King of trees

At the bottom of my parent’s garden is a big apple tree. It stands about 20ft tall, with the top branching out 20ft wide, and branches creeping into neighbouring gardens adorned with bird and squirrel feeders. Every spring it blooms with lovely bright pink blossoms before giving way to hundreds of bramley apples in the summer (great in a crumble, trust me). The tree has been there since my family moved in 40 years ago, and had already been there for a few years by then. Over the years, it has been used as an anchor-point for washing-lines, a badly-placed goalpost, a meeting place for cats, and the home to many birds nests. I even attempted to carve my name and ‘KORN’ into it when I was 13 – it was the early 2000s and I thought I was cool. Don’t judge me.

Over the last bank holiday weekend, my parents finally had it cut back and pruned properly by a family friend with a chainsaw and a ‘can do’ attitude. Save for some half-arsed, dead-branch lopping here and there by me – or my dad, if he wasn’t having his customary Saturday afternoon kip on the couch, soundtracked by the football results – this was the first time in decades that anyone had done any proper tree upkeep. After the main pruning was done, it was left to me to chop and collect the discarded branches. My mum is in her mid-60s with a bad back and is built like Smurfette (to scale) and my dad, well, my dad was having a kip on the couch. Naturally.

As I headed through the house and out into the garden, the vision that greeted me shocked me; the tree was now slim and tall, with a pile of dead and unruly branches around its base. It looked shy and meek, and I found myself sad at what had happened to it. I mentioned it to my mum, expecting to be called overly-dramatic but, surprisingly, she felt the same. We both knew that this ‘light pruning’ was best for its health and for future growth, but neither of us had envisioned how emotionally attached we were to the big leafy lummox.

Don’t get me wrong, the rational side of me was still there. The benefits of this pruning are tenfold as light now bathes previously shaded areas, with myriad possibilities for new growth and new features, never mind that the loss of so many shaded areas should deter all the neighbourhood cats from using our lovely green lawn as a community toilet. But still, our poor apple tree. Decades of memories tied up in benign branches, cut off and left sprawled on the lawn, waiting for the literal chop; the tree standing there looking like that spare person at a wedding who knows precisely one person and is too awkward to dance.

A few weeks removed and I’ve stopped being so dramatic, as I was bordering on a parody of a Dynasty character. The tree looks great, its ‘haircut’ literally taking years off of it. Plus there’ll be far less apples to harvest, which is a bonus. There are only so many apple crumbles you can stomach.

The tree had the last laugh though. Fresh from my day of lumber-work, I sat there rubbing aloe vera on my raw burnt neck, surveying my work like a mad tyrant. I swear I could hear the tree whisper “this is what you get for trying to carve ‘KORN’ into me, you bearded knob.”

-Jack

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