Magnolia Stump Removal

Today we have removed the root bowl of the Magnolia. We used a technique we have used on other fair sized tree stumps in the past.

This involves leaving around four foot of trunk on the root bowl, and sawing it in half lengthwise as low as possible. Then using wooden wedges and logs driven in with a sledge hammer the root bowl is split in two.

We did this today without digging out the bowl by sawing the exposed half again lengthwise and splitting this in half again. We pulled each quarter away from the rest with a small hand winch.

The remaining half still attached to the ground was again sawn and split with wedges. The remaining quarters were winched out after a few roots were cut through with a root axe.

Devastating Doris

We went down the garden just before lunch today, to find a much loved old ‘Tree Magnolia’ horizontal, a victim of yesterday’s ‘Storm Doris’.

This larger growing form of the ‘Willow Leaved Magnolia, Magnolia salicifolia var.  arborea, was planted over forty years ago and was purchased from The Seville Garden.  It had reached approximately thirty five feet in height and was carrying hundreds of flower buds.

Although there were no outward signs of ill health, the root-ball was not as good as the top of the tree would have indicated. It fell into a neighbour’s garden and flattened a 6ft high chain link fence breaking two of its straining wires and bending a post. Fortunately there was a only a small amount of collateral damage in our garden in the form of half of a four foot high Japanese Maple being smashed off. If the wind had been Northerly it could have fallen on our Mandarin Arbour, but wouldn’t have reached our new bridge.

With our son Paul and another neighbour, Dave’s help, Linda and I managed to clear next door’s garden, shred the smaller branches and cut up the trunk into splitable lengths.

The storm also blew a bird feeder out of a shrub just outside our kitchen window, spilling the seed on the path. A field mouse is pictured below, taking advantage of the sudden windfall, in broad daylight (2.00pm).

Aquarium Re-think

As in previous winters our gardening activities have been hampered by inclement weather, so work has been done to aquariums instead. They tend to get rather neglected in the other seasons of the year.

We decided to redo our most recently set up aquarium, which we had tried as a soft-water tank. This had been an almost complete failure as we had hoped to grow soft-water Cryptocoryne species and Crystal Red Shrimps. Probably, due to lack of water changes the shrimps never bred, and in the end the Crypts faded away. We were left with a few Pygmy Rasboras and small Tetras and a collection of mosses. The substrate we used was a man-made Japanese material believed to be made from paddy field clay and the tank had been filled with rain water from our shed roof. The original bog-wood features were reused and many of the attached mosses have re-grown well.

We stripped out everything and put an inch (2.5cm) of garden soil in the bottom followed by about three inches (7.5cm) of normal aquarium gravel. We then filled with Essex tap water.

Our good friend James had decided to close his tropical fish shop, Wayside Aquatics, after thirty years and to reduce the number of his own aquariums. He very generously donated several unusual Cryptocoryne species which are ok in hard-water. These were two clones of C. affinis plus hudoroi, cordata, usteriana ‘Red’ and pontederiifolia. A couple of weeks after planting up the aquarium he also gave us a good number of Neocaridina heteropoda shrimps in red, yellow, orange, blue and ‘Rili’ which have red at each end and clear in the middles. Mixing the varieties is undoing all the good work of selective breeding and the results of interbreeding may be a disaster, but we will see. I have recently counted over a hundred babies from about 1mm to 4mm long. We are only going to have Ottocinclus cat fish in this tank, as they are said to be baby shrimp safe.