Last week I was called out to consult with a family who needed help deciding whether or not to save a tree. As you can already imagine, I was prepared to side with preserving the tree.
They had already met with an arborist who had given them an estimate of expenses they would incur if they decided to take precautionary steps to save it. They had also been given a price to remove it. My clients wanted to keep the tree but it looked like that option would be far more expensive. They wondered if it they could just start over with a new tree; perhaps that would be a better way to spend their money.
Sometimes we have to make difficult choices when deciding what will stay and what must go.
When I arrived at the residence I knew at once that we needed to save the tree. I found a majestic Escarpment Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis) standing tall in the front yard. It had grown in this spot long before the neighborhood was developed, this home was built and probably long before any of us were even born. Unless you are over one hundred and fifty years old, this tree has been around longer.
The problem was the massive root system had spread everywhere under the soil and the homeowners could no longer grow a lawn, or much of anything else under the tree. There were also problems with the walkway to the front door because the roots had caused the concrete to crack and shift. The arborist had recommend pruning the canopy of the tree to let more sunlight in and removing the sidewalk. He had suggested a path made of stepping stones that would “float” above the root zone and protect the tree.
I suggested to my clients that they accept the proposal from the arborist and together we could re-imagine their front yard. Could we consider it a garden of preservation? What if we put all of our resources into creating a habitat where the tree could continue to thrive and the residence would still be functional. When the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was being built, I heard Lady Bird said, “Let it rest lightly on the land.” Perhaps we can all adopt her perspective.
As I sit down to formulate a plan and design a new garden for my clients, I feel privileged that I can help to protect this tree. It might be easier and cheaper to remove it and start over, but I know that there is much more to be gained by saving it. There is honor in recognizing what has endured the test of time and in learning to grow together.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Warren Buffett
remember, goodness grows,