Another close call

I should have given greater consideration to the proximity of the towering swamp maples and tulip poplars to the house (and less to its suitability for a garden) when this lot was selected twenty-eight years ago. Shade from the forest that borders the southeastern property line was desirable, while the remainder of the property was in full sun (that is, until dozens of dogwoods, redbuds, and Japanese maples that I planted grew to cover most of the rear garden).

On any breezy day the maples and tulip poplars sway, creaking, and with an occasional snap as a limb comes crashing from the treetops. After a windy Saturday, this afternoon numerous branches littered this part of the garden. Smaller branches were carefully removed from hydrangeas and camellias with only minor damage, and larger limbs were tossed onto brush piles that edge the garden. Several hostas were flattened, but these were within days or weeks of dormancy as the first frost approaches, and no harm was done.

The tree limb hanging between the pergola and Alaskan cedar was much more impressive before side branches were cut off. If the limb had fallen three feet to one side or the other there would have been extensive damage, but this was my lucky day.

As I picked up small branches along the stone path that borders a pond and stream, I heard distinctive cracking that must be from a major limb. I stood back, unable to locate the source, but cautious to remain out from under a crashing limb. The limbs of one maple hang precariously over the garden, brushing the house in a breeze, and after a series of cracks one large branch shook, then crashed to the ground.

Fortunately, I could not have guided its path any better, as the limb fell beside a pergola, but just to the side of an Alaskan cedar. The branch did not break free from the tree’s trunk, so it hangs, perfectly arched just above a Japanese maple. The arc of this falling limb took it further from the house, so there is no damage to speak of. Yet.

A few years ago, another maple came down in a December ice storm, and this also barely brushed the house with little damage except for a few broken hydrangea branches. However, as I cut up debris a limb sprung to hit me in the forehead. As my wife mopped up blood, I recall that she commented how lucky I was that the blow was to my head. Yeah, yeah, I get the joke. In any case, a trip to the emergency room was required, where the gash was closed with several staples.

Maple damaged in ice storm
The tree that came down in a December ice storm was larger than the large limb that came down this year, but it was also perfectly placed to do the least damage possible. If you look closely your can see the broken trunk of a Forest Pansy redbud that it fell on, but the plan was to remove the sad looking redbud before spring, so this made the job easier. The main damage from the tree falling was to the idiot who was cutting the tree, me.

I might be hard headed, and my wife might not agree, but I am not foolish enough to make this exact mistake again. I carefully removed smaller leafy branches to get a better look (which was safe enough), then gave an unsuccessful try or two to rocking the limb to see if I could guide it to the ground without destroying the Japanese maple (this was potentially very stupid, as my wife watched nearby in disbelief). No, it couldn’t be done, and this time, instead of being an idiot, I’ll apply the hospital deductible to hiring a tree service to remove the limb.

While they’re at it, I’ll have them remove two other limbs that arch over the garden that inevitably will suffer the same fate one day. I’ve considered this project for years, and once considered doing it with my son’s assistance. But then the pergola was built, and the path for the limbs was complicated. Now, the broken limb must be removed, and once it and the neighboring branches are removed there will be a bit more sun for the cedar and the Japanese maple. And, I won’t be as concerned that one day a branch will come crashing through the kitchen window.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. mclor says:

    They call hung up branches “widowmakers” for a reason!

    1. Dave says:

      I claim only enough brightness to stand out of the way as the limb falls. Once it’s down, something must be done, and if a dime can be saved ….

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