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Garden Design

R.I.P. Henry

Alison Stewart

Alison Stewart

December 15, 2011

Well, Henry’s gone. I guess he’d had a good innings. No one seems to know how old he was. Despite several close shaves over the last 8 years, somehow he always seemed to pull through. But an unscheduled amputation in the spring brought things to a head and his days were numbered.

Henry splits the view – and opinion

Actually, I’m pleased that he’s gone – at least I think I am. Henry was a very tatty conifer, species unknown, that was right bang in the middle of the view of the water from the big front living room. I had him marked out for euthanasia from the beginning but Julia, cunningly, gave him a name. It’s like when you have chickens: give them a name and they never make it to the pot. How could we give Henry the chop? It would be murder. We had to wait until he attempted suicide in the spring gales: not just the ripped-out arm, which made him even more lopsided, but a split in his torso that looked pretty dangerous so close to the drive.

In fact Henry divided opinion just like he divided the view. Artists loved him. Apparently he gave some foreground to the scene, and he figures in several rather nice drawings and watercolours made by various artistic friends.

Bird lovers also liked Henry. He was the only tree close enough to the house so that, admittedly with binoculars, you could ID that bird resting on his outstretched branch.
And I think I also came to have a sneaking fondness for him over the years. He was so defiantly wonky. He seemed to be saying “I was here before you were so what are you going to do about it?”

Eventually what we had to do about it was chop him down. It seemed a good time to get rid of a few other dodgy and dangerous inhabitants of the garden too. In fact, during the same spring gale that sealed Henry’s fate, another huge tree up near the garage completely uprooted itself. Luckily for us, like an elderly relative that really doesn’t want to cause any trouble, it missed the garage and neatly deposited itself in the arms of one of the line of old yews which, surprisingly, managed to support it until the tree surgeons arrived.

RIP Henry

I wasn’t there when they came, which was a pity, because Alistair says it was great fun to watch. They felled the trees, logged all the trunks and chipped the smaller branches so we now have enough firewood to last us till the next millennium, plus a huge pile of wood chips that I’m planning to spread on the hillside paths, or may even use as a mulch after I’ve left it a few months to compost itself and leach out any toxic stuff.

The uprooted tree stump remains



But what to do about the stumps? Henry’s is a neat little stub – quite suitable as a grave slab – but the stump of the Sequoiadendron at the top of the drive sticks up like a sore thumb so we’ll have to get it ground out to have any hope of making sense of that bit of garden bed. I was surprised to see that the stump of the big tree near the garage was still there, given that it had been completely uprooted. What apparently happens in this situation is that, as the upper branches are removed, there comes a point where the centre of gravity shifts so the stump swings back and thumps down on the ground again (hopefully without a hapless tree surgeon underneath it). I’m trying to persuade the tree surgeon that it’s part of the job to remove it – surely it shouldn’t be too difficult, given that there’s nothing anchoring it in the ground any more.