6th Sep, 2009

autumn and the felling of trees

It seems impossible to think of taking down trees even in a small garden. But last week was my Derek week:  trees left this place.  Derek is Derek Welsh of Authentic Tree Service.  He hates cutting down healthy trees but even in this case it he agreed: wrong tree for the wrong place.

It’s my fault. When the weeping willow came out next door, I was so dazzled by light I thought “Plant trees now.”  In doing so, I did something I warn other people about:  I overplanted. I’m here humbly with a mea culpa.  A fern-leaf alder grew to such proportions in this wonderful loamy soil that it was squeezing the light away from everything else.  The view from my chair in the dining room told me that something was wrong.

The Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioeca) with its magnificen ferny high canopy, and a star of this garden, remained unseen from the house.  This is the greatest (certainly the largest) of  the trees of the Carolinian forest. We’re on the edge of the forest’s range, so I feel a responsibility to plant as many species as possible.  This is my favourite.  And I’ve moved it to various parts of the garden so it never has been able to do its stuff until now.  And what a beauty it is.  Hard to photograph because it’s incredibly tall.

garden before pruning
But what I was feeling was being overwhelmed by the tree—not something you want in a garden. They are they were be part of our relationship with nature not threatening. I used to feel that about the weeping willow—convinced it would be the plant that killed us or destroyed our house.  And recently the trees in our neighbourhood are so stressed and such a mess that part of a silver maple fell on my husband’s car and crushed the roof. If he’d been standing by it—a gonner.

We have to treat these wonderful creatures very delicately which is why I like Derek:  he takes out trees very reluctantly and he never lets his guys spike. If you  see a tree person strapping on the spikes, get them out of your garden. Sometimes these fraudsters will put up a ladder and then spike from there.

When hiring an arbourist make sure they are certified (ask for credentials), and  make sure you know who’s going to be ankling up that tree.  You might get a charming salesman and the tree guys could be inept beyond belief.  This happened to a friend:  guy spiked her honey locust and she’s been paying ever since:  chunks dropping out, excess “bleeding,” insects–you name it.  I has cost her a lot of money which, if well spent in the first place, shouldn’t have been necessary.

This is how a good arbourist scales a tree:  like a monkey a brave one.

This is how a good arbourist scales a tree: like a monkey a brave one.

The garden once it was cleaned out and really see-through

The garden once it was cleaned out and really see-through

Though my trees are generally very healthy there’s another thing that must be taken into consideration:  age. I have a gorgeous Cercis canadensis ‘Purple Pansy’ which came to its end last week as well. I got all teary in the house. But these cultivars only seem to last for fifteen years and this one was sadly dying by inches. But by sheer luck I found a new one at Fiesta Gardens (200 Christie Street) with almost the same shape though only a few feet tall. It will grow up to be just as glorious. A tree to see me out.

My  talk at  the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association’s annual conference, was a boffo success. What a great audience of really smart people.

And my next talk is at  Brock University. I’ll be ranting on the Saturday October 3rd as keynote speaker in what will be a fantastic  conference.  Please come and I’ll have books for sale. Or you can get them from me directly (see above).


Responses

I was checking out your website tonight, Derek has talked a lot about you. Very nice article you wrote about him.

Derek’s mom.

On your excellent advice, we had five enormous Manitoba (Norway?) maples felled from our small (16×25) Leslieville garden last autumn. While the resulting full exposure is taking some getting used to, as a novice gardener I’m thrilled to have so much sunlight to work with. Things actually grow! There are bees!

The city mandates we replant three trees. I found two Charlie-Brownish trees – a purple beech and a nice little maple – on radical clearance on the last day our Loblaws’s garden centre was open. They seem to have taken to the garden well (though it’s only been six weeks or so), and now I just need to find one more to fulfil our obligation to the city. Would a serviceberry or redbud be suitable? I love them both.

Today, after years of worry, I have to call Davey Tree and say go ahead. Cut it down.

I created this tree. I had it pruned and cabled. From the back deck I watch in the wind. I look at in the moonlight. I photograph it in the late afternoon light. I hear it with me as I work in the yard. It watches over me. But I have to cut it down.

It seems that the tree I saved, pruned, shaped and made beautiful is a weed. And not highly regarded by anyone. I thought the string of them down old alleys nearby was some old municipal project but my arbourist says, no, they self seed.

My tree is a Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila) according to Wikipedia. The comments are scathing from ‘tree guys’ Some think it should not be allowed on the planet. I am devastated.

But it is at the back behind the garage. Well over a meter across at the base, it drops little spindly branches on the neighbours lawn. And then it drops big branches on their car, my garage and tries their patience. It seems to be near the end of its life but is just such a handsome brute. But others that survive in the area are as described in the wikipedia entry, bushy and sort of stupid.

When my nieghbour cut down his because it was ‘dirty’ I went away. I could not bear to watch.

I am going to do something interesting. I will bring the stump down to about five feet. Then have a column cut on a true north south axis as though it were a proper marker.

This will be a small sculptural joke and if it suckers, could be really intresting.

Morgan in Grimsby

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