Garden Musings · Trees

Losing a Tree – Pain then Optimism

Weeping Willow before it was cut dow.

I knew the day was coming, but it did not make it any easier.

Last week, the huge weeping willow in our front yard was cut down. If you follow my blog, you may remember a post I wrote – My Love-Hate Relationship with a Weeping Willow – in which I come to terms with my feelings for this messy but majestic tree.

We planted the tree in 1990 in a low spot where the soil provided all the moisture it desired, and it basked in sunlight from dawn to dusk. The tree thrived and grew as fast as the cells in its apical meristems could form and expand. It quickly became a playhouse for our three young daughters and later a backdrop for photographs that captured treasured moments. As the tree reached higher into the sky and its canopy stretched broader across the yard, I planted a garden underneath in its gentle shade.

The weeping willow was always messy, dropping branches in the slightest of breezes. Raking underneath was a regular garden chore. Every fall, it held on to its leaves tightly until after we cleaned the gutters and put away the rakes for the winter. But just as you love family members despite their messy moments, I loved this tree. It grew with my family. It bid me farewell every morning and welcomed me home every evening since the day it is was planted.

A conk was growing on a trunk.

During the last few years, more and more of the tree’s large branches died, and it was time to call in a professional. An arborist from The Davey Tree Expert Company came out last fall to give us his expert opinion about the fate of our tree. At almost 30 years of age, he confirmed what we suspected. Our tree was dying, and it was dying quickly. At least one third of its branches were already dead and a couple of its main trunks had conks – an indication of a rot-inducing pathogen inside the tree.

So our 80-foot tall, 50-foot wide weeping willow came down. Standing there, with tears streaming down my face, I felt each cut of a branch as if the teeth of the chainsaw were slicing into my heart. There went the playhouse; there went the shade cast by its flowing branches; there went, despite all its flaws, a friend.

Having the tree cut down in the winter not only saved us a little money, it will also hopefully save some of the garden underneath the tree. A lot of heavy equipment moved across the perennials sleeping in the frozen soil. Time will tell how many wake up in spring.

A couple days later, as I gazed upon what remained of the weeping willow, I thought about the river birch and katsura trees waiting to be planted as soon as the soil is ready to greet them. Plans for a woodland cottage constructed from the remaining willow trunks started swirling around in my imagination. I pictured a new, charming, even larger, garden. And I started dreaming about the future of this area without that messy but majestic tree.

Garden with me!

8 thoughts on “Losing a Tree – Pain then Optimism

  1. I sympathize with your mix of emotions. I had to cut down a huge oak tree that was the centrepiece of our garden. It really hurt to do that but the tree was dangerous. The tree house that followed was a great compensation, though, so I hope that whatever follows in your garden gives equal pleasure.

  2. We have had to cut down a couple of trees as well and it’s a bittersweet sort of feeling – they were lovely, but causing problems either in the garden or to structures.

    There are a couple of ash, however, that I love and it was obvious this year that they had been infested with the emerald ash borer. They will both have to be cut down at some point – it will be a sad, sad day. Thanks for the winter tip, Diana – I had never considered having a tree cut down in the winter but it makes total sense.

  3. Taking out an old tree that you are so familiar with does pull the heart strings. I hate having to do it and we have had to remove two old friends in recent years. It is fun to be able to remodel an area where the tree has been so you have something to look forward to this spring.

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