Man vs. tree

Aleae Smith5 comments1121 views
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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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. An air spade is a device that blasts compressed air at the ground blowing the dirt away from the roots. It enables much more root mass to be maintained than a tree spade and also allows the relocation of large trees more easily because you aren’t moving all the soil with the tree. I have even heard of hobbyists making their own and just renting the compressor to move 30′ trees.

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