Our suburban neighborhood is full of Whitespire birch and river birch. I can only imagine the deal the developer got on these trees, along with Bradford Pear and Autumn Purple Ash, when our subdivision was platted 20 years ago. Like most trees common in large scale suburbs, these birches grow quickly and sport at least a single aesthetic feature that makes them attractive. This quick growth often carries a major drawback — a weak tree with poor habit. Birch is no exception.
I’m a sucker for interesting bark. When we first moved in, I remember listing the three Whitespire birches among the highlights of the existing garden. After living — and fighting — with them for more than a decade, to say I’m less enamored would be an understatement. Frankly, they’re a junky tree, constantly dropping twigs, growing awkwardly, and offering little appeal beyond the bark.
One of the trees died within a couple of years, another has lost one of its original three trunks, and the last has been pruned (yes, by me) into a grotesque mess of misdirection. It is the epitome of bad habit.
This will be the last season for these Whitespire birch in my garden. This spring, they’ll meet the fate of the chainsaw as I work to renovate the areas of the garden where they grow. While the smaller branches will be shredded into mulch, I plan to slice the trunks into biscuits and create a piece of natural art to hang on the back fence (inspired by the entrance to the Chicago Botanic Garden Woodcut exhibit). In this way, I can still enjoy the white bark, without the accompanying nuisance.
Coincidentally, the neighbors to our south have decided to remove at least one of their river birch, the one closest to our property. I’ll miss the peeling, papery bark on this one as well, but not the continuous rain of branches and its precarious lean toward our gazebo.
Soon my garden will be birch-less. It pains me to cut down living trees, but these are living on borrowed time. I’d rather accelerate the inevitable, getting a head start on their replacements.
We’re thankful for the 13 years you’ve given us, but it’s time to say bye, bye birchie. Bye, bye.