Hickory, dickory, dock

I have been wielding the chainsaw quite a bit: On the mulberry in the front yard, on the tree of heaven next to the house, and most recently on the ash tree in the vacant lot. That left things out of whack and it is time to get back some balance – restore the yin and yang.

We didn’t have trees in our parkway by the street. That changed last year when we planted a small oak in front of the house. But I still wanted to find another tree for the parkway in front of the vacant lot.


Lo and behold, I had the opportunity to salvage a tree for our parkway – although the salvaging operation may have been more like butchering.

One of my clients had a small hickory growing next to a big oak. To preserve the oak and keep it free from competition we had planned to remove the hickory. This fall, I asked my clients if they would mind me digging up and transplanting the hickory rather than cutting it down. My clients were gracious enough let me have a go at it.


I wasn’t sure if I could get a viable root ball on that hickory because of its proximity to the oak. Fortunately, I didn’t have any big oak roots in the way.

But that was only half the struggle.

Do you know why hickories are rare to find in the nursery trade? Because they develop and rely on a taproot, which makes them notoriously difficult to transplant. And boy, did this sucker have a taproot – which I had to cut. This was the point where the transplanting turned into butchering.

On top of this, I had to drive with the tree in my truck 40 miles south. I tried to protect it from drying out as best as I could, and drove as slow as I could without causing pile up. Once back home I wished I would have opted for the quick death (i.e. cutting it down), rather than torturing that poor thing.

I tried to make up for it with some extra care while planting it in the parkway and some diligent watering.


But I have to say that I have no expectation that will come back next spring. If it does, I will refer to it as a resilient son of a bitch! And that will be a compliment.

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About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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