11 Mar 2017

Stumped! And a bittersweet solution



Sometimes (actually, with increasing regularity) I despair at the culture we live in, where statistical results and budget take precedence over common sense and communication.  This past week I've seen tree works carried out by undertrained and badly equipped contractors acting on the orders of disinterested landlords and I've also had a conversation with a lad on our estate who is struggling to keep going with his chosen career of horticulture. In both instances, I believe budget played a part.

My alarm bells starting ringing a couple of months back about the tree works when notices were posted about which trees would be affected. We're in a conservation area so permission has to be sought from the local council for any tree works - yes, even when I want to prune my fruit trees in spring apparently!  I checked the online planning application and map and was satisfied that my fruit trees were unaffected by this cull but, stupidly, missed the threat to the cherry plum tree growing next to our playground area.


~ Last week ... ~

It's too late now, of course, but I'm wondering why on earth anyone would want to destroy a healthy, prolific and beautiful fruit tree. It was small, as trees go, the perfect urban tree - covered in bridal confetti blossom during late February and March and hundreds of sweet yellow plums in July. The problem here is that there is no programme for regularly maintaining the trees and shrubs on the estate - the budget conscious powers-that-be ignore the situation until it becomes a problem.  The tree was allowed to grow unchecked until it reached the first floor and the lower branches stretched out across the pathway next to the border.  Pruning the lower branches back would have resolved any hazard to pedestrians and left tenants with a beautiful tree and delicious fruit to eat. But, no. What we have now is less than a stump.  It was the only tree marked out to be 'felled and poisoned', despite there being several over-tall conifers blocking the light to flats on the second floor. Even the contractors were perplexed at the loss of this beautiful tree.  It might seem overly sensitive to some but I have felt truly saddened by this all week.

~ Why would anyone not want this outside their window? ~


To be fair, the contractors were pleasant young men working to a job sheet and, worryingly, their employers had sent them in with incomplete safety measures. No ladders, no safety gloves; at least these lads sported hard hats with face shields but stood on walls to reach tree canopies, with one steadying the other by the ankles. They even showed me scarred arms from wearing thin fabric gloves to operate chainsaws and hedge trimmers! They were unable to identify the trees that they were chopping at; one of them explained that he was new to this work and still learning. The surveyor who had visited before them should surely have known what he was looking at?  I mean, how hard is it to identify a Viburnum x bodnantense in December? The pink scented flowers should provide a big clue but these shrubs were labelled as cotoneaster trees. Elsewhere in the grounds, a Hebe and Elaeagnus were marked on the map as 'unidentified trees'. *rolls eyes heavenwards and shakes head*

The contractors were careful of my newly raked soil when pruning out the epicormic stems of the limes in the middle garden. (In fact, even there these stems weren't pruned correctly, being chopped off half way.) By some miracle the ivy on the limes, currently housing several nesting birds, was left alone. The council planning department had deferred to a member of the local Conservation Area Committee to verify that they had no objections to the tree works requested and the woman consulted (not a tenant here) actually asked for the ivy on the lime trees to be pulled off!!! Words fail me!!  (I know I dislike ivy when it's spreading on the ground, but ... my little birds!!) AND, it's absolutely no business of hers if I, as caretaker of the garden, am happy for ivy to grow up the trees as it has done for years.  Flippin' cheek!

*Takes a deep breath and calms down*   There was a silver lining to this cloud as I asked the lads what would happen to the wood chippings of their morning's work and was told that I could have them.  So it seems that a decision has been made as to what to line the circle of the middle garden with.  Not grass, fake or real, nor gravel but bark chippings.

And what about the young man I mentioned who desperately wants to be a gardener?  He was ten months into his training at the same college I attended when he was asked to leave. This allegedly was due to his being late on half a dozen occasions in that ten month period. Colleges have to keep records on attendance for their funded programmes and lateness lowers the statistics, and statistics are numbers, not reasons. I get it, lateness is not acceptable but let's put this in perspective - it used to take me 40 minutes to an hour to drive there; he used public transport where the overcrowded trains would frequently be cancelled creating a domino effect on the rest of his 'walk-train-walk-train-walk' journey.  Did he give up and go home? No; he persevered and got there.  Was he offered help and advice?  No ... leaving him floundering, working indoors and disillusioned. He's a pleasant, polite and bright lad (and, yes, I am biased because he's one of my son's friends) and I hate to see enthusiasm and a passion for doing what you love thwarted in any young person.  Hopefully my on the spot careers advice will have given him a few avenues to pursue with potential for a job, voluntary work at Kew and a possible apprenticeship in his future. And he offered to volunteer for the community gardens here. :o)

What a week!

~ You can't even buy these plums in the shops ~
PS.  I've just discovered that Thompson and Morgan sell cherry plum trees as bare root hedging plants ... and I was considering replacing the Euonymus hedge in the middle garden. Maybe another problem solved?
PPS. Please forgive my ranting. I sometimes forget how much I learned during my garden design training which included a lot of horticulture and focus on plants. I certainly wouldn't expect everyone to know a Viburnum from a Cotoneaster but would have thought that someone practising arboriculture would be trained to know the difference! 

12 comments:

  1. Oh Caro, I'm sorry. What a bloody awful week. You have every reason to rant.

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    1. Thank you, Jessica. It feels good to get it off my chest!

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  2. You have had a week when your blood must have reached boiling point! What a shame that lovely tree was chopped down.I can't believe you also have to get permission to prune a tree! Hopefully following your advice your son's friend work prospects will lead to more opportunities than he would have received at a college. Sarah x

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    1. I'm usually a very calm person with a positive outlook but get upset when needlessly negative things happen, such as this past week. We won't get plums this year but hopefully things will improve for the young man. Cxx

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  3. I'd be absolutely furious as well. There have been a few beautiful trees cut down around here too and it makes me so frustrated. There's a huge tree out the back of my garden, and I live in fear of it being removed. It's absolutely gorgeous, filled with birds all year, and a real focal point. A whole row of trees doing nobody any harm was lopped down to the ground a while back, including the most exquisite lilac. It is now a mass of twigginess, not a flower in sight, an awkward bush type thing that just looks scrappy. I don't think the people who make these decisions have a clue. I heard rumour that a local supermarket had cut down a load of rowan trees that were feeding a whole flock of at least 15 waxwings as well. And to top it all the school are planning to fill in the wildlife pond. So I completely understand where you're coming from. Such a shame to see your lovely tree axed, and in such a shambolic way. CJ xx

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    1. Gosh, your tale of woe beats mine, CJ! Hopefully the lilac will regrow although won't flower for a while and I'd be really up in arms at the loss of those rowan trees - why on earth do people feel the need to chop trees down - don't they realise when they plant trees that they'll need managing? It's awful that the waxwings have lost a valuable habitat as well. And as for the school pond ... dreadful! I do hope that your lovely back garden tree view isn't spoiled in the future. Caro xx

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  4. I fully sympathise with your rant. It does often seem that we are increasingly living in a world where common sense has been thrown out with the bath water. I'd be sad to lose such a lovely tree too.

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  5. A heartfelt post and one that I fully empathise with. Such wanton actions truly sadden me when it comes to what is all to often done to trees nowadays. In many instances it really is just environmental vandalism.
    The actions of the college are unforgivable, but symptomatic of today's world. I despair that people are so shortsighted and uncaring. Flighty xx

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  6. Yes you are right to feel angry. People who should know better often disregard nature especially with a chainsaw in hand. Judicious pruning is often enough.

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  7. Rant away, you have every right to! Hope your son's friend manages to find a suitable position in horticulture and that his experience hasn't put him off. The cherry plum sounds a delightful tree, no wonder you were so annoyed by it's cavalier treatment.

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  8. I'd rant too, why on earth was such a wonderful tree felled, useful to people and wildlife alike, it makes my blood boil! The council are forever on my back about cutting branches etc they are in nobody's way!!! They forced my neighbour to cut back an aging hedge, it totally destroyed it! Glad you gave the chap some good advice.Good luck with your new plum.xxx

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  9. Rant fully justified. We are going through this on a daily basis up here, where Sheffield council have outsourced tree maintenance, which in effect is knocking down hundreds and hundreds of perfectly healthy & safe trees. I despair of this world too.

    I think people doing this job should be trained to know the difference between a Viburnum and a Cotoneaster.

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Caro x

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