If a Tree is Falling – Planning The Urban Landscape

The photo above shows the state of my backyard exactly three years ago, on the morning of February 4, 2016.  The day before we had experienced mild temperatures, but winds of up to 43 km/hr (26.7 mph).  Our old spruce tree was already struggling, so that day, it just fell over, without much warning. It was pretty scary, considering all those cables hanging right behind my fence, but fortunately, the small trees next to the big evergreen were able to support most of its weight; the shed on the other side of the tree got almost completely destroyed from the roots being lifted out of the earth, but that absorbed a good part of the momentum as well:

007 February 4 2016

The first step was to promptly call city hall, the electricity company, and a tree removal service.  It was assessed that part of the tree was resting on top of the cables, but had not produced any damage to the lines.  The city paid for the removal of the top, and we paid for the bottom part. The next step was to remove the shed, now just metal scrap, and the contents, transformed into garbage; I was expecting that there would be a lot of mouse droppings and other clandestine animal activity.  The junk removal crew reported none of the first, which was surprising, until they reported on the second part: they spotted a pretty big opossum, and had to make a lot of noise before it decided to skedaddle; that explained the lack of mice (and their droppings) and my dog acting very defensively around the shed area for a few weeks before the incident.

Not long after the shed was gone, a section of the fence fell over, probably damaged by the uprooted bottom of the spruce tree, and being supported only by the broken shed.  In the photo below, the fence section is resting on top of the tree stump, revealing part of my neighbour’s property:

008 February 29 2016 fallen fence

So the third step became a call to a fence repair contractor, who took almost two weeks, from a combination of technical and weather-related problems.  Last but not least, the tree company came back to grind the remaining stump in mid March (photo below, left), and after a few bad weather spells, by mid-April I had finally managed to flatten the area, and admire what a large spot the old tree had occupied (photo below, right):

I thought of this story now because, a couple of weeks ago, the weather forecast was looking very bleak, predicting high winds, so as a preventative measure, we felt forced to make the decision to remove two other old spruce trees from our property, this time in front of the house:

The tree removal company finished the job in a couple of hours (photo below, left) and came back a few days later to grind the stumps, leaving behind two mounds of nice mulch in the garden bed (photo below, right):

It is very sad to have to cut trees down, but the risks of damage and injury were just too great to dismiss. Planting just a bunch of big evergreens in the city might have seemed like a fine landscaping design a few decades ago, when there were lots of room around, but now it would be inconceivable; we left a small horse chestnut growing in the bed, and will probably go for a more eclectic plant design, maybe adding one or two small bushes where the big spruce trees were.

On the bright side, back to the backyard, after I had flattened the spot where the tree was, I realized that I had just acquired a gardening area of a little over 100 sq. Ft. (9.3 m²).  Wow! The crops I could grow … In my next post, I will describe what I did with my newly created plot that year.

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11 thoughts on “If a Tree is Falling – Planning The Urban Landscape

  1. I sometimes wish the massive evergreen in our back garden would blow over but it would probably destroy the garage…I agree with you that there was little foresight back when neighbourhoods were first developed…planting trees that grow so large they could become hazardous.

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    1. Yes, we were incredibly lucky that ours fell over the small trees next to it, or it could have been a disaster. The ones in front of the house would have fallen on our house or the cables outside for sure.

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  2. Looks like there was quite the domino effect from that one tree! The final domino is your garden space. I really enjoyed reading the post and looking the pictures as you told the story.

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