Tag Archives: Cyclone Dovi

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.

Hit by Cyclone Dovi

One of the wide grass paths in the Avenue Gardens

We weren’t worried when the warnings came through that Cyclone Dovi might hit land in New Zealand. We are in the middle of vast ocean and mostly these storm events end up passing by. Besides, we are well sheltered here and it can be howling a gale elsewhere and we are relatively calm.

We were wrong last Sunday.

This was the base of the giant gum tree at our roadside before

Cyclone Dovi hit us with the worst winds we have ever experienced. The peak lasted for hours and was frankly terrifying and sounded as though we were surrounded by roaring trucks. Believe me, we were grateful that two years ago we dropped the one tree that would threaten our house if it fell. Our house came through Dovi unscathed.

and after with half of it split off and the other half lifting the ground around and needing to be felled

The first big tree I was aware of falling was the massive gum tree (eucalyptus) at our gate. It was around 170 years old, planted by Thomas Jury in the 1870s. We were lucky it fell inwards and not across the road. There is still a dead half of it left, leaning against the next tree and it will have to be felled with some urgency. The specialist arborist is currently thinking his way into how best to do that safely.

The sheer size of many of these trunks is daunting

We didn’t dare walk around the property but I was standing on the doorstep when one of our largest pines broke off in two pieces causing massive damage as it came down in the Avenue Gardens. Because it came down in two pieces, it effectively did the same amount of damage as two trees falling. The jacaranda which had a splendid flowering this summer is now a broken stump and pretty much all the mid layer of trees and shrubs in the area have been taken out.

That was the pine that did the most damage. There are another two massive pine trees uprooted, also in the Avenue Gardens. Even though much larger with all the trunk and roots – up to 45 metres of tree each – their damage is more localised and they have fallen in places where we can leave the bulk of the trunks.  Mark just about wept the next day when he found the handsome abies in the park had also fallen.  

This abies, outlined in red
The high bridge in the park is beneath the abies

That was just the big trees. There are branches and smaller trees down but they seem minor in comparison.

There are three roads that give access to our place. As the initial fury abated, I drove around to make sure none of our boundary trees had fallen to block the road. I had walked out earlier to the road and found passers-by efficiently dealing to one of our branches without even coming in to tell us. How handy to live rurally where people just happen to have chainsaws. It was the last road open and to drive it meant driving under power lines further down the road which had a tree resting on them.

The road to the left at the bottom of our place – not our tree or power lines, thank goodness.
And the road to the right down the bottom of the hill. Again, not our trees or power lines but this repair was a major that took several days
The only road left open with a minor tree suspended on the power lines. This was the one that took our power out for 36 hours.
Practical passers-by dealing to an immediate problem. This was the only major branch of ours that fell onto the road.

Mark and I were completely numbed for the first two days by the sheer enormity of the damage. It wasn’t helped by having no electricity and when the power goes out, we lose running water. Like most rural people these days, we depend on electric pumps to get water to the taps. 36 hours without water and electricity is difficult but everything looked more manageable when they were restored.  

Starting the clean up in the Avenue Gardens. That was a complex woodland, herbaceous planting beneath. Note the use of ‘was’.

Our arborist and his apprentice gave us priority and were here by 8am on Monday. Lloyd and Zach have thrown themselves into the task of cleaning up and we are making progress. There is a long way to go but at least we are not in as bad a situation as we were last Sunday.

The Avenue Gardens on Sunday
Same view by Wednesday, we had it to this stage but that is only the paths cleared, not the gardens

Three things I have learned this week: firstly that it is harder to have no running water than no electricity.  Never have I been so grateful that we are a five loo establishment…

Secondly, when people are in in immediate shock at what has happened, well-intentioned comments from Pollyannas are not helpful. Comments like, ‘look at this as a new opportunity’ or ‘at least nobody died and your house is not damaged so it could have been worse’ carry a high irritation factor. We do not need to be told that. The time comes soon enough to look forward but it takes time to process what has happened first.

Thirdly, in a crisis and its aftermath, people are very kind. I can get Pollyannaish over that. More than once, the kindness of others, including strangers, has brought tears to my eyes.

I took this photo of the beautiful elaeocarpus tree with its buttressed roots last week
That skeleton in the centre of the photo is what remains of it this week

It has been a tough week but the final word probably rests with the neighbour who had walked over and was talking to me at the back doorstep when the largest pine snapped and fell before our eyes. “This is a taste of what is to come in the next 20 to 25 years,” she said. Climate change. I fear she is right.

Wednesday, three days on, and progress is being made

Postscript: Technically, Cyclone Dovi is usually described in NZ as either ‘ex-tropical cyclone Dovi’ or ‘the remnants of Cyclone Dovi’ which means it is way more intense when cyclones hits full force on Pacific islands. I have to keep reminding myself of this. I looked up the difference between a cyclone, a hurricane and a tornado and it is geographic. South of the equator we call them cyclones, north of there they are called hurricanes except north west where they are often called typhoons. So now you know.

Post postscript: I saw screen shots of extreme right conspiracist chat pages who worked out that Cyclone Dovi = C Dovi and – OMG – C Dovi is an anagram for Covid. To them, this is proof of a conspiracy by our government to create a cyclone event to try and dislodge the ‘convoy occupiers’ blocking roads in Central Wellington and taking over Parliament grounds.  So now you know that too.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

I offered free firewood and pinecones on a local Facebook page and the firewood disappeared very quickly. Mark and I are amused at just how many older men there are in our local area who still have chainsaws and time on their hands.