Thursday, June 19, 2014

About the removal of some trees

I received a query from a couple concerned about the removal of some trees from the Woods, and thought that others may have some questions too, so am posting the query here and my reply here in case of interest:

Thank you for supplying your email address for those who have questions.  This is very kind.  We have a question and we would like to ask the good people from rotary and all other gardeners in Rolands wood without offending them in any way.  Why do they chop all those trees?  Today we noticed more orange ribbons around tree trunks and it looks like more trees will be chopped.  We love Rolands wood and we are there nearly every weekend with our two dogs for the last three years.  And every year we see more and more trees removed and weeds growing instead of English beech trees, tulip trees and oaks.   We think the character of the woods is changing and we are not sure it is for better.  The woods are not woods anymore and English beech woodland is losing its character. Our question is: What is the reason for this mass tree removal?  Thank you Jeannie in advance for passing our question and maybe replaying to this email , we are looking forward to know the answer.

First of all, thank you for your inquiry and for caring enough about the Woods to follow up your concerns.

You are right, there have been some tree removals recently and there are some more trees identified for removal too, but the reasons for this are sound and based on good consultation with experts including arborists and landscape designers.  I have attached here a couple of reports by landscaper Margaret Phillips for your information.  John is just waiting on a report from another independent arborist Roy Hollister.

Unhealthy trees
The trees that have been cut down, and the ones currently tagged, are trees that were / are in bad shape - stressed, dead or dying, or compromising other trees.  They are covered in lichen or sooty mould, they have lost their leaves much earlier than other trees, and they are badly shaped, probably from initial inexpert pruning when they were very young.  If you look at the trees tagged for removal, you'll see yourself that they are not healthy trees.   All removed timber is used for mulch in the Woods.

In some cases the trees were planted too close together, restricting the amount of light which in turn impacts on plant growth and soil / ecosystem health.  Apparently, a 1% increase in light can result in a 100% increase in plant peformance, with light being even more important than water or soil nutrients.  Roland was in a hurry to get a woodland effect and did mass planting but as the trees have grown they are compromising each other's long term viability.

Suitability of beech
Roland fell in love with beech trees and planted a lot of these trees, along with the bluebells.  However, beech are not naturally found in this climate - it is too humid up here and not cold enough winters, and so as the trees age this "unnatural setting" for them will start to have an impact on their longevity.  By removing the unhealthy trees it will give the others a better chance of thriving.
Roland also planted a huge variety of other trees and flowers, so he never had in mind an exclusively beech woodland - he planted cedars, silkwoods, magnolias, rhododendrons, maples, oaks, ginkos, camellia, azalea, subtropicals, dombeya, lassiandra, bottlebrush, pohutakawa, acmena, and a wide variety of bulbs… It wasn't a purist approach!

You mention more weeds becoming apparent but I think you are mistaken on this.  The woods were rescued from a decade of complete neglect - read more about this on the blog under The story of Roland's Wood - when the weeds took over the woods completely.  Kikuyu, gorse, tobacco, kapok - you name it the woods was thick with it, practically impenetrable, and gradually the weeds have been brought under control.  It doesn't help having some very overgrown neighbouring sections which means that weeds get spread by wind to the Woods, but those issues are gradually being addressed.
The Woods may have looked weedy and messy while the tree trimming was happening but a good mow once all the prunings and timber were tidied up made a big difference.

The massive plantings of renga renga lilies, iris, clivia, hydrangea etc and the ongoing labourious process of mulching as much as possible is doing a lot to keep weeds down, enrich the soil and to hopefully reduce future maintenance.  The other advantages of this "understory" planting is both to manage water flows to avoid soil erosion in very heavy rainfalls, and of course, too, for the pleasure of swathes of flowers and interesting foliage to add to the variety through the year.

Next steps

For every tree removed, more are being planted - chosen for suiting our climate and the site as well as being true to Roland's original vision.  New vistas are being opened up and new pathways created which gives people, and dogs, more options for which route to take and which part of the Woods to explore.

I think perhaps it would have been a good idea to explain some of this to people using the woods so they knew what was going on and why, but the overwhelming response from people using the woods regularly over years has been to comment on all the steady improvements - be it access, plant health, variety…   I'll add a post to the blog, and I would like to see some good signage and noticeboard installed at the entrance, but even something as simple as this is complicated by the management structure of the Woods at the moment.

An actual "English beech woodland", left to its own devices to grow "naturally", is just not possible to achieve in Kerikeri.  We have a completely different climate and ecosystem, and so we need to do what we can to maintain the best of Roland's vision - part of which was a healthy beech woodland underplanted with bluebells, but also his vision included a variety of magnolias, lilies, ponds and pathways, autumn colour and so much more for the people and dogs of Kerikeri.

I hope this has answered your question.  If you would like to talk about it more, perhaps contact John Horrell to meet you at the woods one weekend and discuss it with him.  John, who was a friend of Roland's and the instigator of the wood's revival, is passionate about making the woods as enjoyable, interesting, accessible, manageable and sustainable as possible.  He welcomes any input and support.  The Kerikeri Rotary Club are no longer involved in the woods. 

I knew Roland myself a little and imagine that he would be absolutely delighted to see the Woods as they are now, how they are developing, and how they are used and enjoyed by so many. 
Aren't we lucky to benefit from his dream, efforts and generosity?!
Kind regards, Jeannie

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maple tree autumn colours

Here are a couple of photos of some crimson maple tree autumn colours, taken a week or so ago and kindly sent by Louise who brings her dog Champ to the Woods most days...