Gardening With Tony
Keep It Out Of The Gutter
By Tony Tomeo
Oct 10, 2012 - 8:36:50 AM

UNITED STATESIt may not seem like it is so now, but evergreen trees really are messier than most deciduous trees. They probably do not produce any more debris, but they drop their debris over much longer periods of time, or at various times, or simply ALL the time. Yet, at this time of year, it seems like the deciduous trees that mostly have dropped nothing or very little since last year, are making most of the mess in the garden as they defoliate for winter.

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Chilean nightshade has a distinctive personality.

Defoliation is only beginning, and will continue for a while. Ironically, the most impressively colorful deciduous trees happen to be those that hold their foliage for a long time, making their defoliation process linger over a few months. Even the most efficiently neat trees that defoliate in a few days tend to do so during windy or rainy weather, when we are not so motivated to go out into the garden to clean up their mess.

As the rainy season begins in a few weeks or so, the gutters on the eaves should be cleaned of debris that has accumulated since last year. This can sometimes be delayed until all deciduous trees that contribute to the accumulation of debris are completely defoliated. Generally though, homes with many or big trees (or many big trees) may need their gutters cleaned more than once as they continue to collect debris through autumn and perhaps into winter.

Any debris that collects behind chimneys, in valleys (where roof slope changes direction) or anywhere else on the roof, should also be removed. Even without gutters to collect debris, flat roofs collect whatever debris that does not get blown off by wind. Only parapet roofs that are common on so many homes of Spanish architecture collect more debris, since they are sheltered from wind.

Trees and vines should never be allowed to lean onto roofs. Vines and some densely foliated trees tend to accumulate all sorts of debris that rots and then damages the roof below. Trees that touch roofing material are abrasive as they move in any breeze.

Obtrusive trees and vines are also a serious problem for chimneys. Cypress, cedar, pine and the beards (accumulations of dead foliage) of fan palms are particularly combustible. Even after they get soaked by rain, they can quickly dry if heated by the exhaust from a chimney. Maple, ash and other trees with open canopies may not be as combustible, especially while defoliated, but can get roasted by chimney exhaust, and can interfere with ventilation.

Vine of the week: Chilean nightshade

Yellow centered blue flowers like those of the familiar potato bush, on vines almost like those of the comparably familiar potato vine would be like the not so common Chilean nightshade, Solanum crispum. However, Chilean nightshade needs to be trained onto support in order to climb, and only reaches fifteen feet or so. The cultivar (cultivated variety) 'Album' is like a shrubbier redundancy to potato vine, since it has white flowers. 'Glasnevin' is the most popular cultivar because it flowers freely and is hardier to frost.

The nearly inch wide and slightly fragrant flowers bloom in small clusters from May or June until about now. Small but sometimes prominent green berries that turn yellowish orange and then dark purple are toxic. Partial shade inhibits bloom and vigor.



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