The silhouetted gesture of a bare valley oak tree at sunrise. Photo: Karen Gideon
In the garden, trees serve as the pillars of the landscape architecture. Their presence determines who has sun and who has shade. They are a steady habitat for birds and other critters, providers of leaf litter for mulch and compost, and symbols of seasonal change as they rotate their colorful foliage through time. Because the trees sequester carbon, they are heroes in the climate crisis.
However, as trees age they may appear less splendid. We notice a wasting canopy or loss of limbs. The shape and stamina of the tree diminishes. When disease, illness or old age creeps forward, it can give the gardener pause. There’s the notion of impending loss and decisions to be made. And there might be a bit of mea culpa as the loss is occurring on our watch.It’s critical that trees are removed by experts with safety being the top concern. Heavy limbs can be dangerous to people and property. Photo: Karen
Once the tree is gone and you’re standing on the healing scar of earth where it lived, you ask “what now?”
You may celebrate new-found sunlight, celebrating your first chance at a vegetable garden or a flower bed blooming year-round. And many gardeners may think about replacing the tree with a junior version of the tree that was lost.Consider letting an oak baby tree growing from acorns on your property continue to thrive as an eventual replacement tree. Photo: Karen Gideon
If you’re not sure what to do, the Marin Master Gardener website offers some tools and information that help you think through some of these issues. Go to the website, http://marinmg.ucanr.edu, and click on the word BASICS on the top bar. Scroll to “Site Analysis” and click. You’ll find a set of questions that may help you decide how to approach this new phase and new area of your garden.The spires of towering trees. From Steinbeck: “They are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Photo: Catherine Wiley
There’s an old saying that the time to plant a tree was twenty-years ago. While this may be true for the gardener today, planting a tree now leaves an inspiring legacy. For future generations, your new tree will provide a climate-change hero, a critter habitat, and host of beauty.