Here’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but held off—it’s more fun writing about snow when it’s 80 out. Some of you may have heard about this. Last October, a storm officially called Lake Storm Aphid caused near-catastrophic tree damage throughout Western New York, leading to the removal of thousands of trees. The heavy, wet snow, though it disappeared in a couple days, hit the still-green canopy like tons of bricks, filling the roads, yards, and parks with broken branches. The necessity of many of the tree removals is still being hotly debated, notably in two excellent articles in our local alternative weekly, Artvoice: “Stumped” and “Timber”. It’s highly questionably whether the outside contractors who removed many trees had done proper evaluations. Certainly, none went by the allowable damage percentage recommended by the DEC, which is up to 75 percent. So now many residents are left with stumps in their easeways, sunny beds that had been shady, and missing privacy borders.
Worst of all, though FEMA provided plenty of money for tree removal, it did not include funds for stump removal. So I have one friend drilling a hole in her stump to use it as a planter until she can get rid of it. Another friend is spending a fortune on junipers to replace one large tree that had effectively blocked the view of her neighbor’s yard. Others are still fighting with the city and county to save the publicly owned trees outside their properties. The Olmsted Conservancy is now using all its fundraising clout to replace the many trees it lost in the six parks and several parkways Olmsted designed here. One attempt I can’t quite get on board with involves making sculptures of Buffalo historic figures from the bigger trunks. These are heavily shellacked and kind of dumb-looking, IMO, but if it works, then fine.
I have to guiltily admit that I regretted (just a bit) that the trees lining the street in front of my house escaped with little or no damage—I have 3 tightly-placed Norway maples, and they make gardening there a challenge. But all this has made everyone here more aware of the urban canopy then ever before. Many of the gardeners of Garden Walk have had to redo their yards as a result, and it’s led to a reconsideration of which trees are best to plant. American elms? Kouza dogwoods? Cherrys? Redbuds?
I have one old maple in back—a birdseye, I’ve been told—that I cherish and was most relieved that it survived. It defines the garden, or at least that part of it. Do trees define your garden? Have you lost a favorite tree? I know that nobody in WNY—gardener or not—will ever take trees for granted again.