The Temporary Garden Gets a Promotion

Well, after 3+ years of grousing about the Money Pit and its attendant Temporary Garden, whilst looking at one disappointing next-house candidate after another, market reality recently made it clear that it would be financially idiotic for me to move. Although the Money Pit will continue to earn its nickname via the truly staggering 19-item list of Things That Need to be Replaced (the roof, exterior siding, septic system and driveway being  only a few) this also means that the Temporary Garden has now been promoted to permanence. I haven’t even enumerated the projects that this will entail, other than to realize that it will probably take me at least 10 years to complete – assuming that I will be able to tackle two “sections” per year, one each spring and the other every fall. Riiight. What’s that saying about the road to hell being paved with something or other? Mulch, was it??

The resident tiger lilies and orange daylilies have no idea of the doom that will befall them next year. Or so I hope. I am not naiieve enough to think that I will ever get rid of the chameleon plant (Houttonyia cordata) except possibly in one of the raised beds.  Okay, well, yes, foolish optimism there…

Although there will be a separate list for the Great Garden Renovation, the very first item on my to-do list was indeed a garden item of sorts – something that I have said for almost four years that I would immediately have done if I was planning on remaining here. But now I am, and so it was fitting that the #1 job would be:

The Massacre of the Not-So-Innocents

Those who followed the Oakleaf Olympics here a couple of years ago will know exactly who the not-so-innocents are. I was determined to take Team Oak out of competition for good… all 17 players (if one is counting trunks, which is how the tree companies do it.)

Warning: The following section contains descriptions and photos of the removal of mature trees; reader discretion is advised.

The owner of the tree company, who had removed four oak trees four years ago that were dangerously close to the house, advised me that the job would take two days. The eight trunks in the backyard would go on the first day, and the nine in the front yard on Day Two. I had been hoping that the trees would be gone before they dropped their load of foliage but schedules and weather conspired to have the lion’s share of leaves already on the ground before the work began. The crew of four men would have to wheelbarrow all of the logs at least 150 feet from the backyard to the street. They showed up bright and early at 8 am the first day.

The first tree was along the back property line, 200 ft from the street.


This was a huge triple trunk; the arborist is on the first of the trio. The way the men strung and manipulated the ropes so that each cut limb would land precisely where it needed to, without striking anything, was amazing.


The area directly in line of sight to the shed (which I now think looks ten times worse than when it was mercifully partly obscured by the three oak trunks) is where the largest tree originally stood.

The lower of the two hollow trunks here was one of the triple-trunks; the upper one was one of the back property line trees.


The two piles of logs near the end of Day One, flanking the sides of my driveway. I was never so grateful that the driveway is in such terrible condition as on that day, because any “nice” driveway would probably have emerged much the worse for wear after this project! The men worked until after dark, because night falls by 5pm in December, and they were cutting the very last log up by flashlights.


Morning on Day Two. There were three multi-trunked oaks in the front but at least they could use the bucket boom truck for all but one of them. Here the foreman is working on trunk #5 (front tree #3.)


After removing the adjacent oaks, this Acer palmatum was revealed as the (newly dubbed) Leaning Tower of Maple. Naturally as per Murphy’s Law almost the entire tree extends over into my neighbor’s property line, and this is the neighbor with whom I’m no longer on speaking terms because of Plant Growth Overhang issues (long story there, perhaps told later.)  I am sure that the neighbor, whom I spied speaking vehemently with the tree guys (as they have used this same company to remove almost all of their own trees) was asking about cutting back the maple. But the law in my state says that

A property owner can take down branches that hang over their property — up to the property line, even without permission from the tree owner. However, the law also states that if a homeowner trims branches on a tree and that causes damage to the overall health of the tree, that person could be liable, and might have to pay to replace it.

Obviously the maple grew in the only direction it could take (away from the oaks) and it certainly does give it a “windswept” look as a result!


Here’s another view of the Leaning Tower of Maple, this time from the house-end of the driveway.  I did ask the tree guy about the health of the maple and he said it’s perfectly fine; it simply grew toward the strongest light source because the oaks were there. Although some branches may fill part of one side over time, the trunk will never be straight. My inclination is to leave it alone and see what it does. I like Japanese maples and am loath to remove it even if it does look “tipsy” – perhaps I will eventually develop a Zen mindset toward it? Yes, trying to make lemonade from lemons indeed. [I did warn you that the driveway is awful…]


The other side of the driveway, sans several oaks. The one closest to the driveway turned out to be shockingly unhealthy.


A shot of the initial felling. The trunk was hollow for more than a dozen feet up from the ground. Had it come down in a bad storm, there’d  have been no good outcome: In one direction it would have taken out all of the power, telephone, and cable tv lines servicing my end of the street; in the other direction it would have crushed my car and possibly the front of the garage roof as well.


The big trucks arrived to remove the giant piles of logs from both days.  Although the winch/claw made the work seem easy, more than 50% of those massive logs had to be manually transported for at least 150 feet from the backyard to the curb area. To say that those guys worked hard is an understatement. It was a cool dry early December day and I cannot begin to imagine what it would have been like to do the same job in July or August!


Of course I now have a big collection of tree stumps; to have them ground out would have been prohibitively expensive, adding considerably to the job’s several thousand dollar pricetag. So I simply asked them to cut as close to the ground as they could. Because five of them are already hollowed to some extent, my first thought was “natural planter”! So I will try annuals in them next year.


Replacing that shed is on The List, though the new one will be smaller. It isn’t apparent in the photo but the shed roof is rotting and so are most of the lower boards and the particleboard flooring. Frankly I think it’s an eyesore, much worse now that the tree is no longer beside it as a partial distraction.


The three stumps adjacent to the Leaning Maple pose a problem because they are on a miniature hill due to the actual base of the trunk being below grade. Each one of the stump tops is at an angle, and I have no idea what to do with these except to plant some kind of trailing creeping groundcover(s) that will eventually cover them, I suppose. If I were a super-artistic type (so not!!) I would carve an intricate design into the faces of the stump tops and turn them into art – but since my talent is limited to stick figures, that option’s unavailable. So I have no idea what these could be turned into, if anything. Suggestions, anyone?

Although I will be very happy to no longer need to clean (a) oak pollen (b) oak ‘beards’ (c) acorns (c) twigs/branches, and of course (d) oak leaves off the driveway areas, I will not be completely oak-work-free by any means. Why? Because my other neighbor has SIX of the miserable things right along his side of the property line, and they drop plenty of (a), (b), (c) and (d) into my yard.  Case in point: at 5pm on the Friday evening when the tree guys left for good, my front walkway and stairs were completely and blissfully leaf-free.


This is how the same area looked on Monday midday, barely three days later. All of those leaves are newly fallen from the neighbor’s boundary-line oaks. 😦


This is the south side entrance to my backyard; the neighbor has a double-trunk oak tree right next to the side of the fence. I never had an oak within at least 30 feet of this area, either front or back – those are all “his” leaves. And acorns. And beards.  I have coped with this area by deliberately avoiding looking at it, and luckily there are no windows on this end of my house.  But the entrance to the basement is here, filling up with oak-crap all year long which inevitably blocks the drain at the bottom. I have zero hope of him ever cutting that tree down, though, because at one time they had a swimming pool there; if they didn’t remove the tree then, they certainly won’t be inclined to take it down now that the pool is gone. This is the neighbor with the Zamboni-style leaf vacuumer on his riding mower, so it doesn’t matter to him how many gazillion leaves come down on his side!

So although I won’t be oak-mess-free, at least I will have lowered the percentage somewhat, especially on the opposite (north) side of the property. Some improvement is better than none, for sure.

Stay tuned for future instalments as the Temporary Garden morphs into the Great Garden Renovation starting in 2018!

  3 comments for “The Temporary Garden Gets a Promotion

  1. Betty McCullough
    December 9, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    We have had good results with getting rid of stumps but drilling holes and filling them with powdered milk. It takes awhile but once it starts, it costs so much less than grinding. Plant vinca/myrtle around them and it will cover the stumps and be maintenance free.

  2. Kaleigj
    December 9, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Put an old wine barrel over it (cut the base out & lower over) then put colourful flowers in it and moss over it-It looks great there also always ideas on Pinterest-Good luck x

  3. December 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    That was some pretty bad decay. Yet, it seemed to be weirdly symmetrical within the interiors of the trunks. I agree with the comment above about planting something around the trunks. I use geraniums (pelargoniums) because they are expendable. Watering them accelerates decay.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: