Losing a Giant: Follow up

Getting beyond loss in the landscape

Cool, comfortable summer shade was welcomed by both plants and people. Photo: Barbara Blossom Ashmun

Ask any experienced gardener with more than a few growing seasons under their belt and they’ll likely have a tale or two—or three—of life, love, and loss in the garden. Author, Barbara Blossom Ashmun’s poignant essay, “Losing a Giant,” in the winter 2013 issue of Pacific Horticulture struck a chord with several readers.

We’re sharing the following comments in hope that their spirit of understanding and kinship will blunt any seasonal losses you might experience this winter. And, because who doesn’t love a happy ending to a sad story, Barbara recently sent me photos of her beautiful new stone patio and the renewed garden that’s taking shape under the direction of landscape architect, John Stone and crew.

Heavy work and careful craftsmanship. Photo: Barbara Blossom Ashmun

[Your article] made me very sad as I have had several similar experiences.  I had to remove a beautiful Dawn Redwood … it got huge and was planted too close to our driveway. Then last year we removed a tall Sequoia, fir and hemlock that were along the side of our driveway. I planted them (over 30 years ago) not thinking what their roots would do.  We now have a much more open area and a new driveway. The plus side is we have much more light and along with our neighbors planted three olive trees in that space.  Loved reading your article as I could relate.  – Mike Darcy

Landscape architect John Stone and crew at work renewing the Ashmun landscape. Photo: Barbara Blossom Ashmun

Thank you  – I loved your article and yes, I am in mourning for my beautiful huge Oregon Ash … (and) five cherry trees.  As with your tree, the ash was about at the normal life span of 80-90 year. Wood everywhere. Plus how many plants and shrubs were damaged in the original tree falling.  Every part of the garden is impacted and looks terrible.  However I am encouraged by your story of survival and the positive outcome that change can produce.  Just very difficult – isn’t it? – Kay Ross

The finished stonework patio. Photo: Barbara Blossom Ashmun

I have to say that (the PHS) newsletter came at the right time. I, too, have a large Monterey pine that I have wanted to take down for years but haven’t had the heart to do so. The arborist said it was perfectly healthy which made me more dismayed. The article about taking down the tree made me cry as I have been waiting for something to move me to do it. I know it is dangerous, and placed where it might hit my house or my neighbor’s, so today I will phone the tree company and tell them to come. It really helped to hear someone talk about how I felt. Thank you so much for the article. – Diane Collen

Silt fences, hillside runoff, construction chaos, and a porta potty – it’s a tough look to carry in a garden in any season, and particularly bleak in winter. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

I, too, take heart from our readers and Barbara’s resilience and optimism. This winter, my home garden, long a work of passionate endeavor and bursting borders—read lots of work and slightly overplanted—lies in utter chaos.

An ambitious construction project on a formerly empty, though weedy,  lot next door is causing us to seriously rethink privacy issues. It was a sobering moment when I realized it’s too late for me to enjoy the mature canopy of a newly planted shade tree.

Now past the initial devastation, our creative juices are beginning to percolate. We’ve got big plans for the coming spring involving a new vegetable garden, an open-air shelter to protect us from inclement weather (and the new neighbors) and a line of trees profiled against a new (solid) fence. Witch hazels or Japanese stewartia—vine maple or Persian ironwood; it’s a delicious conundrum.