A Living Palisade

One of the gardening tasks I am most ambivalent about is the removal of trees, especially specimen ones like that I tackled today, or heavy pruning of shrubs that have been allowed to grow into them.Fir tree

Those who followed last summer’s posts detailing the adventure of discovering our garden will know that such removal and pruning occupied several months. Possibly the last victim of the eradication process was the fir tree I extracted from the gravel path at the front of the house. Although still quite young this was more than three metres high and less than two metres from the bay window. Its roots were making their way towards the house. Although I had cut off some of the lower branches in order to get through the garden last year, I could not bring myself to take out the tree entirely. Until this morning, when, not having Aaron’s array of power tools, I worked on the trunk with a saw and loppers, and on the roots with fork, spade, and axe.Axe separating fir and bay

Bay trees, which abound in our plot, are crafty beasts, in that they shelter snugly up against other trees. There was one embedded with the fir, so that had to come out first. I should have a clearer view from my study window now.Gravel after fir removal

So many trees were in the wrong place, hard up against fences or the walls of ours and our neighbours’ buildings, that one would be forgiven for thinking that our predecessors were intent on creating a living palisade to keep out invaders.

I hit ‘Publish’ prematurely just after lunch, so will add a bit more later on.

Tree Felling

Yesterday’s post carries a picture of the holly stump I decided to remove today. The promised rain fell overnight but kept off today, so I didn’t get my break.

Jackie drove us to Milford Supplies where I bought a long, heavy, tree feller’s axe, a smaller hand one, an iron shovel, and, for good measure, a fork handle. Tree felling toolsI felt somewhat like a Mafia hit man as I arrayed my purchases in the boot of the car.

I spent the rest of the morning extracting the stump. This feat was achieved by swinging the heavy axe and bringing it down on the stubborn remnant enough times to split it a bit and chip off some residual branches; by digging out soil around it until reaching roots; by chopping or lopping out those lifelines for the tree; and eventually kicking the object to dislodge it enough to cut out the tap root. It is harder to do this than to write about it. As I wielded my long macho weapon I identified with Van Heflin’s homesteader in ‘Shane’, and kept an eye out for Alan Ladd. He didn’t show up, so I had to finish the job unaided.

The last holly I cut down was about 30 feet high in Newark almost thirty years ago. I sawed off sections of the trunk first, until reaching a manageable stump. This is the method I employed after lunch with a tree only about ten feet tall. Having added all the branches to my ever increasing pile of stuff too tough for compost, I tackled the stump in the same way as the earlier one. I was able to leave a useful length to aid me in the kicking process.

Today’s location is at the far end of yesterday’s path. It widens out beyond a decking area which is approached by stepping stones through the gravel. The condition of that terrain can be seen from the stump picture. With the two hollies out of the way I thought I just had to weed, rake, and sweep the gravel and I would be finished. No such luck. The few sprigs of copper beech piercing the elderly weed protection lining¬†in front of the platform would just pop out with a little gentle persuasion, I thought. Not so. They were actually suckers sprouting from a root of the mature tree nearby. So I chopped out a section of that root and completed the job.

Decking areaIn this photograph the keys to the location are the blue clematis and the red rose. The holly stump was situated close to the central two stepping stones.

Stepping stones and gravel

The disturbed area to the right of this second image was occupied by the other tree.


The wooden arch leading into the front garden now supports a rose of deeper pink than the first that bloomed.

Yesterday’s roast pork and red cabbage meal was beautifully reprised. The crackling was even better. With it, Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Bishop’s Finger beer.