View from the porch

The large maple tree which has adorned our front yard for the past thirty-three years is no more. After much discussion and with heavy hearts we called in the tree crew to remove it. That tree was gone in minutes as a chain saw ripped through the trunk so that a crane could lift the sections to the street. There is no undo button in tree cutting. Taking time to confirm our intentions beforehand seemed prudent.

Preparing for Removal

Moved containers and the stone bench to clear the way.

Cutting the Tree (1)

Making the first cut.

Cutting the Tree (4)

Craning the tree to the street.

Cutting the Tree (2)

Second cut.

Cutting the Tree (3)

Moving to the neighbor’s for another tree.

Cutting the Tree (5)

The stump remains.

Decision making in our garden endeavors often models the process we use in weightier matters. We proceed slowly, with caution and much discussion, with data gathering and sorting, and by prayerful consideration of the pros and cons. How did we reach the decision that the tree needed to go?

Stump Chipping (2)

Grinding the stump into chips.

Stump Chipping (3)

Are we done yet?

Stump Chipping (1)

The new chip pile to be used for mulch.


Let’s begin with the hidden part of the tree, the root system.

That variety of native maple tree directs substantial root growth toward any troves of water and nutrients such as our flower beds. I undergo a twice yearly battle to dig up and sever roots invading those gardens. Left for a single season the maple would overpower the other plantings.

The Garden Wide Web (2)

A matted root structure one foot thick surrounding the stump.

The Garden Wide Web (3)

Roots in all sizes.

The tree has driven roots vertically, through the drain holes in the bottoms of containers. Once inside the nutrient-rich potting soil the invading root expands into an encircling web thereby killing the container plant.

As the tree roots grew and spread slabs of sidewalk were pushed up to create trip hazards.

Small roots tunneled between the porch railing support posts and the brick steps. As time passed and the roots expanded the handrail support posts (4”x4” pressure treated lumber!) were deformed and bent away from the steps. The repair, while not expensive, was labor intensive and time consuming.

Roots and More Roots (2)

Roots removed from the perimeter.

Roots and More Roots (4)

More roots.

Roots and More Roots (6)

The pile grows taller.

Roots and More Roots (1)

Are we having fun yet?

Roots and More Roots (9)

Cleaning up the job site.

Recycling Roots

Raleigh’s yard waste crew will grind and compost these roots.

Raleigh Dumping Receipt

Official weight is 500 pounds, and I have more roots to dig!


Our tree shaded more than 2/3 of the front lawn on the north side of the trunk while the south side had to be heavily pruned to protect the roof and house. The result was a grossly disproportional structure which had taken on a lean. That maple is proof positive that an aggressive hardwood should not be left to grow eight feet from the foundation of the house.

Tree maintenance such as seasonal pruning or storm damage removal had outgrown my ladder and my vertical comfort zone. We hired professionals to prune a few years back at a cost reaching into the hundreds.

From the front porch we saw only the trunk of the tree as the leafy branches waved far above the house.


Removal of large branches damaged in severe storms left wounds which did not heal. The rot created weak spots which made the tree even more susceptible to storm damage. It seemed as though every recent storm left the ground around the front of the house and driveway littered with limbs. (As the tree was cut into sections for disposal we saw evidence that insects used the wounds to enter the core of the tree for tunneling.)

Trunk Damage

Limb cuttings which never healed and gave access to insects.

The tree became a night roost for large birds that defiled the cars with their waste. How disgusting to come out each morning and find a dozen or so splatters! Were they using our cars for bombing practice?

Removing the tree makes room for another garden and planning is underway for that now. We will include a smaller tree in the design plan, a tree that can be maintained and enjoyed for the next thirty-three years as it grows and delights. My son-in-law has gifted us with a Sassafras tzumu tree to anchor the new garden. Cut one plant one seems prudent forestry practice.

And I will plant that tree far away from the house as possible. Just in case.

Services I used:

Tree removal – North Raleigh Tree, (919) 808-2467

Stump grinding – North Raleigh Landscape Design, Joe Roach, (984) 289-0189