Christmas is over . . . time to take the tree down

We took our Christmas decorations down on 6th January. That’s a tradition we have followed in our home as long as I can remember.

However, ‘taking down the tree’ has taken on a rather different aspect this year. We originally scheduled a local tree surgeon to fell a large tree in the back garden on 6 January. This is a tree that we planted almost 34 years ago. However, a job he started that morning overran by early afternoon; so the felling was re-scheduled for today.

Quite sad really. Philippa wasn’t quite a year old in 1983 when we decided to replace a ten foot weeping willow tree. But what to plant in its stead?

After some deliberation, we chose a West Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) because of its elegant white (peeling) bark, that would continue to give us some ‘colour’ in the garden, once it had dropped its leaves in autumn, even in the depths of winter. And it has.

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However, we never expected it to thrive quite as well as it has. In spite of being pruned at least twice in the past decade, it has continue to grow and is now really too big for the garden, even towering above the roof of our neighbour’s house to the rear of our property. And because of its extensive root system, it’s probably sucking more water from the surrounding lawn and flower beds than is good for them.

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This birch was just a young sapling, maybe six feet tall (and perhaps five years old) when I collected it from one of our local garden centers, Webbs of Wychbold, just a few miles south of Bromsgrove on the way to the nearest junction with the M5 motorway. In 1983, I was driving a Mark III Ford Escort, and I was able to fit the tree inside, with the pot in the passenger foot well, and the trunk and few branches stretching back over the seats towards the tailgate.

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Now it’s an impressive tree. In the summer, when in full leaf, it unfortunately shades about half the garden almost all day long, even as the sun moves round from east to west (we are south-facing, more or less, in the back garden).

Here’s a time-lapse video taken earlier today as the tree was felled. Sad to watch, but it’s amazing already how much more light is getting into the garden. We had a dusting of snow overnight, and the wind had picked up, so Chris Bishop, the tree surgeon, came to check early on what the state of the garden was. He told me that had there been too much snow he would have postponed the felling until another day. That wasn’t the case, and over the course of about three hours (including tea and lunch breaks), down came the tree.

Here’s the aftermath. You could say we now have a gardening ‘blank canvass’.

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We have yet to decide what will replace the birch. We must surely have a tree in the garden. High on our current list are an ornamental crab apple, maybe even an edible apple variety, or even a flowering cherry. Yes, it was sad to see our Himalayan ‘friend’ dismembered, limb by limb. Now, with more sunlight in the garden, we have many more opportunities to develop other planting options. Watch this space!

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