Almost a year ago to the day, we had a major early season snow storm that dumped 18″ of wet snow on our central MA farm. I wrote about it at When Life Gives You Storm Damage, Make Habitat and lamented the fact that we had lost a beautiful red maple near our barn, which was split in two:
At the time, we trimmed off the worst of the damaged limbs, but decided to hold off on cutting the damaged tree down to the ground – the tree still managed to leaf out this year, and it was easier to wait til the leaves fell in autumn to remove the remaining limbs and trunk. Here are the last of its leaves this past weekend, still showing the bright autumn color that we loved so much:
All this summer, I’ve been trying to decide what to replace the maple with. It’s a focal point on our farm, and I felt strongly that the area needed a vertical element, such as another tree, or at least a flowering shrub. But it couldn’t be so big that the horses could reach over and eat the twigs and leaves. I hemmed and hawed.
Sometimes, procrastination pays because it gives you time to consider all your options. In the past week, the solution came to me. Why not leave the trunk itself standing as a “wildlife snag“, and plant some fast-growing flowering vines at the base?
Not only would it save my husband the effort of cutting the trunk to the ground (hard work), but a 10′ high trunk of old maple covered with pretty flowering vines would be a huge attractant to many birds and insects who use old wood for food and nesting. DUH! Why didn’t I think of this before?
So the trunk will be topped at about 10-12′ this weekend, and 2 native Clematis vines (Virgin’s Bower – Clematis virginiana ) that I just happen to have sitting in my plant ghetto will be placed at its base. Quick to grow and bloom, this vine will give me pretty flowers as early as next summer, and my dead maple will once again be a magnificent focal point.
In the meantime, we’ll be watching for the woodpeckers and sapsuckers, bluebirds and nuthatches that will use the snag for food and nesting. Old wood is easy to excavate for nests, and harbors lots of wood-dwelling insects that are food for birds through the seasons. Undoubtedly it will become a perch for hawks looking for a meal, or kingfishers swooping for fish in our farm pond.
Clematis virginiana aka “Devil’s Darning Needles”, my vine of choice for my new wildlife snag (shown here covering an arbor):
Don’t you love it when the laziest approach makes the most sense! Check back here next year for photos from our new wildlife snag!
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