|Can you imagine this space without the Magnolia tree on the left? Or the peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) on the right? Or the red-barked Arbutus 'Marina' in the distance? I can't.|
I hadn't planned to focus on trees for today's Foliage Follow-up post created in connection with the monthly meme hosted by Pam at Digging but another exchange with my foliage-hating neighbor up the street shifted my attention back to my trees this week. If you've read my blog for awhile, you may recall that my city has a "view conservation" ordinance that allows homeowners to pursue claims against neighbors when they believe their views (or at least the views in place at the time the ordinance went into effect in November 1989) are obstructed. We didn't know anything about this ordinance until almost a year after we moved in, when one of our neighbors approached us about the very large Eucalyptus on the south side of our property. After educating ourselves on the ordinance's provisions, we finally agreed to take down the tree in the interest of good neighbor relations, even though the tree had clearly been in place well prior to the ordinance's effective date.
I thought all was well until almost 2 years later the same neighbor ambushed me as I was working in the front garden with yet another demand. As I thought we'd already gone to an extreme to accommodate her concerns, I was taken aback. After a lot of discussion, my husband and I decided to remove a second tree from our backyard border and trim back most of the remaining trees in the neighbor's line of sight. In addition to removing the one tree, I committed to an annual tree trimming schedule. This past December, I once again made good on my commitment and thinned the foliage of a dozen trees, reducing some crowns as well, to the extent that this could be done without endangering the trees in question.
After all that, the neighbor approached me again on the same theme as I was taking out the trash cans and picking up our mail Wednesday evening. I told her that I felt we'd gone out of our way to accommodate her concerns when we removed the Eucalyptus and, subsequently, a second tree. I pointed to how thoroughly the tree next to me had been thinned.
|This photo shows how deeply we "laced" the Agonis in this corner of the property. The Arbutus next to it, as well as a Pyrus calleryana, 5 other Agonis, 3 other Arbutus and our Magnolia were also cut back.|
She thinks the trees are "too tall." Based on the exchange we had the prior year, I know she'd like a large number of them to be removed entirely.
|The two Arbutus 'Marina' in the backyard|
|The Albizia julibrissin that occupies a central position along the top of the slope in the back border|
|The lone remaining Agonis flexuosa in the backyard border|
|Another Agonis flexuosa in the side garden, along the slope there (backed by a tree-size Heteromeles arbutifolia)|
She appears to believe that, if she pays the cost of removing the plants she sees as problematic, I should be satisfied. The only tree on her property is a pine about 5 feet tall. I suspect the only trees on our property that may meet her approval may be these:
|Dwarf Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa', currently about 2 feet tall|
|Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', between 5 and 6 feet tall|
This time, I'm holding firm. I feel we've already acted within the spirit of the ordinance. I also feel that the removal of trees, especially in a period of severe drought, is unconscionable. Trees not only provide a framework for the garden, they protect the other plants within it, providing shade and preventing the loss of moisture in the soil. They help cool the house too. And I expect they help to stabilize the ground, especially where the the surfaces slope. I can't imagine my garden without our trees, only a portion of which I've shown in this post. Can you? I know the State of California has invalidated local ordinances that prohibited homeowners from pulling out water-sucking lawns - doesn't it also seem that the state has an interest in preserving trees? No one knows how long the current drought will persist - some people claim it could last for 50 years or more. Establishing new plants, not to speak of new trees, under our current water restrictions would be difficult to say the least.
I've told my neighbor to the west that I think I've done what is right by her and my garden so the next step is hers. If she wishes to file a complaint with the city's view restoration commission, she has to start with an informal complaint to us in writing, to which I'll respond in detail. To file a formal complaint with the city, she has to pay an application fee, which I understand is currently on the order of $5000. Then, we'll see if she has any flying monkeys to release. I'm reasonably certain she doesn't have any talking trees at her disposal.
My apologies if this sounds like a rant instead of a homage to foliage. Please visit Pam at Digging to find other foliage-focused posts.
All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party