Another one bites the dust

With an increasing number of what are called ‘extreme weather events’ in the face of climate change, we just have to accept that falling trees are a fact of life here. We have a garden created amongst large trees. But none are as vulnerable as our old man pines (Pinus radiata). Planted in the 1870s by Mark’s great grandfather, some tower as high as 45 or 50 metres. We just have to accept that they appear to be reaching the end of their life span. And as yet another one falls, the next trees in the row lose their shelter so may be weakened.

Totally uprooted, the Ficus antiarus which dates back to 1957

We usually say that it is amazing how cleanly big trees can fall, especially ones that don’t have a lot of big side branches or a great deal of foliage. But not the one that fell last night. It has clearly done substantial damage as it came down. The worst is the total uprooting of the rare Ficus antiarus which will require a major effort to get back upright and planted again. The macadamia nut tree is probably unable to be salvaged. Mark is a bit sorry that it only brought down part of the expendable Lombardy poplar and not all of it.

The tree tips, like a giant spider, descending on the new caterpillar garden area

And 50 metres of tree coming down as one long length extends… well, it extends 50 metres really. So this one lies through the avenue garden, across the intervening hedge, through part of Mark’s tropical palm border and the top landed in my recently planted perennial beds of what we call the caterpillar garden. I am not thrilled by this.

With Auckland being badly hit by falling trees in last night’s storm, I come back to my position on the chilly moral high ground. With these increasingly frequent events, it is not a sign that we should be felling all trees. Yes, it is important to keep a close eye on vulnerable trees and branches. But we need to match the felling or falling of trees with the planting of more trees in places where they have a reasonable chance of growing to maturity without causing problems to life and property. Which usually means on public reserves when it comes to cities. A dendrologist friend said that it should not be a one-for-one replacement but a five-for-one ratio to allow for those trees that die or are killed before they reach maturity. And that is just to maintain the status quo. We need to think about these issues because the planet needs more trees and city folks should not be consigned to living in concrete and tarmac environments where nothing is allowed to grow over two metres tall. The problems lie not with the trees themselves but with where they are planted, how they are maintained and which varieties are being grown.

I wryly suggested to Mark that maybe we should be renaming our Avenue Gardens the Pine Log Gardens and he quipped that our stumpery is growing. We will follow our practice of clearing paths, removing all the side branches and cleaning up the collateral damage but leaving the body of the trunk where it fell and gardening around it. As more huge trees fall, we  have a stumpery by chance, not design.



14 thoughts on “Another one bites the dust

  1. Jill Reed

    My condolences for the loss of your large tree, and all that fell beneath it. We experienced many large tree losses during Hurricane Irma, and a walk through the woods is not the same. There is a lot of open sky where once there was tree cover, and I wonder how long it will be before the young saplings and surviving large trees fill in the canopy.

  2. Florian Wolf

    Very sad, Abbie; it’s probably like losing part of the family. On the other hand: plenty of firewood for the cooler periods of our climate change-ridden world. And you could inoculate the fallen logs, stumps etc. with various mushroom spores and turn disaster into delicacy J. Keep a stiff upper lip and happy gardening, Florian (from Magnetic Island, QLD – a PITA for gardeners…)

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Kind thoughts, Florian! Mark looked at the extent of straight trunk and promptly thought that there were the uprights for the big pergola he has planned. We just need to find somebody with a portable that may be a positive outcome after all.

  3. tonytomeo

    Those are some old Monterey pines! We expect them to live for only about a century or so. They may survive only half as long in the chaparral climates like that of the Santa Clara Valley. I can not imagine why, but it was a popular tree in the Santa Clara Valley, as well as in Los Angeles a long time ago. I spent much of my internship in the summer of 1988 removing many of them.
    Monterey pine is native to only three colonies. One is just a few miles from here, near the the Santa Cruz and San Mateo County Line. Another is of course in Monterey. The third is in Cambria, near where I went to school. In the 1980s, they were in bad condition, as diseases and pests proliferated. Ironically, the problem was that the groves had not burned in such a long time that their ecology had been disrupted. The aging trees were all very susceptible to the diseases and insects, all at the same time! Over the years, as these old trees eventually died out, and more younger trees regenerated, the diseases and pests reached something of a more ‘normal’ equilibrium.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I like to point out ouf trees out to visiting Californians. They are always impressed. The Monterey cypress – or macrocarpa as we know it – is also widely grown around here though not rated highly. A dendrologist friend commented wryly that all the old man pines and macrocarpa dotted around here would likely have protection orders on them in is believed they were brought here by the gold miners, many of whom travelled from California to Australia and then to NZ.

      1. tonytomeo

        How funny. Gold miners brought the black locust from the East to California during the Gold Rush. I can not imagine why they would have brought such boring trees there.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        Pinus radiata is the mainstay of our forestry industry and most of our houses are constructed from it. The macrocarpa could survive on our wild windswept coasts. So they have their place, even if there are more beautiful trees.

      3. tonytomeo

        Yes, they are nice on the coast, but that is probably about it. They seem to need the harsh environment. Without wind to break limbs away every so often, or to keep them low, they get so heavy that they can not support their own weight, and drop big limbs. I really like them because I grew up with them, but I would not plant them into a landscape.

      4. tonytomeo

        Monterey pine seems like an odd choice for timber. There are so many better pines and firs for that. However, I do not doubt that the silviculturists and forests who selected it knew what they were doing.

      5. Abbie Jury Post author

        By the 1870s and 1880s, much of our native forest had been clear felled and milled or burned. And our best native trees tend to be slow growing. A quick answer was needed and they settled on P. radiata.

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