Sunday, 12 February 2012

Exit Sick Sycamores

You may remember I recently spoke up for the much maligned Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus).  So this following post may seem a little contradictory.

A phrase often used in arboricultural circles is “The right tree in the right place.”  Trees should be planted with due consideration to many factors, e.g. location, size at maturity and specific needs (soil minerals, sunlight and shelter etc).  This is particularly important in a garden like Scotney where space can be at a premium.

Our problem was a stand of nine large Sycamores that were simply “the wrong trees in the wrong place.”  They were shading out an area containing other trees with greater horticultural value including a Silver Lime (Tilia tomentosa, a Red Oak (Quercus rubra) and a beautiful young Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea).  They also produce hundreds if not thousands of seedlings that germinate all across the garden causing a headache for our gardeners and volunteers.  Finally, but perhaps most significantly there were signs of ill health and the possibility of failure could not be ruled out.  Taking these factors into consideration we decided to don our black caps and pass sentence.

A lot of people were involved in this project and it took several weeks to complete.  First into action was our volunteer ‘King of the Strimmers’ Chris who did a great job brush cutting around the base of the trees.  This is where it became obvious that there was serious decay present.

As you can see from the picture above one of the trees was completely hollow at its base.  Our next task was to carefully delimb and take the tops off the trees.  As we were working in a fairly confined space straight felling was not an option.  The most efficient way was to do this was to use climbing spikes and to sectionally fell the trees.  The use of spikes is confined to tree removal and emergency rescue only as they cause considerable damage to the tree, as you can see in this picture.

So, once at the top of the tree we got started (after taking a few minutes to admire the view). 

After battling through the ivy we could secure a central work position allowing safe access to all areas of the tree that needed removing.

By removing the entire canopy and all lower branches we were left with a series of trunks.  These were then reduced in sections to a manageable height for normal felling.  This is the point where we once again call on our own ‘Saw for Hire’.  Anthony The Terminator was now able to start felling the remaining trunks in situ.  Here he is hammering in a wedge to get one to topple over.

Duncan and the rest of the gardening team took care of the huge clear up operation and the sound of chainsaws rang across the garden for several weeks.  Having these trunks standing also gave us a rare opportunity to practice our spiking technique and to give others a chance to try it out.  Here’s Cat and Charlotte having a go.

This unique totem pole collection will soon disappear as The Terminator will continue to remove these trunks over the next few weeks.

The removal of these trees has transformed this area of the garden.  Views have been opened up from many different aspects and the general gloominess created by the dense canopy cover has disappeared.  Longer term development of this area will continue over the course of the year, so keep an eye on this blog to see how things pan out.


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