JANUARY can be a revealing month, with gardens pared down to their bones.
The sun is clean and low, and side lighting picks out forms and shapes that in summer are flattened by bright overhead light.
Everything is now brought into sharp focus by startling definition, and I marvel yet again at simple topiary and indeed hard landscaping, though always with a view to improvement.
Whilst continually impressed by the many flowering shrubs that defy the elements in the dead of winter, what I admire most now are the outline of mature trees denuded of their summer finery.
The majority I observe look majestic, but others I notice could do with selective pruning and the removal of lower limbs.
In doing so, the plants beneath their spread would receive far more light, thus aiding encouragement.
Aged and damaged trees, however, often require complete removal, and whilst many can be safely taken down in sections, problems arise when it comes to stump removal.
When a tree dies or must be felled for safety or other reasons, grubbing out the stump and roots can be far more troublesome than any trunk or large limb.
If these are allowed to remain in the soil, they will not alone look unsightly, but inhibit replacements, and restrict grass cutting.
Worst of all, rotting stumps encourage fungal infections such as the dreaded honey fungus.
There are several ways in which tree stumps can be removed: by hand, using a sharp mattock, old axe, and a narrow spade.
Youth will be a distinctive advantage, for the person involved needs to be fit, and able to move heavy objects. It is not for me.
Then there’s block and tackle and winch equipment which have enormous pulling power, but they can be troublesome to make ready, be extremely heavy, and expensive to hire for all but the largest estate owner.
In my opinion, there is only one easy, fast, and reliable way to remove large stumps and that is to have them out using a powered grinder.
All work on the principle of a heavy steel blade which rotates at high speeds much like circular saws.
Each blade has stubby, hard teeth bolted to the outer rim which can pulverise wood, earth, and most stones to a depth of almost two feet.
As the blade spins, it traverses across the face of the tree stump leaving a pile of wood chips, churned soil, and debris in its wake.
This unlikely mixture can be levelled, firmed properly, then seeded with grass or replanted with other trees and shrubs. If the replacement tree is an expensive or rare specimen then the pulverised soil and wood chips can be taken away and replaced with fresh, more suitable soil.
The largest stump can be removed in a fraction of the time it would take using other methods.
The average time taken for the complete removal of a large stump will be 40 minutes or less.
Because nothing will remain there will be no need to dispose of anything on completion, and the site becomes available the same hour the tree surgeon moves out.
These modern machines (see illustration) will of course require enough room in which to operate safely.
And yet the smallest model will need just three feet of clearance into the spot where the tree or stump stands, especially those sited in awkward places.
Be advised, get storm damaged trees removed entirely and by getting the best in the business, not alone will all portions of the tree be removed from your property, not a trace of the stump or roots will remain.