I think I've mentioned many times before on this blog that the reason we selected this particular lot to have our home built on was the mature pine tree in the back yard, as well as the little "forest" on the outside of the wall.
The builder did the "ribbon survey" and the tree was comfortably outside the line and could therefore be kept. Or that was the plan, anyway.
But from that moment on, things started going downhill for that tree.
Before we even chose the lot, the developers put the wall in. On the homeowner's side of the wall, about 5 feet from it, a trench was dug for utilities -- phone, cable etc. -- right through the tree roots.
And then once our lot was selected, the builder took over and bulldozers drove back and forth, digging out the foundation and then grading the lot. I don't know whether some builders are more careful in preserving trees than others but ours apparently didn't give them a thought.
We didn't realize it at the time, but the bulldozers were crushing all the tree roots and even by the time they had installed the sprinklers and laid the sod, the tree had a death sentence pinned on it.
Within a few months we realized the tree just didn't look as nice as it once had. It had millions of pine cones and not so many needles as it had.
Things didn't go well for our little forest outside the wall either. They too had been stressed by the building of the wall and the laying of utilities right through their root zones. Then Hurricane Ike further weakened them so that, one by one, they succumbed to pine bark beetles or some other disease and died.
We consulted an arborist to find out why our tree wasn't thriving and what could be done about it. That's when we learned that the tree appeared to be suffering from stress caused by damage to the roots from the bulldozers. They said they saw it a lot in wooded areas that had recently been built on.
At first they were guardedly optimistic and offered lots of practical ways in which we could try and improve matters. They did some deep root fertilization and a deep core aeration to try and loosen up the compacted soil around the roots. They did annual treatments for pine bark beetle and showed my husband how to use an auger to drill holes around the drip zone, drop fertilizer in and then back fill with mulch and water well.
For a while there, we even thought it might be working. We saw some new growth in the spring of last year, but of course that was before the drought.
We had thought that it was hanging in there and that it might have a chance, especially with the rains we've had this year.
But all of a sudden this year, it started going downhill fast. It's like it just gave up.
We called the arborist out one more time and this time, instead of talking about things we could do to save it, he was talking about how soon they could be back to remove it.
I was still in denial for a few days and then one day I was coming home from work and the setting sun was shining on it and it looked like it was completely dead already.
My husband called them the next day and they made an appointment to come and remove it. It was a sad day and I'm glad I wasn't there to see it.
I suppose the moral to this tale is that if you are buying a house in a wooded area, you'd be well advised to consult an arborist before building begins and have him consult with the builder on steps that need to be taken to preserve the tree(s).
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.