Gardening: Chop trees before they're a problem

By Leigh Bramwell

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Until a week ago we had a 30m-plus eucalyptus behind our house. It was a gorgeous thing, obviously much older than I, and I was very emotionally attached to it. Its silvery white trunk glowed on moonlit nights, and if in the morning the sky was red, so was the trunk. Exquisite.

The Landscaper, however, was convinced that at some point the tree would lose interest in standing upright and fall on the house, crushing him as he slept. He quoted numerous incidences of eucalyptus inconsiderately falling over, and being ridiculed as an alarmist did nothing to change his mind. So about a year ago we began to toy with the idea of having it felled.

It's really interesting that when you mention to anyone you're planning to fell a 30m tree that's right beside your house, they'll tell you they, or their best friend, or their neighbour, will do it for a dozen Speight's. Piece of the proverbial, they chortle. Nah, don't need a digger - just a couple of ropes and an axe.

It isn't true, of course, much as you'd like it to be in the face of quotes ranging from $3000 up to the price of a reasonable car. But you can't take risks with something that would reduce your home to a flatpack should somebody not know what they're doing.

Hence the arrival, finally, of The Tree Man. He appeared out of the blue one day, sent by another tree man who had looked at the tree months earlier and declined the opportunity to dispatch it.

He studied it from every angle, stared at it for well over half an hour, walked around it, patted it, and finally confirmed that it wasn't the safest tree in the world to have hanging over your house. Taking it out was a good decision, he said. He named a price that was more than a dozen Speight's but quite a lot less than the value of my car, and suggested we remove the young pittosporums we'd planted in front of it so he could drop it parallel to the house.

A couple of weeks later he returned with an assistant, a harness, a four-wheel-drive, a digger, some ropes and the biggest chainsaw I have ever seen.

He stood before the tree for a while, did a few stretches on the lawn, geared up, and climbed about a third of the way up the tree to cut off some of the overhanging branches. He swung back down, cut a sizeable wedge out of the back of the tree, attached ropes to the trunk, and tied it to the digger. He pointed out where it was going to fall, guaranteeing - jokingly, we thought - to drop it between the stakes we'd left in the ground after removing the pittosporums.

I don't know what happened after that because I was inside weeping but, like everyone within a 2km radius, I heard, and felt, the crash as the gum hit the ground.

My heart may have been broken, but not a garden stake was damaged in the operation.

Only a couple of days later the Far North was battered with 130km/h winds, but The Landscaper slept like a baby.

There are two morals to this story. The first is that if you have trees that could become a problem to you, your neighbours, your power lines or your husband, deal with them before they get to 30m tall.

Bite the bullet, take them out, and plant something that won't grow beyond the height you want.

Don't let the bloke next door do it. Get an arborist.

If they're properly qualified they'll know what they're doing and have the appropriate equipment to do it without wrecking anything - particularly themselves.

- Hamilton News

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