A few weeks ago we had the best afternoon’s entertainment for ages, watching local builder Neil Blair and his crew reef out a whole bank of the dreaded Rhododendron ponticum from our west-of-Scotland garden. The rhodies started as a hedge that borders the drive but over the years they “walked” down the slope below the drive so that eventually they formed a great wedge-shaped blob that covered the whole bank and was impossible to reach across with the hedge trimmer.
Over the winter I asked Jim D to cut down the rhodie invaders along the bank, restoring the hedge to its proper shape. But then we stalled: how to get rid of the stumps? Hand digging was attempted but quickly abandoned. Friends and neighbours who we asked for advice variously recommended hiring a mechanical digger or getting in the tree surgeon and his stump grinder. I remembered Bernhard Feistel’s wonderful “ruck-zuruck” but, sadly, no-one had heard of such a thing in this part of the world.
Then Neil Blair came along. He actually came to talk to us about renovating our bathroom but we started chatting about this and that – as you do – and the upshot was that a few days later a splendid JCB Telehandler trundled up the drive, manned by Neil with assistance from son John and another member of his building crew.
The Telehandler is like an enormous fork-lift truck with a telescopic arm. The machine stood on the drive, braced by two adjustable feet, and Neil, at the controls in the cab, extended the telescopic arm over the top of the hedge. Down below, the two young men wound one end of a chain around the forks and the other around the base of the stump, then Neil put the machine in “lift” mode and the whole enormous root ball was hoisted right out of the ground, over the top of the hedge, and deposited in the waiting trailer.
It was brilliant! In one afternoon the whole bank was cleared, plus a few other accessible rhodies on the other side of the drive that have been looking ratty for years. Admittedly there were still a couple of days’ work to do in digging out bits of remaining root (including a very large one that turned out to have been part of Henry, a controversial conifer whose sad demise I did a blog posting on a while back). On the whole, though, the effort and mess were minimal and the bank is now ready for replanting. I just wish the Telehandler could reach all of the Rhododendron ponticum I’d like to get rid of.