Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rain and Eucalyptus

It's supposed to rain on and off so I'm planning to stay out of the garden today - or, at the very least, to avoid digging in the wet soil.  The clouds were blanketing the harbor below us early this morning.

The sun broke through the clouds at one point, creating a nice view across the back garden.

Normally, I'd use a rainy afternoon in winter to plan next steps for the garden but I'm feeling paralyzed when it comes to making plant selection decisions at the moment.  A big change is looming over the garden.  One that could change the sun exposure of the beds on the southwest side and beyond.  One that could shift my priorities as to where to spend my garden budget.

The 60+ foot Eucalyptus tree in the side yard is going to come out later this month.

A neighbor approached us before Christmas about the tree, which she says blocks her view of the harbor.  We've learned that views are a big deal in this area.  Our city has what is reputed to be one of the strongest "view preservation" ordinances in the country.  Reading through the details, I don't believe the neighbor could force us to take out this particular tree as it's clearly been here for a long time.  Nonetheless, it appears we could be required to thin the tree on an annual basis.  The cost of thinning the tree at an estimated $500 a pop would seriously erode my annual garden budget.

The truth is I've had mixed feelings about the tree almost since we moved in.  On the one hand, it's old and proudly dominates the right side of our property.  Squirrels, scrub jays and who knows what other wildlife use that tree.  It shields the roof over our living room from the heat of the sun.  On the other hand, it's admittedly messy, continuously shedding bark and seed pods, especially during our Santa Ana winds.  Friends have pointed out that Eucalyptus are notorious for coming down in heavy rain and wind storms and, after seeing what happened in the Pasadena area about a year ago, that makes me nervous.  Intensifying that concern is the fact that the tree is leaning up against a stump that's decaying at an accelerated rate.  I discovered that a few months after we moved in, when I cleared away a groundcover that had been growing up the trunk of the tree.  Alarmed, I consulted an arborist, who said she saw no immediate threat to the stability of the tree but she advised me to watch out for signs of fungal growths around the roots.  When the arborist for the tree trimming company came out, he pointed out one of the fungal growths the previous arborist had warned me about.

So, after weeks of deliberation, the tree is going to come out.  The neighbor is very happy and has promised to help out with the cost of taking the tree out.  The tree service appears to be confident they can get it out without destroying the yard or our driveway.  Still, the prospect is daunting and I have no illusions that the beds surrounding the tree are going to come out unscathed.  Hence the paralysis...

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