Thursday, December 11, 2014

The best laid plans

As the saying goes "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  In my last wide shots post, I mentioned my husband's desire to dispatch the Yucca elephantipes (aka Y. gigantea) sitting along our back slope and bordering our neighbor's property.

View of Yucca elephantipes from the top of the stairway leading down the slope

View of the Yucca from my home office window showing its extension above the hedge behind the backyard border


The Yucca was more than 20 feet tall and still growing. Wherever a branch touched soil, it took root, which over time allowed the Yucca to extend the entire width of the slope.  The neighbor obtained  a cost estimate for cutting it down to 2 feet (61 cm), which we agreed to cover despite some misgivings on my part.   Last Friday, the work began just after 7am.


The process viewed from my office window after the chainsaws started up

Going...

Going...

Gone.  With the Yucca out of the picture, I could see the Vincent Thomas Bridge from my office window even through the fog


After the main branches were cut, the workers attacked the stumps; however, after a time I noticed that they'd been silent for awhile.  I was surprised to discover that they'd left without touching base with me or the neighbors.  Here's what I discovered when I tromped down the slope.



The stumps left behind are well over 4 feet (1.2m) tall and greater than 8 feet (2.4m) wide, with additional stumps extending up the slope


I knew the stumps would be a problem but it looks even worse than I'd anticipated.  My husband had planned to drill holes in the stumps and cover them with mulch to encourage decomposition but, at their current height, that would be difficult.  We knew we were going to need to plant the area around the stumps to restore privacy for both us and our neighbors but, at the moment, we're not even sure how to proceed.

In the short-term, the neighbor who contracted the work has asked the tree service to return to see what they can do to clean up and level the stumps.  Assuming that can be done, I expect we'll proceed with the plan to promote decomposition.  (These plants are notoriously difficult to kill.)  I may try planting groundcover in the cavities between the stumps and one or more trees or shrubs alongside them to create a visual break but selection will need to involve the neighbors.  My husband is willing to install a fence but we're not yet sure how the neighbors feel about that option.

Meanwhile, the neighbor on the other side of our property at the bottom of the slope is ecstatic because her vegetable garden now has plenty of sun.  We've got a lot more light too, albeit at the cost of privacy in that area.  The neighbors also took out 2 pine trees and cut back a variety of shrubs, giving us a broader view of the harbor both from the bottom of the slope, my office and the backyard patio.  So, there are some pluses to accompany the minuses.
 


 All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

34 comments:

  1. Oh dear, that IS ugly. I hope you manage to get it sorted out. I've never tried to kill trees with the method you propose. I did get rid of a couple, but we used a stump grinder.

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    1. Unfortunately, we can't get a stump grinder into that area - it's too steep and there's no path to accommodate heavy equipment from either our yard or the neighbor's. Decomposition will be a slow process - if it works at all.

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  2. The stumps are ugly but the view is wonderful. It does look so much better without the yucca.

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    1. I miss seeing the hummingbirds perching on the Yucca from my window but the view is nice, at least when it's not obscured by fog.

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    1. It's a mess. And the neighbor's wife is upset about the loss of privacy on her side.

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  4. Love your improved view! I wish you luck in trying to kill those yuccas. Keep us posted!

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  5. It was definitely worth doing for the view, I hope you haven't paid for the work yet; waiting payment is a good way to get the job finished the way you want but I can see why the guys gave up where they did!

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    1. Unfortunately, all arrangements were made through the neighbor, who contracted with a service he's used many times in the past. We paid the neighbor for our portion of the work (i.e. the Yucca). However, he has a long relationship with this service provider so, hopefully, he'll exert his influence. Frankly, I was worried this would happen but my husband felt that the service should be able to handle it.

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  6. Very nice pluses at least, but at stumps four feet tall they will be very tricky to conceal, and perhaps they can sprout from the ground too? Hopefully you'll get it rot away with the plans you have in place.

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    1. From what I've seen with the segments my husband cut back earlier, they sprout easily from the cut branches but I don't know if they can come back from the roots. I did uncover a section that had rotted away, seemingly without help, which gives me some hope.

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  7. Yikes! That thing truly was a behemoth. And...why is it so hard to get contractors to do what they are supposed to do? I hope these guys will come back and clean things up for you. Aaarrgh...

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    1. They're supposed to be back next Tuesday (barring rain) to see what more they can do. We probably should have contracted for the work on our own rather than piggy-backing on the neighbor's arrangement. Push comes to shove, we'll consult a service we've used before.

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  8. What a great view this revealed ! It looks to me like a nice top-handle 14' arborist chainsaw could at the very least get the stump area more flush with the ground. Compared with my neighborhoods density , can't feel too sympathetic about loss of privacy on your neighbors part. She should come and live at my house for a few weeks.

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    1. The neighbor told me the Yucca was there 35 years ago when they moved in - apparently, it never bothered her but it was also behind her line of view rather than right in front of it as in our case. My husband's real complaint is that the plant is clearly difficult to near impossible to control along that back slope.

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  9. I was thinking the same thing as KS, a chainsaw could make those stumps a little smaller, surely? I know your paying someone to take care of it but sometimes just dong it yourself is easier. Oh and that view! You already had a million dollar view but now add another half on top of that.

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    1. Maybe I should have bought my husband a chainsaw for Christmas!

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  10. How frustrating that they just left it like that! I hope you figure out a way to get rid of the rest of it. Whew, that view...

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    1. I was surprised the tree service guys just left without a word but maybe they were confused about who they were accountable to: the person who arranged the service or the ones who paid for it.

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  11. Kris, as per usual my slow internet speed is not allowing me to see your photos, but by your description and everyones reactions, I can understand there is a problem! Apologies if this is not right as I can't see, but can you grow climbers over the stumps?

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    1. Unfortunately, Julie, the underlying problem is that the stumps will sprout and the Yucca will be back unless we're able to help the plant go to the compost pile in the sky via decomposition.

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  12. They certainly were view blockers and left behind some amazing stumps. I hope they manage to cut them lower for you because they may even grow back from there. I am always amazed at how those yuccas return even after many years. I saw mention above of slow internet which made me comment about the slow download of your photos. We have fast internet so I was wondering if your photos were full size. I have this problem with only one other website that I visit.

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    1. The photos aren't the original size but they are large. I'll have to check their file sizes.

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  13. The new view is spectacular and I remember it's much clearer there in early spring so you have that to look forward to. I hope you are getting some more rain. Those yucca roots are amazingly resilient so it does need to get sorted out before they grow back stronger than ever. Readers in other areas who enjoy growing an opuntia or yucca in a tiny pot and wonder why we hesitate to plant up the yard with a potential monster might get a better understanding of the concern with this post!

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    1. This species of yucca is all over our area but most of those I see on level ground haven't sprawled the way this one has. Since the yucca sits along the dividing line between our property and our neighbor's responsibility for it has apparently always been unclear, which means that no one took ownership for managing its growth.

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  14. Oh yeah your are going to have to apply brush killer or something on fresh cuts. They WILL grow right back--there are a couple of clumps in the neighborhood that have been cut back like that--only to send up new not-small trunks rather quickly.

    Good luck.

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  15. Not easy to remove a large tree stump!
    The view was nice when the tree was removed but sad to have to remove a large fine trees.
    You would bevöva cut down more and make it hollow and fill it with soil to make it go away faster.
    I hope you find a solution
    Mariana

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    1. That sounds like a good idea, Mariana - I'm just not sure how we would go about hollowing out something that large without heavy equipment, which is hard to get down the slope.

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  16. Oh, my goodness, I had no idea that Yucca grows so enormous. I can see why it had to go. I hope you get rid of the stumps otherwise you will have a problem. Without being able to get a stump grinder in there I don' t see how they will get them out. Good luck!

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  17. Not all Yuccas get this big but this one was formerly known as Y. gigantea for a reason. Forcing decomposition of the stumps is key but, if we have any chance of being successful in doing that, we need to cut it to a more manageable height.

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  18. There is a whole process that might help - it is generally called "Hügelkultur." It is a style of composting where you build up raised planting beds on top of decaying wood/fiber debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. It may be tricky because you are on a slope, so think about the idea of forming a box around the stump, filling it with composting goodness and see if Mother Natuure might help you out a bit. Building some sort of box around it would also solve the aesthetics.

    The whole process then helps to improve soil fertility, water retention and soil warming, while solving your problem. It will eventually leave you with a flat planting bed that you could enjoy! Check out the article in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hügelkultur), and Google it - also see examples on Pinterest.

    Since it is a European thing, you won't see them referring much to Yucca as a base! But I think it might work.

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    1. I'm actually familiar with this process, Susan. A friend introduced me to it when she was looking into using it in her own space. I tried it myself on a micro-scale once. I think what you propose might well work but I'm not sure the neighbor wants to look at a 5 foot tall box while the Yucca decomposes. If we can get it cut a bit lower - or the neighbor elects to put a fence between her and the stumps - then it's definitely an option.

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