Tag Archives: storm damage

The Barricades

The remaining stump doesn’t look very large in the photo but the poor abies was between 60 and 70 years old.

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when the last of the Cyclone Dovi major damage was cleared and repaired. The abies that fell over the high bridge in the park has been cleared; Lloyd has reinstated the stopbank which had been ripped apart by the tree roots and the he has repaired the bridge.  

The bridge was beneath the tree

The challenge with the abies was what to do with it. Mark had no interest in the timber for firewood. We have plenty already and abies is a lighter wood that does burns quickly so was not desirable. Had it been somewhere with vehicle access, we would have given it away but it was too much of a challenge to try and get it back up the hill when the only access was by our baby tractor or Lloyd’s quad bike and trailer.

Installations, maybe.

The job of cutting it up fell to Zach. Given it had fallen right across the stream, we are lucky that we have had a dry late summer and autumn with low water flow because he spent a few days working around the water with gumboots that are no longer waterproof. He burned the foliage on site as he went. The wood was cut to manageable lengths. A few were used nearby as ‘installations’, we might say. Most of it, he carted halfway back up the hill to build what we have come to call The Barricades.

The Barricades

For readers not into musicals, this is a reference to ‘Les Miserables’. Of course it is. Zach is a fan of musicals and we have been been a Les Mis household ever since our second daughter played Little Cosette in the stage show at the tender age of 10.

That is a Bardo Rose dendrobium freshly planted in the wood

Meet our barricades. Essentially, they are a way of dealing with surplus wood while giving some structure and height in a casual woodland area. Over the years, they will rot down but, in the meantime, they give all sorts of cavities in which to grow plants as well as being not so much a trendy hotel for insects, as an entire insect resort. Or condominium. Zach started with planting a few orchids in it and we will continue to add more plants as suitable candidates become available.

Early March after the initial clean up in the Avenue Gardens

Meanwhile, the rate of recovery in the Avenue Gardens has been rewarding. When Dovi hit, this area was completely covered by fallen pine and the lower canopy of jacaranda, camellia and cordyline. After it had been cleared, it was a bare wasteland with everything tramped into the ground by heavy boots dragging out the debris. We covered it in the woodchip mulch – of which we had small mountains heaped around the area and this was how it looked on March 5.

Early May. The poor jacaranda is unlikely to rally again but the rest is recovering.

Two months on, in autumn, it has already recovered to this point. We are still missing the middle canopy layer, but it looks as if the perennial groundcover will return afresh.

Further along the damage zone, the plants are already softening the length of trunk we decided to leave where it fell. In a few years’ time, Cyclone Dovi will just be a memory.

I wrote about Mark’s hippeastrum hybrids back in 2019. Another one has opened and is positively glowing in the Rimu Avenue. Everyone that has bloomed so far is red. It would have been nice to have had more variety, given that one parent is H. papilio. But what is more interesting is their random blooming. H. aulicum flowers like clockwork for us in September, H. papilio in October. These hybrids are popping up the odd flower any time of the year. It will take a few more years to see if they settle down to a predictable seasonal pattern but, in the meantime, it is quite delightful to come across unexpected, over the top blooms glowing in the woodland gardens.

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.

A small kingfisher, autumn bulbs and cyclone recovery

Does anybody else feel they are living life day by day, waiting to see what else life will throw at us? Oh, most of you? I thought so. As I heard somebody on the radio saying yesterday, the pandemic has hit pretty much every corner of the world and it ain’t over yet. Add in the invasion of Ukraine, the very real threat of a nuclear war in Europe, the appalling flooding in northern New South Wales and it makes our experience with Cyclone Dovi seem minor.

Little Beaky the kingfisher or kōtare

I have to focus on the little things in my immediate physical world to keep me sane. Meet our little kingfisher or kōtare. Zach found it on the ground on Tuesday and it had clearly fallen out of its nest-hole high, high above in the Phoenix palm. Zach named it Queenie but told me the next morning it had changed to Beaky. I can only assume that these are pop culture references which I am too old to understand.

For such a small creature, Beaky had a very loud voice and on Wednesday, it spent a lot of time calling to its whanau (family) above. At times the mother would reply so she knew where it was and we hoped she was feeding it.

Beaky’s family nest was a hole high in the Phoenix palm

Thursday – no sign. No bird. No noise. I hoped Beaky had not been taken by a feral cat or stoat. Zach bravely declared that he was sure the tail feathers must have grown sufficiently for Beaky to fly but I had my doubts. Zach was right.

On Friday, the sound of loud kingfisher squawks drew me back to the area where I saw a little kingfisher perched in an adjacent tree. As I watched, it flew over to the Phoenix palm and then back before flying a little more confidently further afield. Was it Beaky? It is a bit hard to tell when it is up in a tree but it was a baby kōtare, clearly new to flying and managing to make a great deal of noise so I think it was likely to be Beaky who may just be the noisiest, small kōtare of all time. I hope it was.

The gum tree or eucalyptus at our gateway with the rootball and base standing upright again. The belladonnas are not bothered by all that has gone on around them

On the cyclone clean-up front, we have made good progress. In a difficult operation, the arborist dropped what remained standing of the giant gum tree at our gate, removing also the broken branches – called swingers – caught up in an adjacent tree and in danger of falling onto passing cars. This involved getting in a large truck with a hiab to lift down sections safely but also meant that they could stand the base of the main trunk upright again which is way more pleasing visually. I got out the tape measure – it is about 2 metres across near the base so that is a pretty huge chunk of timber to fall.

In the Avenue Gardens

The main damage in the Avenue Gardens has been cleared. It remains to be seen how much of the herbaceous underplanting returns in spring. The whole area was densely planted and lush until three weeks ago. I am hoping Mark is thinking his way into deciding what we can replant for the middle layer of shrubs and small trees that were taken out. That is his area of expertise.

The next path over from the areas of damage and all looks well with the new surface

Because so much of the material was mulched on site, we have used some of that fresh woodchip to cushion the paths, which gives a nice, soft surface to walk on. We still have a small mountain of mulch left but it was important to get the big piles off the garden before they heated up more and cooked the herbaceous material beneath.  

Moraea polystachya in the rockery

More autumn bulbs are opening every day. While I love the bulbs in the rockery – all the Cyclamen hederafolium, Rhodophiala bifida, Haemanthus coccineus, Leucojum autumnale, Moraea polystachya, sternbergia, Colchicum autumnale and the first of the nerines amongst others – there is something particularly engaging about the brave cyclamen and colchicums flowering in wilder conditions in the long grass in the park.

There is a resilience and an element of surprise with bulbs that will naturalise in more challenging conditions.

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.