Alison StewartLocal heroes blitz rhodies

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.

Lifting the stump over the hedgeOver 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.

Rhodies cut to the base

Rhodies cut to the base

The telescopic arm extends over the hedge

The telescopic arm extends over the hedge

 

 

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.

Out comes the stump and root ball

Out comes the stump and root ball

Loading the stumps on the trailer

Loading the stumps on the trailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bank after clearing

The bank after clearing

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.

Ready for planting (with large root from Henry in the foreground)

Ready for planting (with large root from Henry in the foreground)

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2 thoughts on “Local heroes blitz rhodies

  1. Great, love a bit of biff and slash in the garden myself, Alison. I can only imagine rhododendrons to be gorgeous and wonder why you’d want to get rid of them. Guess you have your reasons and rampant overgrowth seems to be one .
    I recall seeing lovely big ones at Muckross House, in Co. Kerry, Ireland 33 years go and falling in love – and that was waaay before I had an interest in gardening. Waiting to see what you plant in the space. Thanks for the post.

    • Alison S on said:

      Hi Julie, It’s all about the difference between the species R. ponticum – which is mega-invasive in the west of the UK, and also host to the oak-wilt fungus – and the non-threatening hybrids and less vigorous species that are OK in gardens. We are encouraged to get rid of R. ponticum if possible. The trouble with our garden is that complete eradication would come with a very large price tag and remove all the hedges that line our terraces. But, on the bright side, I’m planning to write more about that enticingly empty bank soon …

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