Last autumn, the lovely old cherry in the garden had to be felled. Estimated to be about 120 years old, we knew its days were numbered but were still surprised when we got up one morning to find a large branch had fallen off in the night. The wood of the fallen branch was clearly rotten.
Woodpeckers started making holes all over the tree, showering the grass beneath with sawdust, more branches started dying back and it was thought best for the tree to come down. It was so sad to watch the arborists with their chainsaws as they cut it down and then all that was left was a low stump and a big heap of partially rotted wood. The beautiful old tree was no more.
I miss that tree, it was magnificent and a constant source of admiration and interest, not just for humans but for so many birds and insects who found food and shelter there. Remember the woodpeckers nesting in it last year?
Looking at the wood the arborists cut up, we found that the heartwood was soft and spongy and in some places it had turned blue with rot. The wood was riddled with the holes of beetles and here and there we found traces of both beetle and larvae. Most of this wood I gathered into piles to rot down naturally, so the wildlife can continue to use it. Any that is still hard, we shall use in the fireplace.
But, sad as it is to lose a mature tree, gardeners must look forward and be optimistic, so near to where the cherry tree stood, we have planted two new trees to take its place. They are apples and will join the ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’ which is being trained against the wall in the south facing bed. ‘James Grieve’ and ‘Newton Wonder’, an eater and a cooker, both on rootstocks that will keep them from outgrowing their space. They were planted earlier in January and currently have a snow mulch protecting their roots. Whilst they will never be as splendid as the cherry tree, they will be beautiful and in the years to come, they too will provide food and shelter and we will gaze in admiration at their flowers and fruit, which we will plan to keep for ourselves but end up sharing with the blackbirds.
You can estimate the age of a living tree by using the formula on this page.