Diserviceberry: it still hurts

If you found yourself in our neck of the woods and took a spin around the WestCo courtyard today, you might be lucky enough to find two canadian serviceberry trees, otherwise known as the Amelanchier canadensis. This tree is native to eastern North America, gives fruit, and is used as a medicinal and ornamental plant. We have one of these trees on the eastern border of the site, and one in the north-central section. We love them both.

When planting baby trees, each little one arrives from the nursery with its roots in a root ball surrounded by burlap and a thick wire cage to keep it all together until it can get safely in the ground. For most of the trees planted on site, we planted the root balls without removing either the burlap or the wire, thinking it was no big deal – only to find out that some people advise removing, or at least cutting, both. It makes sense, of course, for if the roots are compacted within the burlap cage, it would seem like they would be unable to push through and grow to be healthy. Horrified at what we had done to our trees, we decided to try to cut out the burlap and wire on one tree – the unlucky winner? You guessed it, one of the serviceberries – specifically the one on the eastern border.

With hearts full of courage and a huge pair of bolt cutters from our own Head of Grounds Dave Hall, we began digging around the base of the tree to find the wire cage buried below. It was sharp and difficult to get our hands on, and we quickly emerged covered in scratches and dirt. We finally found it and began clipping, and began pulling out huge stretches of burlap. We could see that the roots were very compacted and had not grown at all through the burlap, and in an impulsive moment of rage and despair, we decided to cut out every last bit of cage and burlap. And in the end, we never gave up. We fought, we cried, we cursed the heavens, we dug deep and pulled/snipped the rest of that root ball burlap and wire.

It was traumatic for everyone involved, especially our friend the serviceberry. That much disturbance to its gentle, growing roots can be life-threatening, and we are continuing to monitor its progress very carefully. It seems to be doing all right, but we regret hurting it so much and have not attempted another battle (and do not plan to). After speaking to our super-cool-super-smart tree savant and supplier Nancy, of Ballek’s Nursery, we found out that the burlap and cages used on trees today are actually safe to plant directly in the ground, for the wire is wide enough that the roots can grow out. We also learned that it takes about 2 months for tree roots to be established, so it should take about another month for our tree to have its roots well grown into the ground. We did learn, however, that it is necessary to cut the very top of the burlap off of the root ball, because it can’t get as wet as the rest of the burlap and therefore decomposes much more slowly. Thanks Nancy!

We had a shock the other morning when we found the tree knocked over after a storm, but have since staked it in and it looks stable and (we hope) healthy. Nate built a super new berm around the tree to help it catch water.

It still hurts, but somehow, we are all beginning to heal.


The victim


If only you could see his beaten and devastated visage.


Burlap is a woven fabric usually made from skin of the jute plant or sisal fibres, or may be combined with other vegetable fibers to make rope, nets, and similar products.


Evita, known for her incredibly emotional and vulnerable disposition, really took it hard.

When was the last time you had to take a leap of faith in order to save a friend, and how did it turn out? Tell us about it below!


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