A startling sight greeted me this morning when I looked out the back porch: a crew had arrived to take down one of the 2 big Siberian Elms in our neighbor’s backyard. The other tree was going to receive a hard pruning.


The new neighbors had mentioned that this was coming. A qualified arborist had said that the one tree was in bad shape and needed to come down, and the other tree needed cutting back to reduce risk to the house, not to mention people relaxing in the backyard.

Pretty much all the houses on our block were built at the same time, just before the Second World War, and all were landscaped with the same trees: Siberian Elms (Ulmus pumila), Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), and Eastern Red Cedar (Juniper virginiana). I strongly suspect these three were chosen because they were fast-growing and cheap.


However, at this point these trees are about 80 years old and the Maples and Elms, at least, have gotten in the habit of dropping very large and heavy branches on every yard in our immediate vicinity. These 2 particular species are notorious for having weak wood.

As a person who is afraid of heights, I have total respect for the guys who go up in those cherry picker things.

This will change the feel of our back garden. We are used to the dappled shade of a high canopy that covered the sky to the south and east with small leaves giving a dappled shade. Now there will be a large window, as it were, in the canopy. There are still large trees to the south of us on the other side of the alley, but I think there will be considerably more morning light now.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing, just different, and requiring adjustment by people and plants. I’m sure some of our plants will be happy with the change.


Any large shade tree coming down feels like a significant loss. At least, that’s how I feel.


Here’s the view looking southeast from our back porch after the arborists were done.


On a totally different front, today is our older son’s birthday. He was going to do a curbside pickup of our grocery order this evening and drop it off at our house. However, the order wasn’t ready and so we won’t be seeing him today, though we did get to have a nice chat over the phone.

So he’ll be bringing our groceries tomorrow, and we will present him with birthday gifts. Well, re-gifts to some extent. Judy found the complete set of Calvin and Hobbes he got as a present decades ago. Combined with a paper bag full of old novels, we hope they will help ease the stress of his current job, which has been impacted by the pandemic in a big way. Judy also made him some chocolate chip cookies.

Hoping you are all staying calm and keeping healthy.

55 Comments on “Farewell, Old Friend”

  1. Oh, the Complete Calvin&Hobbes collection would ease everyone’s stress. As would the chocolate chip cookies. πŸ™‚
    Removing old trees or pruning them heavily is almost always sad, but sometimes necessary. We had strong winds almost all the March and one night the top of a large spruce was cut, fortunately not very near the house.
    Happy gardening!

  2. Yes, I understand your mixed feelings about the loss of a big tree. We have quite a dilemma in Canberra as many of the Eucalyptus trees shed branches at a whim, yet provide food and shelter for birds and bees and bugs of all kinds, and also give us much needed shade.
    Happy birthday to your son, what a pity he has to deal with the unpredictability of his job at the same time…nice that he has so many interesting presents, and the possibility of chocolate chip cookies!
    Keep well..

  3. Yes, always sad to see a tree come down. Quite a few more pines in the woods near us had to come down recently and one was completely uprooted in the storm in February. Not sure about the calm but, but we are healthy. Best wishes to you and your family too Jason. Thank goodness we have gardens to escape to.

  4. Last year, we lost a lot of trees — not to age, necessarily, but to a lot of continual rain and very soggy ground, followed by extra strong winds. It’s quite something to see full grown trees just tip over. A few people finally got it through their heads why the advice to keep canopies thinned out a bit is good advice.

    I can’t think of a better birthday gift than Calvin and Hobbes, especially in the current circumstances. Add chocolate chip cookies, and you’ve created a real winner!

  5. Taking a tree down is always such sad news to me. Even if it is diseased. I guess I get too attached to them. I know your garden will be most appreciative of the sunnier conditions.
    I have not read Calvin and Hobbes. I hope this gives your son a few hours of escape from his stressful job. Chocolate Chip cookies always suffices that sweet tooth. Much better than cake IMHO.

  6. Happy birthday to your son! He is getting the perfect gifts! I agree that the loss of an old tree, even someone else’s, is the loss of an old friend. But there comes a time. I think you’ll have some fun adjusting to the new patterns of sunshine in the garden.

  7. I’m always sad to see mature trees taken down, especially just to make it easy to build a house or to eliminate leaf raking, but I’m not too sad about silver maples, having gotten rid of all mine years ago. (A previous owner planted them too close to the house.) They are native to the area but a big nuisance. There are a lot of Colorado blue spruce in my neighborhood, but they don’t seem to root well and fall over eventually. Also quite a few sycamores (it’s kind of wet here) and Crimson King maples, some of which are not doing well. And a LOT of silver maples.

  8. I’m glad that you and your family are doing ok, Jason. We are doing the ol’ grocery pickup as well, although well over half of whatever we order usually ends up being out of stock. Sad about the trees although that those types of situation also bring planting opportunities.

  9. In our region, neither Siberian elm nor silver maple last that long. Silver maple happens to be one of my favorite anyway. It was the second tree I planted when I was a kid, just after planting my incense cedar. It was removed in its early 40s, mostly because it was disfigured by pruning for confinement in a small space. Others in the neighborhood lasted more than fifty years before succumbing to decay.
    Unfortunately, Siberian elms do not last much longer after getting pruned back hard at that age. There will be time for a new tree to grow up to provide a bit of shade before it needs to be removed, but the new tree should be planted where it will not be damaged by the removal of the elm, or planted when the elm is removed.

  10. Jason those are HUGE trees ! .. it will make one heck of an impact not having them .. having said that though .. we , and our plants, can adapt fairly quickly. As you said your plants might even throw a party with the adjusted lighting ? .. but yes, I feel the same way .. a sense of sadness when older, large trees have to be cut back or totally taken out .. they are like time capsules within a living plant.
    Happy birthday to your son .. our son turned 40 on March 27th .. we don’t know when we will see him with all of this going on .. he is still 100% Canadian, but living in S. Carolina with a wife and step kids (older) is the huge factor in his life … you are lucky to be so close in distance to your son .. I am sorry things are so stressful for him.
    Keep safe and well ! Good luck adjusting the gardens with the new lighting πŸ˜‰

  11. This is fascinating. Our home in Washington DC was built in the 20s and the 1/8 acre lot has one large Siberian Elm, one silver maple and thankfully three gorgeous Easter Red Cedars, male and female. I had never thought about the fact that they are all fast growing trees. Thank you for the history lesson. Glad you all are well.

  12. Happy belated birthday to your son. I’m sure he’ll find plenty to smile at in those books. My sweetheart often observes how some of the trees in his neighborhood are all reaching their maximum useful age at about the same time. It is sad to see trees go and they leave a big gap, but they have to be managed as you say, especially when there are homes underneath them.

  13. Hello Jason, there’s always an odd feeling of loss when a tree comes down, but when it’s a safety hazard and/or reaching end of lifespan, it’s understandable as there’s a good reason for it to go. Were still trying to understand why one of the neighbours diagonally from us removed four large Scots Pine from their garden, essentially putting a gap in the long line of Scots Pine that are all in a row along (most of) the back gardens on the street, including ours. I can’t process such ignorance or vandalism.

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