Friday, January 25, 2013

A BIG Job for the Professionals: Taking Down Two Large Trees

Black Gum Tree

When we moved into our home nearly twelve years ago the property was a mess. The house had been empty for four months when we saw it in August of 2001. Four months during the growing season in Tennessee means lots and lots of growing. The yard was covered with bramble, weeds, tall grass, tree saplings, rocks, and large trees. All had been allowed to grow wild as in 'Trees and Weeds Gone Wild!'. Apparently the previous owners did not have much of a plan for the property. And when I say a plan I do not mean a full on landscape design. I would have been happy if the owners had at least had a bit of foresight to manage the trees. Trees are by far the largest and most prominent part of a landscape in my humble opinion. They do, however, need managing in order to grow properly and fit into a landscape. For instance, you cannot let oak seedlings grow willy nilly and expect to have healthy oak trees without some thinning and management of those seedlings. Said seedlings grow into very large trees quite quickly. That was what had happened here in Tiger Gardens. The trees (mostly oaks) were overcrowded and not so healthy. I must say on a positive note that I am most grateful there were trees here at all. Many Tennessee landscapes have no trees and that is perhaps a far worse problem than mismanaged trees.

Some homeowners just can't be bothered with trees. They either cut them all down and mow a large green lawn or they let everything grow as it will. The yard quickly becomes very natural and overgrown. The problem with this is that trees will quickly colonize an area and those cute little small trees soon grow into very large trees-and they grow quite quickly in a lot of cases. When trees are left to their own devices and are allowed to grow and grow at will, you will get crowding. Crowding can consist of two very large trees growing right next to each other or it can consist of large trees crowding the house and other out buildings. Additionally, trees that are crowded compete with one another for resources such as water and nutrients and can, in some cases, even shade one another out. Trees that are crowded or have root disturbance from buildings or hardscape cannot possibly grow in ideal conditions and will become stressed. A good wind, late freeze, drought, or any number of mitigating factors will take advantage of the tree, stress the tree, then the tree is susceptible to becoming sick and not so healthy and strong. Once a tree is sick, unless measures are taken to fix the tree the tree will die or fall down before dying. When a tree falls it is possible damage will result.

Over the years I have tried to fix the situation here at Tiger Gardens by culling some trees and planting others. The plan has worked well but I was overlooking a few problems due to the sheer immensity of the problem-namely the large trees in difficult positions. The main problem was a multi-trunked silver maple tree. I posted about that tree several years ago found at this link. Silver maples are notorious for above the ground roots, brittle wood, and fast growth. They are also messy. To be fair they have a few good points. The cedar waxwings love to eat the buds in the spring, they provide good shade, and are reliable-until they snap or fall. Not bad, but when coupled with the fact that my multi-trunked silver maple was growing right next to the property line where I happen to have a nice privacy fence; which was being muscled out by the tree; and that the tree had grown tremendously in the years we have lived here, I felt it was time to take it down. 

The second problem tree was a black gum tree. While I loved the tree and it was in a fairly good location with no major issues, it had some stresses wrought by the late freeze in 2007, subsequent drought, and then several years of summer droughts. This past summer the gum lost all of its canopy in June, then partially regrew it in July when the rains returned. I could tell it was stressed. In the past five years it has had the same cycle of losing its leaves due to droughts and I knew it was only a matter of time before it succumbed to its abuses. Trees are not hardwired to produce two canopies per year and the toll was slowly killing the gum tree. Also, while I have read black gum trees grow to about 85 feet, I swear this one was over 100 feet tall and very mature. This black gum was not at all resilient like the oaks and even the silver maple. Even though I truly hated to remove it I felt the time was right for the gum tree to go as well as the silver maple.
Removing the Black Gum Tree
One of the reasons I had not had the trees taken down before was because the trees were hazard trees in that they were going to be difficult, if not impossible, to fell without damaging other trees or structures or what have you. Obviously my garden has grown up around these trees which made the situation even more precarious. Had I taken out at least the silver maple when we first moved in twelve years ago the job would've been much easier and cheaper. Finding a tree cutter who would even touch the job was difficult. I first called on my go to tree trimmer whom I have used on numerous occasions. He came out and gave me an estimate for only one of the two trees. He said no on the silver maple. I don't blame him at all for that. You see, special equipment was going to be needed to take down the silver maple due to its location next to the privacy fence and above several structures and gardens. The smart guy that he is he suggested I check with Huskey Tree Service here in Clarksville. I almost never ever recommend a local service on this blog but with the difficulty I had finding a reliable tree trimmer to take down my trees and with the professionalism, speed, and ease Huskey Tree Service did the job I felt I should put a link in here to their website.
Removing the Silver Maple. Note the multiple trunks and close proximity to the privacy fence.
You see, in addition to my normal tree trim service man who told me he could not do the one tree, I had also called several other tree trimmers. One in particular that had been recommended due to the fact he had the proper equipment to take down my problem trees (a crane) didn't even bother to return my calls. I could totally understand if he was all booked up but if you are a business, at least take the time to return a call to a prospective customer. I was frustrated to say the least because I knew the two trees should come down and come down before another year had passed. Well, when my regular tree man suggested I try Huskey I did. Within two days both trees were smoothly and safely removed!!!
Target Tree Black Gum
I have to say Huskey Tree Service was most easy to work with. The owner of Huskey asked my neighbor if he could access the silver maple from his side of the fence. The neighbor quickly agreed. I had actually mentioned to said neighbor more than a year prior that I was hoping to remove the silver maple and would he mind if the tree trimmers took it down from his side. He agreed, then and asked if he could have the wood. It seems he burns a lot of it in his fireplace. Well, the tree service did not mind him having the wood at all. I did not particularly want the wood so did not care where it went. 
Target Tree Multi-Trunked Silver Maple
Huskey Tree Service had a crane and some really experienced operators. I was totally amazed at just how quickly and safely the two trees came down. Taking down the silver maple commenced first. My neighbors (white house in the background) all stood outside on their deck to watch the process. I was able to watch only periodically because I was working and quite busy with a design at the time. I was glad I did not watch the whole thing because it was actually nerve wracking. The process is that a man in a bucket truck goes up to the an area near the top of the tree and secures a chain/tie to the tree. The tie is attached to the crane. The crane then pulls that tie taut and secures it. The man in the bucket then goes in and cuts the tree. The tree trunk then swings out. Do you see my greenhouse to the right of the picture? I was a bit terrified a large tree trunk would swing into the greenhouse as it dangled above. Nerve wracking indeed!
Silver Maple after removal-yeah the sun shines in!!

  The job is complete now! I am SO happy to have that silver maple gone. Not only can I now garden in the area but the plants will all do so much better now that they will get some sun and not have that silver maple wick away all available water. I had already planted a couple of Japanese maples in the area and also a crabapple tree. This has ensured trees will continue in this area of my garden even without the huge silver maple. I have also already taken measures to put a new garden in place of the tree stump and the garden is growing well. Of course this involved bringing in two tons of soil to fill in over the maple's roots but that is a story for another day....

in the garden....

As a side note: The huge wind storm we had December 19th and 20th actually felled a large silver maple on the other side of the above neighbor's property. The tree fell on another neighbor's garage. Fortunately damage was minor. My neighbor here in the white house has been most busy cutting up all of that wood. We were both happy I had had my silver maple removed because you just never really know if a tree will come down. The silver maple that did fall in his yard was completely hollow inside. Mine was not but still, there are no guarantees with trees.

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. Great post Tina. The pictures were wonderful. I have to see the new garden where the tree was removed. Gardening is so started with so many trees and I started with no trees.

  2. A big job indeed. Not a fan of silver maple either, though having a Franklin stove in the basement of our "old" house I did a lot of cutting myself in our woods where our new house now stands. That is except when a really big tree needed to be remove close to our house. Then the professionals were called in to the rescue...:)

  3. Definitely a huge undertaking! I took down two hackberry trees a couple years ago,nowhere near as large of an task as your trees!

  4. Thank you for sharing~I have a few trees that need to come down and need a tree service that can handle it. It's amazing to me how much light gets into the garden when we even take a few limbs down, let alone a tree or two. I am dreaming of the light when these trees come down. It will be later not sooner though. gail

  5. Great post Tina. We had similar issues in N.C. & had them taken out. Only ours was not on level ground. Most nerve wracking for sure.

  6. We had a huge pine taken down in our back yard a couple of months ago. It is amazing to watch these guys work, but like you said nerve wracking! You will love getting more sun and less mess. I'm so excited for spring just to see how much more I can plant now that our tree is gone. And not having to clean up after it all fall will be nice too. Lucky you had neighbors that wanted the wood!

  7. The Saint and I know all about tree cutting as we have cut many on our property over the years. Did you have the stump grinded or leave it to decay naturally? Cant wait to see your new garden...

  8. Glad you had such a good experience with this tree service. What a difference in your garden to have those two trees out. I always worry about the plants under the trees, in the way of those big machines.

  9. Getting good tree cutters is important...we will be doing more cutting this spring to fell a few more smaller ash.