- Author: Lowell Cooper
There is little doubt that trees are wonderful – both out in nature and in home gardens. My wife and I have lived in our current home for over 20 years and when we moved into our very modest-sized front and backyard were quite undeveloped. With the advice and consent of a Master Gardener, who was incidentally quite wonderful, I embarked on a 7-year plan since I thought that was how long we would be in the house. At this point, I have no idea where I thought we were going after 7 years. I also had my own planting ideas. So off I went and within 6 months I had put in about 20 trees. Little ones, like dwarf lemon, apricot, and peach (which is not all that small). I also put in a jacaranda, a wonderful palm (Washingtonia), an empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa), a silk tree (Albizia), 2 Arbutus, and a Robinia, and others. They all began to grow and for the (most part) stayed quite healthy.
Our house is in a hilly section of Benicia and we love our view. In fact, it is in a development that takes advantage of the view and we have a really dramatic hill-view of the Carquinez Straits and bridge which is a great source of pleasure. There is really a lot of life on urban waterways. The problem is, our neighbors also treasure their view.
The smaller trees grew quite well and before too long we were able to give bags of fruit to the neighbors and to receive their largesse also. All good. The big trees, however, also grew rather spectacularly. I must say I feel like I did nothing to encourage them other than look at them often with admiration. They were placed so that they didn't interfere with our view, but not so for the neighbors, who seemed to enjoy the arboreal majesty as much as we did. Much to their credit, there were no big complaints. In fact, we weren't noticing just how intrusive they were for the neighbors until we were standing on their property and happened to notice that they couldn't see the water anymore. Clearly, our seven-year plan had some limits: we had outgrown it.
It was a hard decision, but we thought it best for neighbor goodwill to cut some down. So, after 15 years of enjoying them, many had to come down. I tried to be as selective as I could about what to eliminate, but I missed each and every one. It is amazing to me just how much majesty the big trees added to the garden space and the property as a whole.
I ask myself what I learned from the experience. I got 15 years of enjoyment from the trees and that makes it worth doing, keeping in mind what the neighborhood can bear. Gardening is a community event, in a private garden as well as a public one. And a good neighbor policy has to be part of the landscaping plan.