So… Brooklyn. Got back from NY on Friday after a really interesting few days in Brooklyn’s Green Wood cemetery.

As I wrote in the last post, Phil approached me about the possibility of doing something there together about working with over-mature tree populations. And by golly, does Green Wood have one! Coming from Europe it is intriguing to see trees in this condition, it almost feels as though the urban forest in Europe is sanitised to a higher degree, many of the trees we discussed in Green Wood would probably have been removed here a long time ago. I write this not as a judgement, but merely as an observation – both routes have their pros and cons.

Assessing the condition of the trees was certainly challenging, forcing you to really think out of the box, and to be very honest with yourself regarding what you can make a founded call on – and what not. A broad range of fungi is rampant in the cemetery, affecting trees to a greater or lesser degree. There is an active interest to expand the focus of Green Wood, which was founded in 1838, which makes it one of the earliest “rural cemeteries”, away from being viewed only as a burial site, towards a more diverse perspective, taking into account a wide range of ecological and environmental factors. This obviously shifts the focus regarding how trees are viewed, the value which is assessed to them and the care they receive.

On the first day we were very graciously welcomed by Joseph Charap, the Director of Horticulture and Curator of Green Wood, who then promptly took us for a spin, discussing a number of trees. It was very interesting how the trees I initially thought would never work ended up being viable for retrenching, where as there were others which I thought would be fine, but turned out to be beyond the point where we could do anything viable with them.

The actual work of retrenching these veteran trees was challenging. From the point of view of what you do to them, how much you can remove and where to make cuts, as well as from a technical, climbing point of view. As the beeches we were working on were all affected by phytophtera and hypoxylon, we were forced to err on the side of caution regarding anchor point selection. These lower anchor points in turn made for flat line angles, so I ended up using re-directs, multiple anchor points or v-rigs. Also, lots of use of the lanyard on the various attachment points.

One of the challenges when doing this kind of work is not to smash up all the regrowth you are trying to keep in the lower canopy, so this was one of the points we were keen to explore further. There was some cut and chuck, but also rigging in the periphery of the canopy, using 12mm rigging lines, which are light and no too much hassle to move around, slide lines and also working with DMM’s new Offya trolley. All of these options allowed us to really move sections of canopy well away, and also to avoid targets on the ground.

A big thank you goes out to Jairo, Cipriano, Julian and Sanchez for their support and help during the pruning and also on the workshop day.

The workshop day started up a bit overcast and damp, but quickly cleared. We had a good crowd of people from private companies as well as municipal organisations. The whole event was lively and interactive, touching upon many aspects of managing and working with over-mature trees. The setting in the Green Wood chapel was rather interesting and unique. Apparently the architect responsible for the buildings in that area also designed New York’s Central Station.

Something like this takes a lot of planning and the logistics can be slightly daunting. I ended up taking two 32kg bags and one weighing in at 23kg. This was topped on the way back, because I had forgotten I would have to pack the Offya also, so that meant a fourth bag.

I ended up stranded in the departures hall with all these heavy bag, feeling a bit like a beached whale – luckily some kind soul from American Airlines took mercy on me and gave me a hand. Otherwise I would probably still be there now!

A big thank you to Tony, who joined us to do some filming on one of the days (footage to follow in due courses), Rachel, for being good company, Phil for letting me part of this – and Joe for his gracious hospitality– and his dry whit!

Should you be in New York, do not miss checking out Green Wood cemetery.