Destruction in the Garden

tree damage

August 2012 in my side yard.

Just when you think your garden has suffered as much as it can, you find out you’re wrong.

Last year, as many readers know, I lost two beloved trees in my front yard, which turned a north-facing sloped shade garden into the horticultural equivalent of the Sahara Desert. I’m still coping with those changes.

Then, in early August, my next-door neighbor’s massive, leaning oak tree fell on their house, crushing the attic and top floors (fortunately no one was home). The canopy was wide enough to rip bricks from their chimney and hurl them into my side garden, and to crush a section of fencing, my wobbly arbor and destroy a number of shrubs. (Again, fortunately, no damage to my house, just the garden).

A closer look at the arbor area.

A closer look at the arbor area.

Arbor debris surrounded by bricks after the tree canopy was removed from the house next door.

Arbor debris surrounded by bricks after the tree canopy was removed from the house next door. The hanging line was my cable connection.

To the right of the photo above, you can see the large stand of azaleas shown in the  2011 photo below. I had just had them carefully pruned but they still suffered some damage.

The old arbor and stand of azaleas in happier days.

The old arbor and stand of azaleas in happier days.

What did Henry Mitchell say? “Wherever humans garden, there are magnificent heartbreaks. It is not nice to garden anywhere. Everywhere there are violent winds, startling once-per-five-centuries floods, unprecedented droughts, record-setting freezes, abusive and blasting heats never known before.” (From The Essential Earthman).

But gardeners are made of stern stuff. My first act after removing some shrubs damaged beyond repair (a pair of variegated Pieris japonica which would have not liked the new, additional sun anyway) and pruning broken branches off my star magnolia, was to commit to a new arbor.

A new white arbor has found a home where the old one was. Now all that remains is to decide what to plant to adorn it.

A new white arbor has found a home where the old one was. Now all that remains is to decide what to plant to adorn it.

I like looking through it from my kitchen window. And even if the new one won’t be such a line of demarcation in terms of sun and shade, it will remind me that gardens change constantly, and we have to be prepared to do so as well. So this winter I’ll curl up with my favorite gardening books and dream about how to re-design the space I see from so many windows. Opportunities beckon.

Explore posts in the same categories: Environment, landscape, Landscape design solutions

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5 Comments on “Destruction in the Garden”

  1. Laurrie Says:

    All gardens change, but few as dramatically as yours has — it has literally come crashing down on you. Between the trees in the front and the disaster at your neighbor’s you have had major renovations imposed on your garden. I do like your last photo of the new arbor and the younger, more open look of the new plants nearby. It all looks fresher! Change is good.

  2. Melissa Says:

    The last photo is actually a little deceiving, primarily because most of the destruction happened from the location of the arbor forward. But I did pull out a number of shrubs & perennials that clearly weren’t going to make it after the tree fell. Now I need to reconfigure a bed line or two and decide what to plant up near the new section of fencing that had to be replaced. Open to suggestions from fellow designers!! Thanks for the comments.


  3. Oh my goodness. That must have been devastating to have such a huge tree fall. How sad 😦 It looks like you have done a great job based on the “after” shot. Your garden is beautiful.


  4. I must admit that looking at your 3rd photo, my first thought was, “wow, so many free bricks — delivered!” Gardeners are always looking ahead to the next opportunity to create.

    Seriously, though, that must have been rotten — thank goodness no one was hurt. That picture of the oak tree on the house is my nightmare; we have one at least that big across the street from our house in Glover Park.

    For the new arbor — “Gloire de Dijon” is a wonderful climbing rose.

    • Melissa Says:

      If I dare try roses (major deer issues abound in my garden), I will look for Gloire de Dijon – thanks for the recommendation. As for the bricks, the neighbors’ chimney will need rebuilding and because the bricks are from the old one they are needed for reconstruction – so I happily let her contractors reclaim them from my yard.


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