The title of this blog might sound like the first line of a joke, but the loss of trees that we’re going to discuss here really is no laughing matter. Over the last few weeks we’ve had some local outside contractors from a tree management company called Down To Earth come in and do their stuff. Now not only do I appreciate the punning name of their company, but they also did a great job in tackling some of the problems we had with some of our major trees here at Chartwell.
There were a variety of issues with a number of our trees that we had flagged up as needing treatment as part of our annual tree survey assessments that we carry out ourselves over the whole of Churchill’s gardens and wider estate. Some of the trees just needed some limbs removed while others had to be taken out completely. The removal of a tree is never a matter to take lightly and some people obviously have strong feelings about such an action, but we only undertake the process when it is absolutely necessary as I’ll explain later on below.
This Atlantic Cedar was damaged in some high winds last year. In fact, I was standing nearby with Giles our Head Gardener one day when we heard a huge crack behind us and turned to see a large branch fall from this tree. We immediately roped off the whole area beneath the canopy to ensure that no staff or visitors would venture underneath this tree and risk any further branches falling on them. Where several branches had fallen and split there were other dangerous limbs that were in danger of also coming down, as you can see in the picture below:
Cedar trees are notorious for splitting branches and so as well as the removal of the hanging limbs, we also had a lot of the weight taken out from the tops of the remaining stems too. This will not only maintain the safety for our visitors but also prolong the life and health of the tree itself.
Reduction work was also carried out on one of our Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) that resides alingside the main path through the Orchard.
This great old tree has taken a bit of a battering over the years and is currently under attack from the Laetiporus sulphureus fungus, otherwise known as Chicken of the Woods. This bracket fungus causes cubical rot to occur in the heartwood of a tree. Work was carried out on this specimen back in the 1990’s and we had more reduction done this time due to the presence of hollow cavaties in the trunk. This tree will certainly not be around forever here at Chartwell but hopefully the work we have had done will extend its life for the time being at least. Our Lime Trees (Tilia sp.) at the front of the house were also thinned due to the presence of Ganorderma fungi. We will monitor this situation and assess again later in the year.
Unfortunately, this crab apple tree above had to be removed completely which is a shame because it was a very attractive, productive tree until recently. This decision was made due to safety concerns because of a combination of age and the presence of Honey Fungus which can be a very serious problem to a lot of trees when it kills the roots of the tree it attaches onto.
At the same time we also coppiced three Kentish Cobnut trees (Corylus avellana) to not only harvest the wood but also to promote fresh new shoots. These trees were shading the bee hives a little too much in this area as well as blocking out sunlight for some of the plants on the Top Terrace above and blocking the view of the Weald from this terrace that Sir Winston and Clemtine loved so much.
Up on the Top Terrace itself, two further trees were also removed. A Thuja occidentalis tree, or White Cedar if you prefer, was clearly a very unhappy plant. In fact anyone who has cast eyes on it over the last few years can’t be surprised that we’ve had it taken out.
Whether it was under attack from an unknow pathogen or if it was simply a case of the wrong plant in the wrong place, this corner of the garden looks much better for losing it. And more excitingly, it allows us to replace it with something else much more beautiful, more historically accurate and perhaps most importantly more suited to this North-facing, shady spot.
The other, more disappointing loss from the Top Terrace was a Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ tree. This flowering cherry was found at the opposite corner of the terrace and was also looking rather unsightly before we had it removed.
This little Prunus suffered from very sudden die-back a short while ago and we aren’t quite sure why. Cherry trees are prone to bacterial canker but there wasn’t any sign of that or of any fungus attack in the soil. Some might say that it was not suited to this spot as it once again blocked the view of the Kitchen Garden and the Kent Weald for the visitors who stood reading the sign about the construction of the walled garden next to it. If we do replant here, it will be with a much lower growing plant, perhaps one which the bees from the hives below will benefit from.
In case anyone was wondering, the M.E.W.P. I mentioned in the first picture in this post stands for Mobile Elevated Work Platform. How many of you knew that?! Hopefully, before too long none of our visitors will notice our missing trees. They will either be caught up in the newly revealed views beyond or enjoying the replacement plants when we introduce them into the garden. And they will certainly be much safer now that there is a much lower risk from the falling branches in question. Come and see us soon and let us know what you think…
And don’t forget about our garden photography competition that we launched last week! If you’re lucky you might see your pictures in next year’s Chartwell Calendar. All the info is in last week’s blog which you can peruse by clicking right here.