My Tree Fell Over

edited 5 May 2018 at 5:32PM in Greenfingered MoneySaving
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Shovel_LadShovel_Lad Forumite
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edited 5 May 2018 at 5:32PM in Greenfingered MoneySaving
Status update In Post #18

Let me first say that I know nothing about gardening, but have recently moved to a new place with a garden and am trying to learn. I don't think the previous occupier had any interest in the garden and so did no real maintenance which I'm trying to put right.

There is a lawn which when it isn't moss it's dandelion and it is edged with stone chip borders over a - I assume - weed membrane which the weeds had ignored and taken over! The one "feature" is a smallish (7ft) ornamental tree that I think may be some sort of willow but am happy to be corrected on the identification. It isn't much but it is my tree and I like it and now it has fallen over:( or at least partially, the trunk hasn't snapped or anything it just uprooted itself in the wind.

I'll admit to having paid little attention to it while I sorted out the obvious weeding apart from noticing it was tied to a stake with electrical cable(!) but when I got back in there and straightened it up I saw that it doesn't look too healthy. This is what it looks like propped upright again:
It is planted in a little mound with bark over a membrane and despite all the rain we've had recently the soil around the roots was bone dry and had caved in in places. I pulled away the membrane to get a better look and a lot of the roots of the tree are not in the ground at all but just on the bare earth under the membrane, which is probably why it uprooted. The trunk appears to be made up of three or four parts twisting around each other but one is totally rotten (can crush it to powder in your hand) Also, in the canopy there seems to be a lot of dead wood, all the brown twigs in the picture seem dead - they are totally dry and you can snap it easily in your hand, I'm assuming this isn't normal for this sort of tree, but I don't know.

I'd be grateful for any advice anyone has on how, if possible, it can be helped. After straightening it I packed around the roots with compost and poured several gallons of water on it which the ground just swallowed up. At the moment I'm thinking that maybe I should try cutting out the dead twigs to make it less top heavy and replace the bark and membrane with some good old fashioned compost to give it some nutrients and added anchorage. I know it is the wrong time of year to cut back but I don't think it will survive until the winter in its current state. Is doing this the best thing or will it make it worse? I don't have much money to spend on it so if it is most likely a goner I'd prefer to know and save up for a replacement, but I'd much prefer to save it if possible.

Thanks in advance.


  • DaftyDuckDaftyDuck Forumite
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    It's a Kilmarnock Willow. You've probably done what you can by staling it and keeping it watered.

    It was probably planted in a small hole in not very good soil, so hasn't welll rooted. Taking out the dead branches will be fine, and you won't do too much harm by thinning the live growth.

    They are short lived trees, so you may need to replace it anyway.
  • madjackslammadjackslam Forumite
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    The same thing happened to one of these in my dad's garden, although the collapse was probably due to waterlogging/wind. We propped it back up with a stake. It's still going strong, now possibly ten years later.... The remedial action you're suggesting seems sensible to me. Personally I think there are nicer small trees, thought his looks lovely in spring with a ring of snowdrops underneath.
  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    Me? I'd help it.......fall over, that is!

    Just think, you might have any of these:

    Or maybe the space really is so small that only something like a KW would fit?

    What about a standard lilac or a bay tree? At least you can use the latter in your spag bol. :)
    People who don't stand for something will fall for anything.
  • Shovel_LadShovel_Lad Forumite
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    Thanks for the replies, I'll get on with what I had said today and see what happens.

    I know it isn't the most alluring tree out there, but it is the focal point to the garden at the moment. There are a couple of families of sparrows that use it as a perch all the time (not nesting in it, they're of the "house" variety) and they've just started to use the bird feeders. The last people had cats and dogs which probably scared everything away so they are the only ones that have been tempted in so far. I think the pets were probably the only reason why the lawn still exists rather than it being astroturf or more pebbles, so I suppose that is something to be thankful for!

    I like the idea of snowdrops, I was also thinking of planting some bluebells and any other suitable shade loving plants I can discover. In my mind I see a garden full of flowers and shrubs with my little willow in the middle, rather than the virtual wasteland it is at the moment, I know it will take time, but I'm happy to wait (sort of :rotfl:) I have already put out loads of cheap bedding plants out in troughs as a temporary measure and it makes the whole area look a lot more cheerful.
  • DaftyDuckDaftyDuck Forumite
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    .... sounds like we have a new regular to this forum! Welcome to the dark ( green) side...
  • blootoonblootoon Forumite
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    i gave up trying to prop my one up, was always going to replace it but it well used by blue tits, great tits, robins and the odd blackbird. The birds take food from the table or feeder then head to the cover of the willow that gives them great protection from the cat below or the odd sparrow hawk above.
  • edited 27 April 2017 at 7:17PM
    PrimrosePrimrose Forumite
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    edited 27 April 2017 at 7:17PM
    I'd prune away the dead wood and stake it firmly for now. Bear in mind might grow bigger and wider and ask yourself if its in the right position in your garden if this happens. If come late autumn when it's lost all its foliage you might need to relocate it or even remove it from its current hole temporarily to replant it more deeply, that will be the time for more drastic action. If you decide to do this first dig out a very wide circle of earth as the roots may have spread more widely than you imagine.

    Bluebells or snowdrops under it would be pretty but I personally wouldn,t mix these two or you could find the bluebells soon start to swamp out the snowdrops because of their size and galloping effect. But the small pale mauve naturalising crocuses would complement the snowdrops nicely. There,s a variety called tommasinianus which you can buy online if you Google them .
  • I'd replace it with a new tree. Pyrus and sorbia are my faves this year
  • malebolgemalebolge Forumite
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    I agree with Davesnave. There's 2 main reasons why I'd replace it: firstly, it has a pendulous growth habit, so you end up with a bare patch under the tree (as you have) that looks messy and is a !!!!!! to mow around. Most flowers don't grow there, but weeds will grow anywhere...and do. Secondly, I'm a firm believer that a plant should 'earn its keep' - look good for as long as possible. This is deciduous so for part of the year you have a feature that is brown twigs. When it is alive, it doesn't really have beautiful flowers (ok, the catkins look reasonable) or leaves.

    Just an aside - you've mentioned moss/dandelions in the grass. You can easily treat them and have a lawn to be proud of by summer. Get a lawn moss killer (you may find it looks black when you use it, don't worry - grass is remarkably resilient) then use some feed & weed.

    You've not said where this is positioned in relation to the lawn - is it a central feature?
  • Shovel_LadShovel_Lad Forumite
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    Well, I attacked the tree with the shears and took out about 3 green bins worth of dead wood from the top, there is still more to do in the top but I started losing the ability to move my pruning hand so decided to stop:p I also removed the woodchip and the membrane completely - the soil underneath was very compacted and dry but luckily it is sandy so I was able to dig it over with my junk shop fork without too much trouble. I also dug in some bags of compost I found in Aldi for £1.99/40 litres. Finally I dumped lots more water on it that was swallowed up really quickly again. All in all, although it is still a work in progress, I'm pretty happy with the result:
    (Sorry about the quality of the photo and it's from a slightly different angle from the last one, I only noticed when I got in, but you get the idea) Well worth the effort I think, and the sparrows are slowly getting used to a more open plan style of living:rotfl:

    Next will be to re-stake it properly (the stake is a prop really as the tree fell toward and past it) and get rid of the last of the dead wood once I can feel my fingers again :o

    I appreciate all the comments, but I'm not going to change it if I can help it:p It may be clearer in the new photo, but just in case it isn't, it is actually in its own circular "flower" bed and the branches don't extend beyond it so it is not a problem to mow around and the "bare patch" in the original photo is where I'd pulled back the lining to see if the trunk had been damaged, before that it was wood bark over a membrane. My intention is to plant early flowering things under it that creates colour while the tree is dormant and have finished by the time the leaves develop, I just haven't worked out what those will be yet:) Oh, and as far as I am concerned the tree earns its keep by being the only place for the sparrows to sit in in my garden:T
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