It is just a common old silver birch – Betula pendula. It is not even one of the more highly prized white barked or named forms. There is nothing special about it botanically speaking. It is not well suited to our conditions because it prefers a drier climate and it is hardy to cold winters. It is really messy, dropping fine twiggy lengths all year round which get caught in the lower canopy plants and it defoliates by late summer because rust attacks the leaves. Of late, it has been dropping not just twiggy sprays but also smaller, dead branches.
Nevertheless, I felt a distinct sadness when I looked at it yesterday and thought ‘No, it is time for you to go. The decision can not be delayed much longer. Tree euthanasia’.
It is one of the original trees that Felix planted back in the early 1950s when he started the garden. A large branch dropped out in the early 1980s and Felix suggested then to Mark that he could cut the whole thing out. But Mark decided not to and just did a clean-up. Now it appears that the tree is rotting from the scar of that episode but at least we have had an additional 40 years of pleasure from it.
Why do I like it? I love the graceful bare form silhouetted against the sky. It has always been part of our view from our favoured seating spot in the front porch where we often sit together for a coffee, tea or wine. I have photographed it countless times, simply because of that silhouette. Given its propensity for early defoliation, we get the silhouette unimpeded by foliage for at least seven months of the year now, maybe eight. When I look at older photos, it certainly used to have a lot more foliage and branches than it has now.
The birds love it. It is a favoured staging post, whether for Mark’s tumbler pigeons, our native woodpigeons – the kereru – rosellas, common old sparrows, tui and the rest. It has birds resting in it, surveying the lie of the land, almost all the time. It is not a feed source, it just gives a good view. There are plenty of other trees around and I am sure the birds will adapt quickly but I will miss the sight of them pausing there on their busy rounds.
It will be a job for our arborist. While access is easy and it is not a difficult tree to remove, it has a lot of rot in it and it stands maybe 15 metres high. But really, the concern is for the low stone wall that separates the driveway. Felix built the wall back in the early 1950s and it is a patchwork of wafer-thin split stone. We don’t fancy having to rebuild a section of it if we dropped a big branch on it. Our arborist is very good and he will manage to avoid such damage. But it can wait until our garden festival is over in November.