Man vs. tree

Man vs. tree

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My house with trees

Why do people hate and fear trees?  It seems incredible, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support such a bizarre conclusion.

During a recent afternoon at my regular salon, the owner told me about an encounter with a neighbor. She has a large elm tree in the back of her property that overhangs—as is very common—the property next door. Apparently, the tree is dropping plenty of leaves and other debris in her neighbor’s backyard.  During a discussion with her neighbor, my friend suggested that the tree could be trimmed so that no branches intruded on his property. In response, her neighbor bluntly suggested—“Why don’t you just take it down?”

Another friend of mine moved to the city from the suburbs about ten years ago. She drove by her old house recently and couldn’t help but notice that almost all of the twenty-plus trees on her former property were gone. I remember when we visited her there years ago. The house was modest, but there were acres of wooded yard behind it—perfect for disc golf and kids’ adventures. It’s all gone now—just a few meatball shrubs and lots of mulch.

The garden columnist for the magazine I edit can confirm the paranoid attitude that many homeowners seem to have toward trees. She relates that one of her clients had an issue with the height of a certain tree. “Can’t we trim that back?” he asked. His concern was—yes—that the tree was intruding too far into the sky.

As for me, I have more reason to resent trees than most gardeners. There are three (3) maples—two Norway—within a twenty-foot area in front of my house, not to mention a big cherry planted in my front yard. The roots are visible above the ground in many spots; the dry shade these trees produce severely limits what I can plant here. Indeed, this is why I’m such a bulb freak; early spring is the only time I can have color.

Yet. I wouldn’t even begin to consider getting rid of these trees. They’re not the best choices (I didn’t pick them), but they’re beautiful in their way. They’re trees. They do all the things that trees are supposed to do: absorb CO2, cool the house, provide oxygen, decorate the street.  They’re part of the reason I’d never dream of living in a denuded suburb. Long live trees—with all their problems.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on June 30, 2014 at 8:00 am, in the category Feed Me, It’s the Plants, Darling, Real Gardens.

    • Laura
    • 17th June 2016

    The lack of regard for the proper way to plant, mulch or maintain large trees seems to also support this conclusion. Lack of education only adds to the issues. Like you, I have a variety of ‘not nice’ trees (black walnut, silver maple, boxelder maple, black cherry, Norway maple), but the shade they provide (somewhat) makes up for the issues these species can have.

    • Suzanne
    • 19th October 2016

    It appears that people forget how big a tree might get and how long it will live. The former owners of my home planted a Japanese maple only a few feet from the house and the septic tank. The tree is now taller than the house, provides wonderful shade and gorgeous color in the fall. I’m paying my arborist to cut it down and kill the roots/stump. The reason? The roots found a way into the septic tank. I just had the septic tank pumped, and must get rid of this beautiful tree (and possibly a second tree) to avoid future stinky, messy situations. I visit this tree daily, and in my heart apologize to it for the anticipated execution day. The tree has done nothing wrong, but because of a lack of foresight, it must go.

    • Suzanne
    • 31st October 2016

    Tree is too big to move and I have nowhere else to plant it. BTW, what’s an air spade?

    • Beth
    • 8th November 2016

    The neighbor in the first paragraph probably can’t understand why the salon owner would want to keep a tree that dumps debris after every windstorm, making unnecessary work for the salon owner, and was simply expressing surprise at the proposal, not hatred or fear of trees in general.

    • bittenbyknittin
    • 10th November 2016

    I took four silver maples out of my backyard and have not regretted it at all. I miss the shade but do not miss the mess plus they probably would have come down a few years ago when we experienced a wind shear (which twisted the neighbors elm, splitting the trunk). BUT I have replaced those maples with a tulip and three redbuds, and plan to add another tulip, to recover some of that shade. I have a Crimson King in the front yard (the S-L-O-W-E-S-T growing tree in the world, it seems), and would like to add some English walnuts and maybe an almond. And that sunny backyard is just screaming for an orchard. At least, that is what I hear.

    • Jen
    • 13th November 2016

    I appreciate trees, but have neighbors who maybe appreciate them a bit too much. Like, some trees grow really fast and are essentially weeds and maybe don’t belong right next to the foundation of their historic home. But NOOO, you can’t cut it down it’s a TRRREEEE!

    • Liz
    • 14th November 2016

    If a tree was dropping plenty of leaves and other debris in my yard, I would be going–hooray free organic matter!

    • Ivette Soler
    • 14th November 2016

    I tend to agree with you personally, Elizabeth. My house is ringed by sycamore and liquidambar – 7 in total on a small corner lot. They make planting many things difficult, but I won’t think about removing them. They are a huge pain in my ass, but I honor them.
    However, in my business, I have to step away from my personal treehugger feelings and advocate for what is best for the landscape in question, and often this includes removing trees. And the fuss and hubbub I get is extreme! Even when a 40′ ficus is lifting a foundation, I get blowback. It shades the house? Yes – but that house has a compromised foundation from a badly chosen and sited tree.
    So many trees are put in willy nilly, with no thought to what happens years down the road. Contractors shoehorn large trees into what are essentially patio gardens. Homeowners want fast solutions to screening issues. Designers fall in love with a tree for its aesthetics, and practical matters be damned!
    Sometimes a tree has to come out.

    • admin
    • 15th November 2016

    Here in suburban Maryland the State Highway Administration is spending $3 million to remove non native trees along i95 and they will replant with natives. I think this is rather ridiculous as they removed well established non natives with deep root systems. There were few animals and pollinators that benefited because the extreme noise and exhaust kept them away any way. They were healthy despite the drought over the previous years and acted as a carbon sink. Many are now gone. Newly planted trees are never tended to adequately despite contracting out to landscape companies, so the trees die.

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