The tree of Damocles

This story began almost a year ago.  Well actually no, it really began almost exactly 90 years ago when a clause was agreed on the land where my house is built saying that that there should be a boundary created by a row of poplar trees.  Most of these trees still stand today and behind one corner of my garden was a very large, very fine, very sprawly black poplar tree.
It has dominated the skyline and my garden for decades and for as long as I have known it it has always had a lean, but did not give me too much worry.
Even when some local scrote set fire to the base of it, it appeared to shrug this off and survive.  But time takes its toll on us all and this time last year a massive limb detached from the tree and plummeted into my garden.  Bearing in mind this corner tree also overlooks a local school, it seemed to me pretty important that it was made safe.  The owners duly sent around some tree people to remove the limb from my garden and they promised to return to deal with the tree itself over the winter.
It is not easy to see from this photo, but the downward branches is the fallen limb going through my horse chestnut tree.

Winter came and went but there was no apparent sign of action.  Then some more of the tree came down.  This time seriously damaging my horse chestnut tree.

I was not pleased but again the tree people came around, removed the limb and I was promised, promised, that the tree would be looked at and made safe.  I need to make it very clear at this point that I was not pushing for total removal of the tree, but I did need to be assured that it was safe as I was now extremely nervous about going down that part of my garden.  It felt like the Sword of Damocles was waiting to fall.
More weeks passed, then more limbs fell from the tree.  This time my Davidia took a serious hit and I was pretty sure it was done for.  More urgent phone calls and again another site visit.
This time they actually seemed like they might do something, except what they wanted to do chilled me to the bone.  Dropping large chunks of tree onto my garden was mentioned and I became very unhappy.
After a few more weeks I finally got them to agree a date when they would come.  They said they wanted to dig up various trees/shrubs from my garden so I firmly refused them permission to do this.  I did remove a few recently planted items such as the Iford Cherry and a Daphne, but the rest I marked up with the now traditional Sainsburys bags and I told them they had to be careful to avoid them.
Of course the day they decided they were coming I could not be at home.  This made me very very anxious but I did not feel that delaying them was a good idea.  I just had to hope for the best and keep fingers and toes crossed.

On my return home the sight of a large, truncated trunk greeted me.
The whole bottom corner of the garden has been opened up.  The light is incredible and gives me huge opportunities to consider what to do in this space.
I am a bit concerned that it has reduced the security at that bottom corner and that does not make me hugely happy, so I am considering planting some hawthorns or the like to fence it in.  It is early days as I need to get used to seeing the garden looking like this before making any decisions.
I do, however, suspect that they did dig up some of my shrubs, either that or two of them have exchanged places on their own volition.  My gingko appears to have done a 180 deg turn.  Now this does give me real concern as this tree was one of the first things planted in this garden so has been in place for seven years now so it had rooted in well.  It might not look much, this is because it was badly damaged in the fire I mentioned above and it has taken a few years to start to re-establish.  I shall be incredibly unhappy if this uprooting harms it.  I shall keep you informed.
I am sad to see the poplar looking so stumpy; on the other hand for the first time in a year I feel safe walking around my own garden and this is good.  I am fairly sure the tree will start to grow again so in future years the problem will return but hopefully it will take a while before this is so.  Watch this space as they say!

There is a small ray of hope for the Davidia.  I dug it up and put it in a container, partly to protect it from further damage when they were pruning the tree but also to help coax it back into life.  When I looked at it this weekend I could see a large bud forming showing new growth.  I am now hopeful it might survive after all.


  1. Gosh ... sword of Damocles indeed! It must have been a very worrying time. At least now you can start planning how to utilise all that new light and space !

  2. There are so many tree surgery muppets about, it angers me immensely. Fingers crossed your mysteriously wandering plants thrive.

    1. Sadly not my choice of contractor, they have damaged my horse chestnut again as well. I'm glad that the tree is now safe but it looks so sad.

  3. How sad that your chestnut got damaged while attending to the poplar. There are some people who shouldn't be in charge of a chain saw!
    I'm sure you must now have lots of light where before all was in the shade, what possibilities will now open up before you, have a lovely time thinking about what to plant.

  4. A strange coincidence: our posts today are both about tree damage and removal. Safety with big old trees is a major concern, and I should have removed the old maple earlier. But like you, I now have a sunnier spot to deal with.

  5. Must be the time of year for it :)

  6. Good grief, what a tale of incompetence. Glad you have a newly safe corner of garden to enjoy, hope your precious plants survive.


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