Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


They grow how high?

My neighbours, a retired couple, looked at me nervously over the fence. It’s OK, I don’t bite, I thought.

‘We, er, were wondering if you would mind cutting the tree,’ they said, indicating the tall pine tree on my property near the fence.

‘What, right down?’ I replied, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘It is a nice tree.’

‘Yes, it’s a little close to our house,’ they said.

I understood their nervousness in making their request, because they have three of exactly the same kind of tree in their back yard right up against my fence - giant green sentinels - forty or fifty feet tall. At their widest point, about six feet up, they slightly overhang the fence. On summer nights, the sun sinks behind them. Well, of course, it does every night. But on summer nights I sit outside and enjoy the sun going down behind the trees. In winter they provide a break from west winds. All year round they are home to families of possums.

So they want mine out and they think I’m going to say ‘What about YOURS up against MY fence?’ But I don’t because I enjoy their trees probably more than they do. And the trunk of my tree is just a few feet from their house, where the gas line enters. Theirs are not near any buildings.

But I’m going to do a little research before cutting it down. How much damage can a tree do? And how much bigger can it get? Don't answer that.

I did a little research. Pine trees. Cypress. Castlewellan Gold.

What is that? That is a Leyland Cypress. Cupressus Leylandii.

Which is a hybrid of ... two other types of cypress. Forest giants.

Cupressus Leylandii has no known maximum height. The first hybrid bred (do you breed trees?) has not yet finished growing and is currently ... 120 feet. And growing. (Apparently it grows higher in some parts of the world than others.)

One expert declared it completely unsuitable for residential areas, terming it the ‘bastard offspring' of its two parent trees.

Holy shit. Pass me the chainsaw.

Our suburb is full of these trees. It was built in the 1960s and Castlewellan Gold was clearly the tree of choice, fast-growing and hardy. Now they're all maturing. (Nurseries must have just made up a figure for the little labels - they used to print Maximum Height 40 feet. I visited a nursery - they're stilling selling them, but the label now reads Height After Ten Years 40 feet. They're clever, those nurserymen!)

I'll cut down mine, but should I tell my neighbours what I found out or let them do their own research? They might want to cut their three down as well overlooking my back yard. I don't want that, I don't really care how high they grow.

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