Too Many Trees


TWENTY FOUR DAYS ‘TIL CLOSING, and I’m deep into list-making, plan-drawing, and ‘Before’-photo-taking. I was out in Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) for a couple of days this past week, checking on my existing property, currently rented out, and the one I’m three weeks away from owning, below. I’m jumping up and down inside. My first cottage, as comfortable and charming as it is, and as much as I loved living there for 3-1/2 years, was never my dream house. This one is. Or has the potential to be.



A stand of rhododendrons, above, is the only plus, plant-wise

My primary aim was to evaluate winter storm damage, but I also just wanted to wander and fantasize what I might do with my half-acre. Much of it is pretty flat and featureless, except for an excess of trees. Yes — too many trees. About 50 oaks, according to my rough count (they’re indicated by red dots on my hand-drawn plan, top) and half a dozen scraggly cedars. I don’t love cedars, but at least they’re evergreen.




The oaks are tall and spindly and turn dull brown in fall, not lovely specimens that flower in spring and blaze red or yellow in autumn. And many, many will have to go, at roughly $1,000 a pop. This is the thing that keeps me up at night — not when will I get around to insulating and re-siding the house and installing a heating system (admittedly, also an important consideration), but what the hell will I do about all those trees?! My first and only call so far has been to Eric the tree man of Montauk, who helped me out in the past with his wise counsel as to what can stay and what must go.


So part of my visit was about counting trees. Two fell this winter (hooray!) — that’s one of them, above — and neither on the house. Two fewer I’ll have to take down. The more fun part was dreaming of how I’ll create an entry courtyard where there’s presently a… nothing… and a raised-bed vegetable garden in the area where I recently arranged to have a derelict swimming pool back-filled, on order of the Town of East Hampton (as the contracted buyer, I had to do it in order to get a valid Certificate of Occupancy). It’s a good place for veggies, at least temporarily, since it’s the only area on the property where there’s open sky.


Future entry courtyard with rhododendron and double-trunked tree, which may be a keeper


Above, a huge fenced trash area that I didn’t even realize until recently was part of the property. The tangled hanging vine is wisteria, if I don’t miss my guess, but it seems to have been mostly vanquished



Clear and level, above, where once was a swimming pool. I see a few raised beds there this summer

Before I can do any gardening, there’s got to be some serious land-clearing. That seems as pressing as anything. Come March 28, with the help of Charles the plumber, Miguel the carpenter/painter, Tom the electrician, Eric the aforementioned tree man, Dong the landscaper, and Jeff, the wasband/demo expert/fence-mender/general handyperson, I’m gonna hit the ground running.


About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in GARDENS & GARDENING, HAMPTONS, LANDSCAPING, LONG ISLAND and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Too Many Trees

  1. says:

    i want to come and help!!!!!!

  2. cara says:

    Thank you :-) God knows I can use it!

  3. Julia Mack says:

    Go get ’em Cara!!
    Your assembled army of dedicated soldiers can definitely handle those scraggly oaks and pesky cedars!
    Count us in on the interiors though…paint colors, lighting suggestions, window treatment–ya know…the fun stuff!

  4. Carol says:

    Sorry not to check into your great site these last months. I’ll come and help too but listen, please, please, please…THIS time, please think about LOTS of natives (trees, shrubs and lower story plants). I’m not joking. It is the only way.

    By the way, when you have the trees taken down, please think about leaving them in a semi-disorganized heap in the back. A wood/tree pile in one area is a great wildlife/natural vector. Plant some native blackberries around it.

    Please note that one of our native oaks is food for 400+ species of insects (in their larval stage which is food in the spring when our native birds need bug food to feed their young a protein-rich diet) while a non-native tree at the garden center may only support 2 or 3 species of insects (i.e. it is a dead-zone in the food chain) This is guidance–I’ll get you the title of a great book one of my girlfriends gave me that will change your thinking. You’ll find it enlightening.

    I hope this house is your dream house. Just remember that dreams tend to alight in one spot and then suddenly find themselves pulled through a wormhole to other places and times. You may end up having a completely different dream house in another 4 years yet that is near the black sands on an island for all you know…

  5. cara says:

    hi Carol, thanks for checking in on casaCARA and for your thought-provoking (guilt-tripping?) comment. I’d like the title of that book about native gardening. I looked into it somewhat at my previous property, thinking not so much about overall ecology, but about a possible connection between what has evolved locally and successfully and the fact that deer are not that interested in it. I found that trees and shrubs like amelanchier and shadbush are difficult to find in local nurseries. Even one called Fort Pond Native Plant Nursery in Montauk has more non-natives than natives. Can you give us a few suggestions of ornamental natives that would thrive on Zone 7 Long Island (in semi-shade)? I’m afraid it won’t jibe with my vision of a Japanese-inspired garden, but perhaps I can weave Japanese principles with native plant material. The idea of a heap of cut-down trees (unless it’s firewood) also doesn’t jibe with my vision of ornamental gardening. And what about the fact that there’s a Girl Scout camp of many acres of woods right across the road? It looks indistinguishable from the property I’m about to buy. Can’t the insects and their larvae live there?;-) Anyway, thanks for your input. You can tell it’s gotten me thinking, and I look forward to learning more.

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