Yes, Sigourney Weaver’s character was talking about the Xenomorph, but she could have just as easily been talking another highly dangerous, acid-dripping monster… The Leyland Cypress, aka Leylandii.
Why we still plant these hideous hybrids is beyond me. If you need a fast growing, evergreen hedge, consider one of the Laurels, or Griselinias. Both can be can cut back hard when required, so they can always be kept to the dimensions required. Leyland Cypress will quickly outgrown your requirements, but cutting it back past green growth on the sides, will stay brown forever. Over time, it will also change the pH of the surrounding soil, meaning only acidic, dry soil loving plants will grow successfully nearby.
If multi stemmed hedging plants are left to their own devices, watch out! They soon become enormous. Like a black hole, they will swallow vast amounts of light and space. They also get too heavy for themselves, and drop branches readily. Not a huge issue at the bottom of your garden, if that’s your thing. However, looming dangerously over a very busy road and footpath? Complete removal – it’s the only way to be sure.
Thankfully, unlike the Xenomorphs from the Alien films, they are unable to reproduce successfully without human interaction. They’re normally sterile so have to be grown from cuttings. They also won’t regrow from a stump. Stumps can be left to rot out, but this can take many years, and Stokenham Parish have plans to turf the whole area, so for these huge stumps we brought the big gun out. The REALLY big gun!
As usual, nothing has gone to waste. The wood chip will be used by a local farmer, and local residents will be kept warm for a few winters by the logs.
Skywalkers! and that’s exactly what Landmarc did, when they needed assistance with some technical tree works.
Landmarc are a prestigious environmental engineering company based near Totnes, who provide water and landscape solutions for clients nationwide. Skywalkers DTS were honoured to be asked to provide assistance on several local projects recently. There’s isn’t a lot they can’t deal with, using their vast array of machinery and highly skilled operators, but sometimes, a chainsaw in an experienced pair of hands is called for.
At Skywalkers we always treat tree removal as an absolute last resort. Everything we removed for Landmarc on these projects was for very good reason. Removing non-native species in favour of replanting natively, or Ash trees that were becoming dangerous due to Dieback infection and their location. Throughout the projects, far more is being replanted than we removed.
At the end of 2020 we were asked to look at a Monterey Cypress at Torcross. The tree was an iconic landmark overlooking the whole of Torcross and Slapton Sands.
5 years ago it had been heavily reduced by another firm. The intention was to reduce its windsail, as it was growing rather precariously at the edge of a steep slope, directly above the often busy main road to Dartmouth. In hindsight, the reduction was too much for the tree to cope with, and since then it had been in a steady decline.
If the tree had failed in high winds, it should have fallen across two gardens, but trees are inherently unpredictable, so public safety had to take priority over sentiment. Therefore the very difficult decision was taken to remove the tree.
Using a state-of-the-art narrow access MEWP (cherry picker) and specialist rigging equipment, the behemoth was carefully dismantled.
It was very much a bittersweet project. On one hand, it was immensely satisfying to tackle such a complex task, but on the other, it was a little gut wrenching to be taking down such an iconic, and once beautiful tree. However, public safety was priority one. The extent of the decay within one of the main trunks was quite shocking. Had it have been left for another season, a catastrophic failure would have been highly likely. Nothing has gone to waste. The wood chip as been used at a local equestrian centre, and the logs will be heating many local homes next winter.
Beech maintenance is best carried out during late Autumn, Winter, or once the tree has dropped it’s leaves. At this time, the majority of the tree’s nutrients have moved down into it’s roots, so when material is removed, less nutrients are lost.
If your Beech is in a small garden, close to overhead cables or next to a road or footpath, it’s a good idea to keep it’s size in check. This is done by carefully, and sympathetically reducing & thinning the crown at regular intervals.
Only a small amount should be removed at any one time, and this should be done no more frequently than 3 year intervals, to minimise stress to the tree. Before any thinning or reducing can be done, the whole tree should be checked for rubbing branches, and corrections made accordingly. The amount of rubbing branches removed, will dictate how much more can be removed during the thinning and/or reducing of the remaining crown.
Rubbing branches are a very common issue with Beeches. If left unattended, one of the branches will usually ‘win’, and one will ‘lose’, leading to a branch or limb failing, and ultimately falling. In a woodland this rarely causes an issue, and is part of the natural life cycle of the Beech. If however, there is a greenhouse or a footpath below, damage or injury could occur.
Once your Beech has dropped its leaves, take the opportunity to have a good look at the crown’s structure.