In partnership with Nature

Mark counted more than sixty rings in the cut trunk so the abies must have been planted around 1960

The clean-up from Cyclone Dovi is continuing here at a cracking pace. Zach started on the large, fallen abies in the park and has almost finished it. We were relieved to find that damage to the bridge beneath is minimal. A few more centimetres to one side and it could have wiped out most of the bridge. This would have been a problem for us, had it twisted the metal chassis beneath the bridge timbers.

Wisteria Blue Sapphire on the bridge has been hammered but will recover, the azalea has been extensively damaged but should also recover and Magnolia Lotus on the right lost some branches as the abies fell but the bridge just had railings broken.

Because it is right at the bottom of the park, dealing with the debris is an issue. Mark was not interested in the timber for firewood. We burned the Abies procera we dropped a few years ago but it proved to be a very light timber and we have better options. Access issues mean it isn’t practical to offer the wood to people who are less picky about their firewood and we don’t want to haul the whole lot out with our baby tractor, so creativity is required.

We debated about hiring an industrial-grade mulcher to deal with all the branches and foliage but decided in the end to burn it nearby. It leaves a dead patch in the grass but that can be resown and will disappear in a year or so. It is less work than having to disperse a mountain of wood chip in an area where we don’t need mulch.

But what to do with the lengths of trunk that can’t be left where the tree fell across the stream?

I like the shape of this fallen pine tree that perched itself up on its side branches like some freeform crocodile or giant lizard. It is decaying so it will drop at some point but that is fine.

We re-use a lot of fallen material here. Suitable thinner lengths of branches are sometimes used to edge garden beds and borders where appropriate. Where we can, we clean up fallen trees, reducing them just to the main trunk and then garden around them. Over time, they rot down and start to disintegrate but that is part of the long-term cycle.

This was a substantial length of pine tree that fell and then rolled into a most convenient position on the edge of a path.

Where this is not an option, we will cut the trunks to manageable lengths, take out what we want for firewood and place the rest. Other gardens may have sculptures and installations that are clearly made by human hands; we have casual installations of wood, sometimes as stumperies and sometimes just as low-key placements.

Defining the path with pine tree sections

We have already placed the pine lengths from the Avenue Gardens that were surplus to firewood replacements. At least some of the abies is destined for another use – giving height and structure to a rather casual area of planting. This is an area that has no name yet, where the Avenue Gardens transition down the hill to the park – I wrote about it once on blurring the transition from well-tended gardens to more laissez-faire outer reaches. We may have to come up with some shorthand name rather than referring to it as ‘the bit beside the steps coming down from the Avenue Gardens to the Mangletia insignis”.

Stacking lengths of abies to use in a different area

This is Mark’s vision. Neither Zach nor I can grasp yet what he has in mind, although Zach has carted abies lengths to this area in preparation. Zach and I are pretty good on placing individual bits as punctuation marks in the garden but not on creating entire structures. We will both watch and learn as it happens. I have every confidence in Mark’s skills in this endeavour

Felix used ponga logs and stumps to create his section of what we now call the Rimu Avenue

Our feature Rimu Avenue is essentially a stumpery, created as a pragmatic solution to enable plants to grow in dry shade where the enormous trees above are sucking all the goodness and moisture from the ground beneath. They are a naturalistic, raised bed solution. The oldest section was created in the 1950s by Mark’s dad, Felix and he used ponga logs and stumps (NZ tree ferns, for overseas readers). These are remarkably durable – still serving their purpose after 70 years.

Mark used whatever timber he had to hand when he doubled the length of the Rimu Avenue to give both structure and raised beds

When Mark doubled the length of the Rimu Avenue 20 years ago, he was disinclined to go out to the bush to harvest ponga so he used what we had to hand – a bit of ponga but mostly lengths of trees that have fallen here.

A simple feature. It will only last a few years because it is just a section of banglow palm trunk but it will decay gracefully

Somewhat unintentionally, our labour saving strategies are creating a theme throughout the entire garden – the re-use of fallen timber to create focal points, casual structure and different environments for plants as well as stowing lengths of fallen or felled trees in a way we find aesthetically and environmentally pleasing. It has been happening here for years. Cyclone Dovi has just accelerated it.

It all decays over time but don’t we all?

I see the date on this photo is 2004, probably very soon after Mark asked Lloyd to bury the upturned plum tree stumps to make a natural feature
In 2022 – today in fact – those stumps are getting ever smaller and less of a feature but that is part of Nature doing what Nature does.

15 thoughts on “In partnership with Nature

  1. dinahmow

    My kind of gardening! Not as easy in a small suburban patch, but using ratting palms as edging means the money saved can go to plants to soften that edging!

  2. Pat Webster

    Each photo shows how inventively you have used and reused fallen trees. I particularly like the pine tree slices that define the edge of a path. And the colour variations on that upright palm trunk are fabulous!

  3. sarahnorling2014

    What I also love about this method is the amount of habitat you are providing. All those fallen trees giving homes to so much life. It’s like under the ocean when the old shipwrecks become a thriving ecosystem.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Exactly! An entire insect hotel but naturally. Who needs a trendy insect hotel when Nature can provide them with just a little help and tolerance?

  4. Tim Dutton

    I’m very glad the bridge survived so well: isn’t that the one that Lloyd refurbished not long ago?

    We use a lot of bits from trees, that we’ve needed to remove, as structural elements in our garden. Some of our raised beds are retained using rounds cut from tree trunks or large branches and in a couple of places we have steps up steep banks that are made from large tree rings. One massive branch from a Cupressus macrocarpa yielded two slabs that, set on end, look just like a couple of ducks, so they have been used as natural sculptures in a bed next to the big pond. The trunk of the macrocarpa (5 metres tall and 2 in diameter) was left as the support for a ‘Wedding Day’ rose, which now envelops it almost completely.

    The use of natural materials that get moss-covered and decay over the years suits our garden, just as it suits yours. But we’ve never thought to upend trees, roots and all, and plant them upside down! Well done Mark.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      You are right about the bridge. Lloyd is away on holiday at the moment but I expect him to be relieved when he gets back on Monday!

      I thought you would be on the same page when it comes to recycling natural materials.

  5. Glenis Hallmond

    Dear Mark & Abbie; That’s exactly what I used to do (recycle branches etc), but on a much smaller scale. I do like to work with nature, not against it if I can help it. I will be recycling myself when the time comes. 😁

    Regards, Glenis Hallmond

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Hello Glenis. It is all a way of thinking differently about managing the garden, isn’t it? It is rewarding to see others thinking along similar lines. All the best, Abbie.

  6. Paddy Tobin

    I particulary enjoyed the then and now photographs of the standing stumps/roots. It really is amazing how these large trunks rotted away over the years. These storms certainly created a huge amount of work for you but it will lead to interesting areas in the garden for the future.

  7. tonytomeo

    Noble fir seems like an odd choice there. I happen to be near their natural range right now, and drove through it during the last few days. I never saw a noble fir available from a nursery though. I brought one back to Los Gatos years ago, but it began as rare bonsai stock.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      This specimen was imported from Holland in the early 1950s. I think Mark’s dad thought it was a dwarf because he initially planted it in the rockery where we have a number of dwarf conifers from that era. When he realised it wasn’t, he moved it but not far enough. A shame, because it was a handsome tree. There is nothing quite like seeing trees in their native habitat, though.

      1. tonytomeo

        They get my attention more outside of their natural habitat because I do not expect to see them here, although they are not as grand as they are here. I do not recognize them here unless someone points them out to me. They really are big though.

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