Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How To Skin a Palm

Palm trees, like people, are created equal.  Every tropical and subtropical palm variety is green, luscious and beautiful.  What varies is the palm’s upkeep and grooming methods, which can run the gamut from: 1) Never doing anything to it; to 2) Fertilizing it once; to 3) Hacking back its unruly, overactive growing parts until it looks half-way decent.  Which is sort of how grooming works with people, too. 

I’ve never been the gal who could pull an all-nighter, sleep for 12 minutes, then roll out of bed looking fresh and beautiful without a lick of make-up.  I’ve always needed lots of sleep, vitamins and a daily, six-hour beauty regimen with expensive creams, sprays and high-impact cardio exercise to look presentable enough not to scare small children. 

Unfortunately I bought a yard full of palms just like me—they have costly, time-consuming, labor-intensive grooming needs.  Darn it.

Why couldn’t we have Desert Palm (Washingtonia filifera) trees?  These medium-sized trees, native to California and the southwest, line the streets of Palm Springs giving that oasis town a stately air.  They also require minimal upkeep since the dead palm leaves, or palm “fronds”, are left hanging on the tree where they form a grass skirt.  And as everyone knows, anything in a grass skirt is beautiful. 

Nope, in our small front yard we had a dozen palms of the Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta) and Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) varieties and all of them—every single one—needed to be skinned.  Palm “skinning” is the costliest trimming technique that removes every five-foot long, dead palm frond once it hangs flush with the trunk; in effect, cutting off its “grass skirt”.  But in the case of our tall palm trees, the grass skirt never made the tree a thing of beauty, it made it look like a giant man in drag. 

But I digress.  Back to skinning: the palm frond is cut off at its base, right next to the trunk, which leaves the trunk with a smooth appearance reminiscent of the gray “skin” of an elephant.  I’m not sure if this is where the “skinning” term came from but I’m sticking with it.

If Mr. Wonderful and I decided not to skin our Mexican Fan and Queen palms, then we would continue to find a dozen five-foot long, dead palm fronds littering our front yard, driveway and street every time the wind blew, which was more than annoying.  Picking up dead palm fronds is difficult because each one is lined with rows of sharp teeth, and being five feet long, each one needs to be sawed in half just so I can fit them into the green yard-waste recyclable bin.

But our palms were equal opportunity frond polluters.  After any slight breeze, five-foot long, dead brown palm fronds would blow into our neighbors’ yards, too.  Since no neighbor, except Harold, had spoken to us since we’d moved in, we thought there might be a connection between them disliking our palms and disliking us.

Therefore for the good of ourselves and to promote neighborly love, it was a no brainer.  We had to get our trees skinned even though we’d be fleeced in the expensive process. 

The things you do for neighborly love.