The Tragic Ash

Does your dad obsess over your garden blog, and tell everyone he has ever met to read it? Mine does. He thinks my blog is so good it's going "to get syndicated". It's that good! Well, thank you, dad.

Today, I've brought you to my father's house to witness the tragic ash, and to solicit your comments at my father's request. He would like your honest opinion. Obviously, I have my opinion, but don't let my exposition bias you. Please tell my dad what you think in the comments. (His name is Bob.)


The shadow on the roof belongs to the tree with the V-shaped crotch on the left, an unidentified species of Fraxinus. Once upon a time, it was a pretty tree.

Today it is a broken and deformed remnant of its former self.


There are many ways to photograph a beautiful or interesting tree. But what do you do with this tree?


According to my father, every year an "arborist" arrives to cut the tree back to keep it out of the powerlines. Apparently this has been going on for many years. Yet, every year, the tree grows back in to the powerlines. And amazingly every year, the solution is the same--to cut back the tree. What do you think about this?


I think it's a tragedy. A tree tragedy. The tragic ash.


My advice is to cut the poor thing down and start over. As my father is very sentimental about trees (well, my father is very sentimental about everything--don't get me started on that), and coming from me, chopping down the tree was a non-starter.

I suggested alternatively he could find a real arborist to try re-shaping the tree, but that will surely cost more money than he's got. Even in this monstrous, misbegotten state the tree still provides some vital summer shade when it leafs out. But for how much longer can that go on? I don't know how much more this tree can take.

So what's your advice? What would you do if this was your tree?

ADDED: The End.


Les said...

Looks to me that if that tree is not taken down on purpose, it will come down by circumstance. I would re-plant with something more appropriate and look for a new "arborist".

Christopher C. NC said...

Hi Bob, I know it is difficult to give up such a large feature of your backyard, but you are fighting a losing battle. You should cut the tree down.

You can plant a new tree or trees in a better location to give shade and stay out of the powerlines. There are many fastigiate or columnar cultivars of deciduous trees now a days that would give you more wiggle room in the trees planting location.

In Gainesville Florida where I grew up the power lines ran in the backyards of adjoining suburban properties. The tree trimming to keep the lines open was a regular thing. The utility company would cut any tree down in their lines at the homeowners request. Mostly they just did the tragic trimming, not wanting to fight with homeowners over sentimental trees.

Ask your utility company first. They may remove it for free.

Anonymous said...

Bob, it must go. That tree looks like it's suffering, and it would be a mercy killing.

And you're right---your son does have a most excellent blog. I'm a loyal subscriber.

Anonymous said...

Cut down the power lines :)

Brent said...

Cut it down. But don't take my opinion alone. Go look at the Renegade Gardener's (http://www.renegadegardener.com/content/ttenets.htm) 10 tenets of gardening. Tenet number 9 is:

9. There is nothing wrong with cutting down a tree on your property.

He expounds on that pearl of wisdom at some length.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck and Bob, I am not a professional anything, but have been a life long gardener living in many states, including California and paid many a dollar to have trees trimmed and cut down. The yearly trimming done by the power company is detrimental to the health of any tree. Look at those weak limbs of new growth. It is suffering. A smaller tree could be replanted in its place that would look lovely if not give the same shade as the ash. I am so sorry about what has happened to this tree. If it had the room to grow to its full potential, not near power lines or even a house, what a beauty it would have become. My advice would be to cut it down. And like Pam, I think your son has a most syndication worthy blog, you must be very proud of him!
Frances at Fairegarden

Anonymous said...

Ugh! Bob, that tree HAS to go before it decides to fall on your house, car, a passerby. Those 'branches' which are truly just glorified sprouts are unsafe and not soundly attached to the tree. It's time for it to go before it causes harm to you or somebody else. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Frances, I believe the
tree is suffering. It is stunted and butchered every year. Best to put it out of its misery and plant a small flowering tree in its place, that will provide food and shelter to birds.

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

I have a tragic ash of my own.
When I first bought the house 10 years ago an "?Arboritst?" had severely cut its head off.
I've worked 10 years and thousands of dollars with a 'real arborist ( Evergreen Tree Service of Marin ) to get the tree into an eye pleasing shape.
It is an expensive measure, one that I really can't afford anymore.
And guess what ?.... The City Butcher may come in the following months to "prune the tree".
Ahhhhggggggg !
So there is no winning.

I hope they cut the damn thing down to the ground and put me out of my financial misery.

Bob, if you have the means, cut your loses now. Cut the tree down . Let the light in.
Start a wood whittling hobby.

BTW. I think your sons blog should be syndicated.

Michelle in Marin

EAL said...

Yeah, it's gotta go. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the tree has got to come down if only for safety reasons and a new tree can be planted in place of it.

If the tree has sentimental value make something out of the trunk or stump like a bench of table so the tree will be around for many years to come.

Laurene said...

This is quite a dilemma. But Bob, I'm going to give it to you straight. The Ash tree does NOTHING for your front yard. It obscures the view of your pretty little house. And if you happen to look up, it's downright ugly because of all the repeated trimmings over the years. It's also interfering with your power lines, and that's no good. So I think it has to go and be replaced by something much smaller that can be managed. But here's the dilemma. Cutting the tree down is one thing, but removing the whole stump and roots is a Herculean task and quite costly as well. Some money is going to have to spent here no matter what you do. But if I were in your shoes, the tree would have to go. And you're right, Chuck's blog is awesome!

Chris Kreussling (Flatbush Gardener) said...

Ditto x10.

In the 40x40 foot space of my backyard, I've had to have to have seven trees removed since we bought the property 4 years ago. They were all weedy maples, mostly Norway maples, though I didn't bother to key them out. They were all simply in the wrong place, interfering not only with phone lines, but with fences and garages, too. None of them had been deliberately planted.

Take down that tree. And plan to plant another tree, appropriately sized and placed to minimize future infrastructure conflicts. I'm planning two new trees, both native species that will food and habitat for birds and invertebrates, as well as multi-season interest.

Though he never solicited gardening advice, nor went so far as to suggest syndication, my father also was a fan of my blog. I got a lot of enjoyment from that. I see you do as well.

Greg Draiss said...

Do not know what species Fraxinus it is but out east here they are short lived "dirty" trees that some how make nice furniture and baseball bats but poor specimens.

Cut it down before it falls on the house and the insurance company no longer recognizes dead trees as trees.

weeder1 said...

Sorry Bob but I agree. The tree needs to come down. I totally understand your sentimentality but really...put it and yourself out of misery. Plant something that won't grow up into the wires...and just think of all the sun-loving things you'll be able to plant when its gone. You could hold a memorial.
And yes, your son's blog is fantastic! I've sent his link on to many other gardeners. (go ahead, pop all your buttons off!) ;>)

Unknown said...

Dear Bob, it looks to me that the sever topping that tree has had to endure for years from the Edison people had damaged it beyond repair. If you cut it to a stump it will sprout out slender stems and you can keep it bushy and under 10' so those bad tree choppers never touch it again!
Regards and happy holiday,


lisa said...

Bob, I agree with you about your son's blog-it IS excellent, and SHOULD be syndicated! As for the tree...I'm afraid that I agree with the others: cut it down (better still see if the power co. will), have them cut the stump level enough to set a planter or something atop it, make something cool out of the wood, and start over with a more manageable specimen. Maybe even a nice, unusual fruit tree that you've always wanted to grow. Chuck did a post about odd fruits that I'm sure you read...maybe you can grow something funky like that?

Jenn said...

Take the poor thing down.

Plant something small and lovely, potentially native (I'd make suggestions if you were in Michigan, but California native trees I'm not so conversant in)

If it's any consolation (I doubt) the emerald ash borer is coming, and this ash would not survive the bug.

Sigh. Coming from Michigan, I know of what I speak. Wretched bugs. And sad to see the ashes go. They have such lovely purples in their fall foliage.

Jon said...

My two cents is probably worth just a penny or less these days, and being a sentimental person I know how hard "letting go" is. Truth be told, that ash should be ashes in somebody's fireplace or turned into sawdust for useful mulch perhaps. To everything there is a season and the time has come to put this tortured tree out of its misery. You will be happier after this negative feature has been removed from your landscape and something positive has replaced it. Let it go and move on. You are right about Chuck's blog. He has an eye for beautiful and interesting plants and a special way with photos and words. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust...give your ash tree a decent funeral.

Jon at Mississippi Garden