Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Root Ball Sculptures February 25, 2009

Filed under: trees — greenwalks @ 9:45 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

My parents lost a couple of Douglas Fir trees in great Hanukkah Eve windstorm of 2006. Well, they didn’t exactly lose them – the trees just blew over, thankfully missing any people or houses. It took a long time to get a tree company in to help them deal with the resulting mess, and in the end they were left with two giant craters and the biggest upended root balls you could possibly imagine in a suburban setting.

These remnants of once-noble evergreens will likely be there forever and a day – the arborists declined to saw apart and remove them, since they must weight a good half ton or more (?) each. So, my folks just skirt the craters and the root balls are becoming forest monuments.

Douglas fir root ball

I was reading about nurse logs lately and wondering if it’s possible to hurry one along artificially – it does seem like the process has already begun (above, proof that English ivy will grow anywhere, justifying its status as an invasive weed!). Another option might be to pick or spray the dirt out to expose the roots, then put a bit of good soil back in and plant some stuff in the nooks and crannies. My mom’s got tomatoes to start, though, so this is probably not high on her priority list. Plus, one of them does provide a good vantage point for my daughter to sit on and tell her visiting grandfather about the dead shark she saw in the ocean last summer.

Root ball throne

There was a weathered root sculpture at the Garden Show last week that caught my eye (I believe it was from the Elandan Gardens display). I liked the stones placed in some of the crevices, they looked a bit like cliff-dwelling birds to me.

Root sculpture

If you had a big old root ball taking up space in your woods, what would you do? Fire up the chainsaw and free up some more space to garden, or turn it into art? Or just sit back and watch decomposition (slowly) take its course?


15 Responses to “Root Ball Sculptures”

  1. Melanthia Says:

    Hmmm, no rootball but we do have a decent stump from the huge holly we had removed. I think I’ll just let moss or some other groundcover grow over it.

  2. Jen Says:

    I think I would watch the decomposition. We had one in our school courtyard awhile ago that was put there by a PTA member for the science classes to observe. Well, it was removed by the district maintenance crew because they thought it was unsightly! Next time we’ll have to put a “do not disturb” sign on it, I guess.

  3. Michelle Says:

    I’m in the “let nature do it’s thing” camp. We had a big oak tree fall apart last year and I’m just watching…

    p.s. I couldn’t figure out how to send you an email about the golden corn salad seeds. So, send me one via my blogger profile so I can get your address and send you some seeds!

  4. Georgia Says:

    I heart nurse logs. It is exciting to see forest regeneration in action.

  5. Aerie-el Says:

    I echo Georgia! Nurse logs rock.

  6. Grace Says:

    I would definitely want to jazz it up. Mosses, sedums and other diminutive treasures creeping around the gray, aging wood is very appealing to me. When I was very young I remember the serpentine tangle of a toppled oak. It made an indelible impression on me even though it wasn’t dressed up at all.

    But if my kids were small, I suppose I would have to relinquish my ideals for the sake of a very cool fort. 🙂

  7. GardenJunkie Says:

    Given the small size of my yard and the fact that I enjoy scuplture, I’d probably take a high pressure hose to it and carve out all of the dirt so that only the roots are visible. I’d then follow Grace’s suggestion and plant a few things between the roots (probably in colorful pots) – could be quite beautiful.

    Last year I was hiking in Yosemite and came across a fallen giant sequoia – check out this rootball!

  8. Gail Says:

    I have never thought of that, I wonder what I would do? It would really depend upon where in the garden it fell! I have to ponder it Karen! gail

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hello Gail – Yes, if you have space, might be fun to leave it, but if not, time to get it out somehow! This is a place where there is room to leave them, at least for now, and it would be costly to take them out so they are kind of stuck with them.

  9. Megan Says:

    If I had plenty of free gardening space, I’d just enjoy it, but if I was itching to plant a new tree that could only go there, then I’d probably do what I had to to make space.
    A dead shark?

    • greenwalks Says:

      Megan – Good call, it all depends on the space. The dead shark was seen very close to the beach off Whidbey Island. It was probably the most exciting find in the life of my budding naturalist. It was huge – maybe 6-7 ft. long, we think it might have been a bluntnose six-gill but are not sure. Their ways are mysterious – they come close to land sometimes but not for feeding or mating; nobody knows why. This one provided fodder for many, many conversations about the life cycle of creatures, and many re-tellings to friends and family.

  10. chris Says:

    I enjoy coming across uprooted trees although it’s always a sad sight to see a long lived tree go.

    The most memorable root mass I’ve seen was at Oswald West State Park on the Oregon Coast. Each time I visit the park there seems to be children incorporating the roots in their play.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi SUG – Yes, the roots are so interesting but the end of the tree’s life does make me sad too. Then again, its death gives space for new plants to grow, and in the case of nurse logs, the tree itself gives sustenance to the next round of trees. Cool about the Oswald Park thing, I’ve never been there but will have to check it out with my kid someday!

  11. Racquel Says:

    Good question Karen, I like the idea of using them as nature’s art in the garden. Guess it depends on how interesting they were in their shape.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Racquel – Yes, you’re right of course, it does matter where it is and how it looks. My folks have a small woods next to their house, and these are on the edge of it. So, they are not totally in the way but it does look kind of funky at the moment. Would be a lot of work to get rid of them, so I was curious about other options.

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