Food & Drink

How Expert S.T. Young Prunes a Fruit Tree

Also: What is the prettiest fruit tree, really?

S.T. Young is the tree pruner who knows what plants want. (He asks them.) PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

When local landscaper S.T. Young is out in the field pruning trees, he puts a lot of thought into what branches to cut first.

“I don’t want to get too woo-woo about it, but I like to go up to the tree and just sit with it for a moment and try to figure out what the tree wants. I don’t do that all the time, but sometimes I’ll be like, ‘What does this tree want?’” explains Young, who additionally manages other projects, like vegetable gardens. Some clients simply want their tree to look better than it did before, he says, while others envision a beautifully sculpted backyard feature. There are also those—orchard owners, for instance—who don’t care about the looks at all and just want something that will maximize fruit production.

“I’m helping people in their homes and in their backyards, and it’s their Eden,” Young says. Most fruit trees are best pruned in the winter. GT checked-in recently with Young, whose busy season is starting to wrap up.

What’s the prettiest fruit tree?

S.T. YOUNG: Any fruit tree can be beautiful, can be made beautiful. That’s hard to say. I don’t know if I have a favorite. Olives can be really beautiful. They can be really gangly but cool-looking. Peach and nectarine flowers—there’s a whole spectrum of pink and fuchsia and really dark rich, almost red. Peach and nectarine flowers are probably my favorite flowers. But also feijoas—pineapple guavas. They have an amazing flower as well. Peaches and nectarines for their flowers, but they’re not the prettiest structure. Structure-wise, I think apples are cooler, but that can be changed with pruning. With peaches and nectarines, you have to regenerate their wood a lot, so you don’t want to get too attached to your branch because it’s probably gonna go. You’re gonna encourage new branches.

Is there a season you get really excited about food-wise?

Yeah, I love when the foods are coming in, and I don’t see my clients as often. But then when I do see them and the fruit’s ripe, it’s like, ‘Oh, here, take this giant basket of plums,’ or ‘Take this giant basket of kiwis’ or ‘Here, take some apples. Take as many as you want!’

S.T. Young, 713-6250. 

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