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Losing A Giant

Articles: Losing A Giant

The mature sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) towers over the author’s home. Photo: Barbara Blossom Ashmun

On a hot afternoon late last summer, my neighbor Doug and I sat peacefully in the shade of my sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua), taking a break from pruning a big willow. Doug is as crazy about gardening as I am, and the path between our gardens is well traveled.

At first we heard little pings.

“Must be those spiny fruit falling off the sweetgum and hitting the greenhouse roof,” I said. “But it’s awfully early in the season.”

A cracking sound like a rifle followed, as a huge limb dropped to the ground with a thundering thud, landing ten feet away from where we sat. We jumped to our feet. Branches and leaves quivered while more seed pods fell like hail.

“Oh my God!” I yelled. “If we’d been sitting a little closer we’d have been killed.” I began laughing hysterically from the shock. Doug laughed too, and then he went for his chain saw.

“Let me cut that up and get the wood out of the way.”

“No, you’ve done enough today. I’ll hire help tomorrow.”

“I like to help,” he insisted. “Get...


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