Garden Lore: Another tree falls

Poor old Picea omorika

Poor old Picea omorika

Behold, a fine example of why most trees are best kept to a single leader. A short, fierce storm 10 days ago brought down part of our Picea omorika. This tree is several decades old – five or six maybe  – and is over twelve metres tall.

It reached about four metres before it forked into three trunks so it would have needed a good ladder to deal with the issue then but it is one of those jobs that nobody ever got around to doing. The first trunk was broke out a couple of years ago, having been exposed to wind after damage to a nearby tree. The second trunk has just fallen. Fortunately, while tall and dead straight, the only damage caused was to the flashing on the side of the shed roof. The third trunk is still in place but precariously swaying. It is highly likely it will snap off at some point in the future though we have ascertained the direction it will likely fall and it won’t be too problematic. The loss of the other two trunks leaves it one-sided, exposed and vulnerable.

Some trees have the shrubby habit of branching from the base and putting up multiple leaders. Magnolias Leonard Messell and Apollo are examples of this. Trying to keep these to a single leader is fighting nature. But most trees grow up on a single leader for maximum strength. In terms of long-lived garden specimens, they are stronger structurally and look better if the trunks are not allowed to fork low down. It is a great deal easier to do this when the plants are young than to clean up at the other end of several decades of growth.

The folly of allowing trees to develop multi leaders

The folly of allowing trees to develop multi leaders

2 thoughts on “Garden Lore: Another tree falls

  1. zneto

    Hi Abby,

    I was interested to read your latest newsletter about the fallen triple trunked Picea.

    How true. We had exactly the same thing happen with a Gleditsia several weeks ago.

    It took out 16 metres of boundary fence ($2925.00 to replace) the neighbour’s power and phone cable ($1500 to replace)

    Fortunately 9 months earlier I had a professional arborist do a walk around of our 2000M2 garden and check all of our many trees, so we were able to assure AA Insurance that the collapse of the tree was genuinely unexpected.

    The second trunk came down under it’s own weight 6 hours later and AA paid for TreeScape Ltd to remove the third trunk which was threatening the neighbour on the other boundary.

    AA told us that the removal of the 750mm diameter stump (44 year old tree) and massive root network is not covered by our insurance policy so that’s another $675 cost.

    Something that we had not considered was that our insurers refused to cover damage to the neighbour’s property (and uninsured car which was in the path of the falling tree). Also, even though the fence had been built and paid for by ourselves and was legally 50mm within our boundary line, we will only get 50% of the replacement cost, less $400 excess, because it’s legally a boundary fence.

    It sure pays for anyone with a heavily tree’d town section to have their “forest” regularly checked by a professional arborist.


    Barry _________________________________

    Barry L Marx P O Box 209 Otorohanga 3940 New Zealand

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    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      That is a particularly sobering story, Barry. Thanks for adding it. I am always mindful that if we were not able to do most of our own tree work here (I use “we” in the royal sense, meaning Mark and Lloyd), our trees would be a much more expensive problem. We carry public liability insurance of $1mill and have had to call on it twice in 30 years to cover falling trees which took out power lines. Big trees are not without their issues but we would not be without them. In fact none of us can afford to be without them given their oxygen producing capacities!

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