Farewell to the cedar


Once upon a time I had two Western Red Cedars in the garden. One was about 1.5 metres from the side of the house and was showing clear signs of wanting to be in the house, so that had to come down, which it did in 2012. That was OK, because I had another.

Until last week.

It doesn’t feature in many photos except as a frame, such as at the top of this one taken several years ago before silverleaf claimed the small plum in the foreground. As a boundary tree it was difficult to include without also including the car park behind the house,

and as a boundary tree it was also subject to the attentions of (then) Manweb, whose electricity cables run above the lane between the car park and my wall. They savagely pruned it on one side, but that was fine, if a little odd. It had one flat side, but the prevailing winds blow from the opposite direction. No problem.

Then there was the ‘beast from the east’. That hurled down the mountain behind the village and smashed slap into the flat side of the WRC. And, despite its enormous size (and probably partly because of it), it shifted. Movement of the roots demolished the dry stone wall behind it, and the whole tree developed an, er, interesting angle. Not too bad, but one more eastern beast and I’d have found the topmost branches in the kitchen. No choice. So this happened:

It was beautifully done, a gradual process. In the week before the tree surgeon came, P removed a lot of the top growth, creating the world’s biggest brash mountain (only a slight exaggeration) and salvaging a lot of useful timber. Those parts which needed two people to manage – such as the giant branch directly above the oil tank – were saved until the tree surgeon arrived. The two of them took these off, temporarily blocking the unadopted lane while they sawed up the pieces.

And then, following some careful calculations, some fiddling with a chainsaw and finely calculated ropework, a tree which had stood in my garden for nearly 100 years was brought very neatly down between an ash and one of the birches. Using one hand. (The tree surgeon was waving to me with the other.)

We counted the growth rings. It was certainly 94, maybe more, so alive in the year Lenin and Kafka died, the year when Hitler was sentenced to prison for his role in the abortive beer-hall putsch. And now it isn’t.

Ouch. But I am trying hard to be practical, and realistic. If we hadn’t taken it down, it would have taken itself down eventually, wrecking not only my wall and the oil tank, but probably the lane as well, (the roots run under it) and destroying the house.

Also, of course, I have a shedload – several shedloads – of timber. Even after we burnt the Big Brash Mountain.

So, I’m looking on the bright side (much brighter, now – my goodness, that tree cast some shadow).

The veg beds will benefit; the cedar took a lot of moisture out of the top garden and, since it overhung parts and cedars are acidic, my veg growing can only improve.

And look what’s going in:

Two baby downy birches, grown from seed by me.

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