12 April, 2012
On pruning trees in Malta
Alfred E Baldacchino
The appreciation of trees in the Maltese Islands is gaining great momentum among the general public, though unfortunatley the official side has still a lot of ground to cover to be in line with modern thinking, despite national and international legal obligations and much publicised colourful plans and projects.
This has led to the creation of a blog on saving our trees which are so much under official pressure and being decimated by the dozen without any proper management and without any official regulator, making the political responsibility so much greater. Congratulations to all those who have given birth to such a blog and to all those, without exception, who are contributing to it. It is a healthy dialogue which one hopes one day will lead to a proper professional management of trees in Malta.
A reference was made in the blog to a tree at Balzan which was damaged by the strong wind (Photo 2). It grew on a small traffic island at the end of a one way street reached from Balzan square. Because of the way it was pruned, it was so top-heavy, with a heavy crown on thin main branches, that with a relatively strong wind it cracked. This photo (2) was taken on 10th February 2008.
Today I passed from the site to see how the trees there were faring. They did recieve quite an extensive ‘haircut’ as photo 3 shows. To my asthonisment, the tree in photo 2 was not there. Wonder of wonders: it had either gone to heaven, or gone up in smoke. The traffic island though is still there but covered in concrete.
I walked further up the line of “hair-cut” trees to see how the tree in photo 1, the phallus shaped tree, had fared. It looks more like a lolipop than a tree, or like an upside down phallus, hiding its head in shame while exposing its pubic hair.
On this save the tree blog above mentioned, there is a very interesting, educational video regarding the pruning of ficus trees, and one should thank the person responsible for putting it there. But unfortuntely many of the various suggestions and advice given in this video were not taken in consideration in pruning these trees? I sometimes believe that street trees in Malta have never seen any secutors (imqass taż-żabra) in their lives. Chainsaws are more quick in the job, and thus they do not drain any of the proifts, irrispective of the negative aesthetic value they leave behind (photo 3).
I remember, as I am sure many of the readers do, when the Department of Agriculture was still responsible for landscaping, before the present Governemnt Contractor took over. Such trees used to be pruned with more dedication and with more feeling. I remember the ficus trees at Saqajja Rabat, which, in those days, were professionally pruned in a seemingly sculptured way, with a crown that extended from one end of the line to the other, and with small branches seemingly like a trellis, which were so adequate against the historic builidngs behind. At that time the Department of Agriculture did not have any of the resources that today’s ‘landscapers’ have, but in the past they used to do miracles, with as little public expenses as possible.
If one looks at the way that street trees are being pruned today, one immediately asks how professional this is. True that one has to keep in mind that we live in Malta, where everything is possible, and where amateurism is called professinalism and professinalism is called fundamentalism!
While following the line of the trees pruned in 2008, still showing their wounds, I came across the cherry on the cake in present Maltese landscaping approved by the political masters. When I went past the Lija Cemetery on the road to Mosta, an employee with a tank on his back, probably paid out of public funds, was spraying herbicide around all the trees lining the pavement! Now those who know something about ecology and nature conservation know that at this time of the year the undergrowth is full of life with the various stages of a number of fauna and flora, such as butterflies and moths which are becoming scarcer by the hour. Those in official positions know that the Governemnt on behalf of Malta is obliged to take measures to control biodiversity loss, an obligation arising out of our EU Membership. Those who chose not to know anything about the subject, endorse invoices for the payment of such activities paid out of public funds. The poltiical responsiblity is greater than one thinks. It is a permanent dent on the ecological set up of these islands, as much as tampering with Hagar Qim or Imnajdra is a permanent dent on the archaeological heritage of the islands. No wonder a person I met told me that the Maltese people hate trees!
Never in the history of ecological conservation in Malta, (or its exploitation) have so few benefited at the expense of so many.