When we purchased Chez Spit 5 years ago, it came with a very large tree. The large tree, a Colorado Blue Spruce, came with a story.
There are 4 trees on my property, 2 that I have planted, and 2 that came with the house. The lilac in the backyard is, of course, more properly a bush, but it is so old – from the 30’s – that it is a tree now, and I prune it as such. There was a brief discussion of chopping it up, but I put my foot down, and we pruned it, and continue to do so periodically. It’s in good health, and I water it regularly. I love the lilac.
And this Spruce? Well, it’s very large. Indeed, one of my first conversations with my next door neighbour was about chopping it down, it shades their yard as well. Frankly, the tree is out of proportion to the house, it’s a water hog, stealing the water from plants, it has killed the grass around it, and it just takes up so much space.
The tree was planted by a little boy in about 1947, and he and I share the last name. It was his arbour day tree, and while it has been planted too close to the house, it has grown these last 70 years, and it now stands around 60 feet tall. It is by far the tallest tree on the block, an impressive feat in a neighbourhood that boasts some of Edmonton’s statliest elms.
When I thought of cutting down this tree, I thought of all the summers and winters it has known, and I can hear my neighbour from down the way telling me about this little boy, now with grandchildren of his own, and I think of how he loved to fly model airplanes in the school field, and how all the girls had a crush on him, and I don’t know, but it seems like this is his tree, and I am only care-taking it.
So, I kept watering it, I fertilize it, and I clean up the mess and I have pruned the odd branch, and we have co-existed. It has drawn a shade over any plans I might have had for the yard, it’s much too large to merely work around, but there you have it. Somethings exist, and you owe them a certain amount of fealty, if only because they were here first.
This last spring, right after the new tips came out, they turned red. And the spruce cones started falling, heavily. In the language of trees, this is not good news – these things are harbingers of spruce mites and gall and stress. The truth is the tree is dying. I have researched, and it is just possible that the tree could be treated successfully, but equally, it is almost at the end of it’s life. An arborist came by the house last weekend, and we have a price to chop it down.
And I am just sad. I look at it out my front windows. I want to walk out in the front yard and press my hands against its trunk.
“I am sorry”, I want to say. “But it is not reasonable to fix you, and the odds are not good, given all the things wrong with you. We must be sensible about these things, and I cannot justify the expense and the chemicals and the time, to merely buy you another five years. I have been glad of you, I have been glad that you have shaded, I have been glad of the birds in your branches and the smell of spruce. I am sorry it should come to this.”