorial Tree Update

Memorial Tree – before and after pruning

The Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park is certainly no Christmas Tree, but did happen to get its annual dormant pruning yesterday, which was Christmas Eve.

All of the redwoods that were installed intentionally within the refined landscape of Felton Covered Bridge Park (excluding any wild redwoods) are Memorial Trees for specific people. The solitary sweetgum is a Memorial Tree for a specific French bulldog. The solitary valley oak, which is pictured above, was originally a Memorial Tree for a specific person as well, but became a collective Memorial Tree for a few friends of the originally memorialized and the local Community. The subsequently memorialized passed away within only a few years of the installation of this Memorial Tree, and some were unhoused at the time.

Although the young Memorial Tree grew well since last winter, and is therefore a bit larger, it was pruned less than last year. It simply did not grow as much as it did during the previous year, and did not generate as much superfluous growth. Only a few lower stems were removed to maintain minimal clearance for pedestrians and parking spaces, including a parking space for vehicles used by handicapped people (which requires slightly more than eight feet of vertical clearance). A few more upper stems that developed awkward structure were also removed. So were vigorous stems that would have been likely to compete with more desirable and better directed stems. No growth yet extends over the driveway, but the trajectory of growth that extends in that direction suggests that minimal clearance of fourteen feet will be easily maintained as growth eventually extend that far.

The stabilizing stake is likely unnecessary, but will remain until next winter. By that time, it should be more obviously unnecessary. The trunk remains slightly more pliable than it should be, most likely as a result of previous binding. Contrary to prediction last year, the embarrassing brace between the two lowest limbs will also remain, perhaps as long as the stake. To limit bark disfigurement, it will be adjusted between spring and summer. The mesh cage around the base of the trunk can be removed at any time, so will likely be removed after the last weed whacking procedure of summer. Weed whackers should no longer be a threat to the maturing lower bark.

This may be the last dormant pruning procedure for this young Memorial Tree. After the stake, brace and mesh cage are removed, it should require no additional seasonal attention. Subsequent pruning to maintain clearance can be performed when convenient for the arborists who perform such procedures, which may not necessarily be during winter dormancy, and may not be necessary again for a few or even several years.

Although I know that the basal bark will be resilient to weed whackers, I may continue to remove weeds from around the trunk, so that there will be no need for weed whackers to get close to it. Also, I may apply fertilizer if foliation begins prior to the end of the rainy season, and perhaps subsequently in conjunction with supplemental irrigation, if I continue to occasionally irrigate through the warmest weather of summer. Realistically though, the Memorial Tree needs no more assistance.

December 18, 2022 – Memorial Grove Update

These three young Monterey cypress trees of the Memorial Grove have been doing quite well. Consequently, there is not much to write about them. Two were installed scarcely more than a year ago. The other was installed about two and a half years ago. All three were dinky seedlings when installed, so are less demanding than larger specimens would have been as they dispersed their roots to get established. Although still young, small and vulnerable, their only minor difficulty has been the partial shade of larger endemic box elder and cottonwood trees that have not yet been pruned for clearance. Such pruning has been delayed until the new trees become established, which they seem to have been doing quite efficiently. Although they lack supplemental irrigation, they would likely appreciate increased exposure to sunlight more than shelter from potentially desiccating warm breezes. I intend to increase clearance for the oldest of the three trees this winter for next year. I should do the same for the other two trees by next winter. Adjacent vegetation will subordinate to these three trees as they mature. They are only rarely irrigated by bucket and even more rarely fertilized. Lack of irrigation promotes deeper root dispersion. Since they are a nearly native species from Carmel, they actually require no assistance now that their roots are adequately dispersed. Unfortunately, I did not get good pictures of any of the trees.

The Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree is the oldest of the three Monterey cypress trees within the Memorial Grove. It was installed on May 2, 2020, three years after Steven Michael Ralls passed away. It is now almost six feet tall.

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree

The David Noel Riddell Memorial Tree was installed in conjunction with the David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree a few days after David Fritiof Lindberg passed away on November 13, 2021. It is the smallest of the three trees, so is only slightly taller than three feet. Monterey cypress is coincidentally an ideal species for this particular Memorial, since David Noel Riddell is a direct descendent of some of the first Spanish people to arrive in California. His ancestors have inhabited Monterey continuously since then.

David Noel Riddell Memorial Tree

The David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree, as mentioned above, was installed a few days after David Fritiof Lindberg passed away on November 13, 2021. It is about four feet tall now.

David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree

These three trees were installed in memory of three members of our Community who, at one time or another, had been unhoused. Actually, this Memorial Grove is coincidentally developing on a former camp site of Steven Michael Ralls. A fourth tree will be installed for another deceased and formerly unhoused member of our Community as more of the endemic vegetation is subordinated. This fourth tree and any subsequent trees may not necessarily be Monterey cypress, but will be evergreen and coniferous, since the Memorial Grove happens to be a component of a landscape that is designed to replace deciduous endemic vegetation with densely evergreen vegetation, and ultimately obscure the view of nearby industrial buildings.

Kurt Cobain Memorial Park

Aberdeen in Washington is known more for nearby tourist destinations outside of town than for that which is inside of town. It is a convenient source of supplies for exploring and hiking in the Great Outdoors. It is, after all, the Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.

The Kurt Cobain Memorial Park is a unique tourist destination that happens to be within town. It is not for everyone, but appeals to those who appreciate who Kurt Cobain was. Many within our Community do. Some of us have much in common with Kurt Cobain, and can identify with his difficulties prior to his untimely death twenty eight years ago.

These pictures are from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park. They are likely and perhaps fortunately unimportant to many of us. Nonetheless, their significance and relevance is obvious to some.

Neighbors protest the traffic associated with the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, which was not designed for such traffic. Actually, it was not designed to be a Park. Apparently, is is a popular destination for those who appreciate who Kurt Cobain was.
This is a big explanation for such a small Memorial Park.
This plaque features quotes by Kurt Cobain. The roses were fresh.
This plaque is on the backside of the base of the sculpture in the next picture.
Graffiti honoring Kurt Cobain covers most surfaces of the sculptures and infrastructure here, without obscuring inscriptions.
It seems as if something is missing, but the plaque at the base reads, “KURT’S AIR GUITAR”.
The underside of the Young Street Bridge, with the northern bank of the Wishkah River beyond, was the inspiration for ‘Something In The Way’, by Kurt Cobain.
This site under the Young Street Bridge is a component of the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, so is designated as such with this plaque.
Graffiti intended to honor Kurt Cobain is even more prominent under the Young Street Bridge than it is elsewhere within the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park.
What seem to be campsites are excavated into the south bank of the Wishkah River below the Young Street Bridge. Some believe that Kurt Cobain lived here for a time.

December 22, 2021 – Memorial Tree Update

before and after pruning

Winter pruning happens in, well, winter, which began with the solstice on December 21. The little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park got pruned and groomed on the day after, which was December 22. It was already sufficiently dormant for the process. I did not want to delay it any longer than necessary.

Lower stems were removed both to improve minimal clearance for pedestrians, and to direct growth upward next year. Growth had gotten obtrusively low through summer; but pruning was delayed until dormancy. A few more of the unobtrusive lower stems that are substantial enough to compete with desirable upper growth may be pruned away later. Smaller lower stems will likely subordinate to more vigorous upper growth, even if not pruned away later. Only a few stems that crossed over primary limbs were removed, but probably did not need to be, since they likely would have eventually subordinated.

Binding of the main trunk was finally removed. The tree was bound from the beginning because it was so young, with irregular structure. As it matured, taller new binding stakes replaced the shorter old binding stakes, to straighten and direct the main trunk. Although the main trunk was sufficiently tall to not require binding last year, it remained bound for straightness.

Binding is typically performed while trees are developing in nurseries, so that trees do not need binding once installed into landscapes. Such procedures are performed by nurserymen, but neither arborists nor gardeners. I was therefore pleased to remove the binding from the landscape. However, and embarrassingly, because growth had been so vigorous through last year, two main limbs were temporarily bound to direct their growth away from each other! They would otherwise develop a detrimentally narrow and consequently structurally deficient branch union. Their binding should be removed next winter.

Although the binding stake was removed, a stabilizing stake was replaced, and should remain until next winter, and might remain, perhaps with minor adjustment, until the winter afterward if necessary. Because the stabilizing stake is coincidentally directly behind the tree trunk in the picture, it is not visible. A larger and older wooden stake that broke at the base, but remained attached between the tree trunk, binding stake and newer stabilizing stake through most of last year, after the newer stabilizing stake was installed, is now gone.

The little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park is doing quite well.

Memorial

An obituary typically precedes a memorial, to inform the Community of a subsequent memorial. In retrospect, the memorial was at 3:00 last Saturday afternoon at the Footbridge Service Center, at 150 Felker Street in Santa Cruz. Those of us in Felton only became aware of it two days prior, on Thanksgiving Day. Time was insufficient to gather the information that is necessary for the composition of an obituary.

Besides, it is not easy. It is downright difficult. I will not even attempt to compose an obituary now. It will take a few days.

To be perhaps disrespectfully brief, our old friend, David Lindberg of Boulder Creek, while asleep early in the morning of November 13, succumbed to infection associated with a scorpion bite. He had attempted to meet with a physician at HPHP (Homeless Persons Health Project) during the previous day, but arrived late, so intended to return during the following morning. He had not perceived the infection to be severe enough to justify seeking emergency medical attention at Dominican Hospital earlier. He was fifty five years old, and living unhoused in Santa Cruz at the time.

What began as a single Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree, is developing into a grove too quickly. At the beginning of the rainy season, another Monterey cypress was to be added for another old friend who succumbed to cardiac arrest last year. Now, a third Monterey cypress must be added for David Lindberg. Fortunately, two more Monterey cypress will be assets to the landscape. However, it is saddening that they are necessary. Although death is an unavoidable consequence of life, it seems that too much of it has been happening during the past few years. Perhaps that is a consequence of remembering.

October 10, 2021 – Memorial Tree Update

Memorial Tree – July 12, 2021

November 1, 2020, almost a year ago, was the last update for the resilient little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Since then, it began to develop a form that is more appropriate to the park parking lot that it inhabits, with a single straight trunk and a reasonably well structured canopy. (The illustration above is about three months old, from July 12, but the Tree has not grown much since then.)

Of course, the canopy will need to be pruned for continued structural development after it defoliates for winter. For now, lower growth remains somewhat obtrusive within the associated curbed parking lot island. This growth will be pruned up high enough so that no one must duck under it. As the tree matures, limbs that extend into the driveway beyond the curb must be higher than fourteen feet, so that they will not be obstructive to large vehicles. Slightly lower limbs are tolerable but undesirable over the adjacent parking spaces. Since the main trunk divides at about six feet above grade, main limbs must ascend rather steeply to attain clearance of more than fourteen feet above the adjacent parking spaces, which are only about three feet from the main trunk. Fortunately, the roadway is a bit farther than the adjacent parking spaces.

Sadly, the Memorial Tree was damaged as it was struck by a freighter truck that was too large to turn around in the parking lot. Fortunately, the damage is not as severe as it could have been. Only a bit of bark was scraped from the main trunk. The worst of the damage is a basal fracture, which should compartmentalize efficiently as growth resumes next spring. The Memorial Tree was staked and bound with a more resilient stake. Although such binding is not arboriculturally correct, it will be temporarily helpful through recovery. Hopefully, all binding can be removed within a year, but the new stake may remain with a loose strap afterward.

It has been gratifying to observe the Community popularity of the young Memorial Tree through all of its hardships. The Maintenance Staff of Felton Covered Bridge Park (the Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services) has been very protective of it, and offered to replace it if it had been too severely distressed to recover from various former damages, as well as its recent altercation. While it was not expected to recover from brutal vandalism in June of 2020, a few members of the Community, including someone who now resides in Southern California, likewise offered to replace it. No replacement is necessary. It survives and somehow thrives.

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree Update

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree – May 2, 2021

The Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree has done well since it was installed precisely a year ago, on the second of May of 2020, which was the third anniversary of the passing of Steven Michael Ralls.

Although it was installed after the primary rainy season, it enjoyed a few late rain showers prior to requiring supplemental irrigation through summer. It was occasionally given a bit of fertilizer to help it get established. Staking was not necessary.

The young tree may not seem to be much larger now than it was a year ago, but has undoubtedly dispersed roots sufficiently to survive without supplemental irrigation. It may receive a few more doses of fertilizer in conjunction with occasional supplemental irrigation, just to accelerate growth while it is still young and vulnerable, but should not get so much that it becomes reliant on such intervention.

Now that the tree is established and ready to grow more than it did last year, adjacent and freshly foliated box elders will be pruned or felled to allow more sunlight through. More box elders and other nearby small trees will be subordinated and felled to accommodate growth in the future.

The Steven Michael Ralls was the first of a row of trees that were installed to partially obscure the view of an industrial building from an adjacent roadway. Five Arizona cypress, two deodar cedars and a coast live oak were added last autumn to disperse roots through winter. Five other deodar cedars were installed nearby to partially obscure another view. All are also doing well now that the weather is warming. Since they were installed prior to the rainy season, they likewise should not require supplemental irrigation, even if they might get a bit.

Previous posts explain the importance of the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree.

The Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree on May 2 of 2021 and 2020. (The images do not match well because I did not plan this comparison when taking the pictures.)

November 1, 2020 -Memorial Tree Update

The Memorial Tree is remarkably healthy!

The Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park was not expected to survive damage inflicted by a vandal last June. However, it recovered with unexpected efficiency and vigor, at a time of year when growth should have been decelerating prior to autumn. It is as if the vandalism never happened.

The worst of the damage is nearly healed.

After unsuccessfully attempting to poison the Memorial Tree with salt, the vandal sliced more than half way through the trunk in three places. The worst of these three slices is nearly healed. Another has already healed over. The third is so efficiently healed that the scar is barely visible.

This damage is already healed over.

A gardener who maintains Felton Covered Bridge Park installed a cage of chicken wire around the lower portion of the trunk to hopefully dissuade the vandal from attacking the Memorial Tree again. The trunk is sturdier and would be more resilient to such vandalism than it was last June.

This damage healed over so efficiently that it is difficult to find. The scar is barely visible near the top of the picture.

Prior to the vandalism, the Memorial Tree had grown vigorously through spring, and was already decelerating its growth for summer, as is normal for the species within a natural habitat. By late summer, it would have been expected to concentrate resources into dormant terminal buds prior to defoliation through autumn and dormancy through winter.

Instead, the Memorial Tree responded to the vascular distress associated with the vandalism by suddenly and unexpectedly accelerating vigorous vegetative growth until it was compelled to decelerate by cooling autumn weather. Instead of producing such growth below the damage, as is typical, the determined little Memorial Tree expanded its developing upper canopy.

More than half of this vigorous growth developed after the Memorial Tree was vandalized.

The Memorial Tree has recovered so efficiently that it will likely require only minor grooming while dormant through winter, to remove a few overly vigorous stems from the lower canopy. Minor stubble remains to promote trunk caliper development. The trunk may no longer need binding. The stabilizing lodgepole should remain for at least next year, even if it is unnecessary.

All this new growth will be groomed while dormant through winter.

Members of the Community offered to replace the Memorial Tree after it was vandalized and not expected to survive. Fortunately, replacement will not be necessary. This little Memorial Tree has survived other forms of damage, and is determined to continue to survive and flourish.

Vandalism

The little Memorial Tree was found to be askew late Wednesday afternoon.

This would have been an ideal time for a seasonal update on the little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Until recently, it had been healthier and growing more vigorously than it had since it was installed a few years ago. It had survived major accidental damage, and was just beginning to thrive. Sadly though, it was so severely vandalized that recovery is unlikely.

About a month ago, someone was seen briefly rummaging about the base of the tree, as if retrieving something that was dropped. Upon closer inspection, the observer noticed what seemed to be some sort of fertilizer, which was not considered to be a problem. A few days later, someone else recognized it as common salt, which is toxic to young plants, and promptly removed it.

Last Wednesday, the Memorial Tree was observed to be askew and separated from its supportive stake, which seemed to be the sort of minor damage incurred by something as simple as a dog getting its leash tangled with it. However, as the tree was straightened and staked, three fresh saw cuts were observed in the trunk. Each cut severed the trunk about half way through.

A vandal is intent on depriving the Community of this Memorial Tree. That is what vandals do. They destroy assets, which are very commonly assets of Society. Of all the Memorial Trees in Felton Covered Bridge Park, this specific vandal specifically targeted the Memorial Tree that was contributed to Society by the Homeless of Felton, who innately have the least to contribute.

We will consult with the Santa Cruz County Parks Department this week about the future of this Memorial Tree or its potential replacement. However, the next Memorial Tree will likely be a Memorial Grove of several coast live oaks, perhaps with cedars to the east and west, in a less accessible but very visually prominent location near the western end of Mount Hermon Road.

Although the Memorial Tree initially seemed to be undamaged, three major cuts were found in the trunk.

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree is happy in its new home.

Steven Michel Ralls was memorialized by the installation of his own Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree this morning on the third anniversary of his passing. Several circumstances coincided to make this event not only possible, but righteously appropriate, much like the original Memorial Tree that replaced a conspicuously missing oak in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

This little Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, grew from seed into a situation where it could not stay. Initially, there was no place to relocate it to, since it will eventually get too big and too shady for most landscapes. Ironically, these disadvantages are attributes where it is now situated, at the end of where a row of other cypress will be installed to obscure unappealing scenery.

The location is perfect! It is offset from the adjoining straight row of five Arizona cypress, where it can get bigger and broader than the others, as it naturally does. A larger and bulkier tree is preferred there to compensate for a slightly lower elevation. What is even more ideal about the location is that it is precisely where Steven Michael Ralls camped while homeless late in 2012.

Steven Michael Ralls did not live there for long, before relocating to comfortable homes in Murphys, and ultimately Aptos. The site has change significantly since then. The upper portion has been buried by excavation for the expansion of the adjacent utility yard that the cypress are intended to obscure. A perimeter fence was installed around the yard. Vegetation is diminished.

It was gratifying to install the new Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree this morning. It will need to be irrigated occasionally by bucket through summer, but will need nothing after the rain starts next autumn. It knows how to grow up fast to become a big and prominent asset to the forest.