The felling of the palms
Does anyone out there have any palm trees growing around their home? It’s a silly question if you live on the Sunshine Coast like I do.
When we bought this house quite a few years ago the previous owners had planted masses of palm trees. They were all clumped together consisting of a mixture of Bangalow and Golden Canes. They looked particulary attractive bunched together with their contrasting dark green and gold coloured fronds. As the years went by we encouraged the suckers to grow and bunch up for shade and privacy. Palms are slow growing and stay at a manageable height for years.
The first to go were the Bangalow Palms. These palms had grown to a height of twelve metres overnight, and developed a habit of dropping bunches of round, orange fruit onto the ground one by one and covering the area underneath for metres around. The odd bang on the roof in the middle of the night reminded you that the palms were well past their use-by date. They’d were so high that we had to hire the professional tree fellers to cut them out. These blokes climb the palms using spikes on their shoes and a harness around the trunk and cut them down from the top, section by section, with a chainsaw. They then leave a stump about two feet high which the householder can sit his or her potplants on. That’s until the stump rots away and the pots fall to the ground, spilling all the contents.
As more years went by the Golden Canes began to require continuous attention. Those suckers that I’d lovingly encouraged years ago had become a millstone around my neck. If they weren’t shedding their old fronds, they were growing what I call “antlers” that flower and turn into small seeds that blow all over the patio, the barbeque and the outdoor furniture. I tried cutting them off at the pod stage but there were so many that some reached the “antler” stage before I had a chance to attack them. It was like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The crunch came when my wife uttered the immortal words, “Either they go, or I go!”
I picked a day when she went shopping. A young bloke called Dale lived handy and owned a chainsaw so I enlisted his help. I was somewhat apprehensive because there wasn’t a lot of room and the palms were about six metres high by this stage. Also my and my neighbour’s garden shed and clothesline were in the firing range. Dale seemed unconcerned at this, and told me he could virtually fell a palm on a sixpence. Alarm bells should have rung immediately, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him loose.
We started with the easy ones and cut them about halfway up so the top piece fell onto the ground without too much disturbance, then cut the bottom half. Some were leaning over the back patio so I climbed onto the roof and attempted to fend them off so they’d fall into a clear space. This tactic only proved partly successful as the weight of the tree just about took me with it before it slammed into the roof guttering and slid onto the ground. Casualties so far were light, just my wife’s ornamental frog and two smashed pot plants. After a few near misses and a couple of glancing blows my neighbour sprinted out his back door, risking life and limb amid falling palms, and wisely folded down his clothsline.
Dale was gaining in confidence by the minute and decided that a particularly tall palm could be felled in one piece. He estimated the height of the palm and reckoned it would fall a metre short of old Joe’s garden shed. Any doubts I had were masked by Dale’s enthusiasm as he cut into the base of the palm. Down she came, and if Joe hadn’t had his shed door open, about two feet of Golden Cane would have crashed onto the side.
I’ve left a few palms still standing to provide some shade and keep the yard from looking too bare. I’ve panelbeated the guttering and bought my wife a new garden ornament. Joe, my neighbour, has taken to wearing a hard hat around his yard.