Eastern Cottonwood trees (Populus deltoides) grow all around us in areas that were disturbed by the builders.
They are fast growing, messy, weak wooded trees that do not live very long, but they grow to a huge size in a short time. Then they die, and start showering branches and debris all over.
In June the female trees blow white cotton fluff all over the neighborhood where it accumulates just like snow in corners of the patio and around plants in the garden.
Hundreds of little cottonwood seedlings must be weeded out of my gardens and out of my containers where they land and quickly sprout.
The meadow has little cottonwood saplings popping up all over.
When we moved into our new home almost 10 years ago, there was a cottonwood sapling on the back hill that was my height. It was just a five and a half foot thing, leaning over on the steep hillside.
I could easily have cut it down then by hand with my pruning saw, and I considered doing that many times, but I didn't do it.
I regret that now.
Last summer I looked up and the cottonwood had suddenly achieved an ominous presence. It towered over everything in my yard, and it had outgrown the maples and oaks near it on the hill.
It is still a young tree, narrow and upright. It will soon spread outward and dominate my entire garden even more.
As skinny as this cottonwood looks, it is too tall now for me to cut it down, and the trunk is too big for any hand saw. I need to pay a tree removal service to come in this winter and take it down.
Why didn't I cut this down when I could have a few years ago?
The mother of this cottonwood sapling was a big old thing that stood at the top of the ridge, just above where the skinny one is growing. It was dead as a hammer when we moved in, and just stood there, dropping branches and self destructing when the wind blew.
When the trees around it leafed out and the grass greened up, the dead cottonwood just looked gloomy and it cast a pall over the whole scene. Old snags in the forest, or even in a woodsy garden, can be structural and interesting (and provide perching and rest for birds) but this cottonwood was too much looming deadwood at the top of the ridge.
A road runs along this ridge, and the dead tree was on town property at the edge of the road, so when it started dropping limbs on passing cars, the town came and took it down.
They left cut stumps by the roadside where they rotted all winter. One spring I managed to roll one onto its side, get it started rumbling down the hill and chased it to the bottom, where, on hands and knees, I rolled it over and over to a spot in my garden.
The stump was beautifully adorned with turkey tail fungus, which made it more a work of art than a functional side table in the gravel garden.
The turkey tails eventually dried out in the sun, and now I do use the cottonwood stump as a side table, so some good came of this big, messy, dead tree.
I don't know if I'll get anything useful when the young cottonwood sapling is cut down this winter. Maybe some slender logs to burn in the fire pit.
I wish I had acted earlier to remove the sapling before it suddenly became such a big nuisance towering over everything.