A Tree-Lover’s Lament: “I Can’t Take it Anymore”


A Response by Julie Walton Shaver of Tree Growers Diary
So, um, here’s my thing. See, if my neighbor who hates trees would go ahead and cut down the stupid Norway maple in his front yard that keeps shedding huge branches every time the wind blows, I could plant something new and fun to watch; a Donald Wyman crabapple has been on my wish list for about eight years now.Willow

So, yes, I’m in agreement. Cut down your trees! Let’s start with the dreaded Bradford pear (of which I have two, I’m ashamed to say). Next: all Norway maples have to go. Can we leave up the sugar maples though? What would a fall palette be without some orange leaves? Oh, right, we can buy those plastic ones at the store and wrap them around the light posts for a splash here and there.

I wrote in my blog recently about piggy-backing on the Shade Tree Commission’s booth at the Country Fair. Here’s what I learned: PEOPLE HATE TREES. Three-quarters of the people who visited the booth complained to the poor commissioner that the stinkin’ Shade Tree Commission doesn’t ever actually DO anything about all the darn shade in town.

And then I read this Henry Mitchell thing on your blog and people are writing in telling their neighbors to cut down the trees?! What’s gotten into the world? I LIKE shade. Didn’t anybody ever hear of skin cancer? I like to sit outside and not be hot. I like to watch birds and squirrels and hawks and I don’t much like doing this while my neighbors can see me from their kitchen window. I want a tree between me and him, a vertical fence defining the air space between us and darkening the ground so I don’t have to squint from sun glare. You can buy tomatoes at the store. Where can I buy shade? 

But you know what? That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. The tree haters have gotten to me and won. A 10-year-old even wrote in recently to tell me my site had a stupid name. WHAT ELSE should I call it? (Kid probably can’t even tell an acorn from a sugar maple seed.) Oh, dozens of people picked up acorns from a basket at the fair and, I swear, wanted to know "what are these"?

I’m closing down shop, cutting down my trees, joining the mainstream, and starting up a new site: a web cam focused on the concrete sidewalk in front of my house. How will it grow and change? What can I learn from it?  Who cares anyway? By next week, some developer will plop another house in my front yard.  After all, there’s a population explosion and the trees are taking up too much space. We have to make room for gigantic houses with itty bitty yards and great big 3-zone air conditioners.

As for the grand 100-foot-tall beech that lived when Abraham Lincoln was president, cut her down too. All new houses have to make room for a driveway.

[Photo by Julie Walton Shaver.]


  1. Yeah, I just heard about a beautiful 300 year old oak in Vacaville, Ca. that’s going to be cut down because construction crews who were widening a street cut through 25% of its roots and now the tree is considered a hazard.

  2. I’m all fired up and ready to hate on two trees: Platanus x acerifolia (London Plane Tree) and Ligustrum lucidum (Waxy Privet).

    I only hate London Planes because they’re a terrible selection for where I live, and they’re way over-planted. San Francisco doesn’t get hot or cold enough for this tree to do well, and as a result every one of them has anthracnose and looks like hell. As a tax-paying property owner in this city, I want to know who allows that tree to be planted, and I WANT THAT PERSON FIRED! Seriously, if it’s your job to pick good trees for San Francisco, and London Planes are the best you can come up with, you should be working at Home Depot.

    Ligustrum lucidum. I hate this tree because my backyard neighbor’s drops tons of crap on my vegetable garden all summer long. I try to spin the crumbly dead flower bits as “organic soil amendment”. The guy who owns the tree saw me whacking at it and came over to see if I’d like to pay someone to prune it. Nice try. It’s hanging over my property line, and I’m at liberty to prune that f*therm*cker back to the fence myself for free. If it was a better tree I wouldn’t do it. He’s got Algerian ivy growing in the crown. If he doesn’t do something about that soon, the ivy will shade out the tree and it will die. Then he’ll really be up shit creek. How hard is it to get off your ass once in awhile and do some yardwork? I don’t understand people.

  3. Well, this explains why, as I flew over and drove through the suburbs of Chicago, why I saw so many nice little houses on nice little lots sitting in the blazing sun and probably roasting in the vile Chicago summer, all WITHOUT TREES!

    I kept thinking how pretty some of those cute little houses would look with some well-chosen shade trees in front and neat little flower or veggie gardens in back. Sourwood, purple smoke bush, lots of things that would have been in fine proportion with the houses and would have cast some much-needed summer shade and reduced people’s summer electric bills.

    But no, block after block of cute little houses with nary a tree in sight.

    And here’s me from the Pacific Northwest looking around, wondering, “Where are the TREES for pity’s sake???”

  4. “I like to watch birds and squirrels and hawks and I don’t much like doing this while my neighbors can see me from their kitchen window.”

    Um, yeah, me too, but the idea that birds and squirrels and hawks can live in deciduous shade trees alone is mistaken.


    “… few species live their lives solely within the canopies of trees and never within the sole confines of a single tree or small group of trees.”

    They need understory growth like small trees and shrubs to fill in the vertical landscape between grass and treetops, and understory growth needs a little bit of light once in a while, which means *judicious* use of tall trees.

    Your neighbors must have interesting architecture — a second-floor kitchen screened from view by a tree! Our neighbors on both sides and we have privet hedges that screen their respective kitchens from our sunroom. The hedge also provides shelter for birds like chickadees, blue jays, and titmice, who like to dart to the feeders, grab a seed, and find cover (from the sharp-shinned hawk who picked off a pigeon on the ground day before yesterday) while they crack open and eat the seed.

    The 75-year-old tree canopy is a pretty far flight away for that — and there might be a hawk lurking there too.

    Of course, if my neighbors keep on letting maple seedlings get out of control, the hedge may not be there after a while. Perhaps that barrel of acorns at the Shade Tree Commission booth could include some information on how to recognize and manage unwanted tree seedlings before they get to be too large for one person to take care of. I think that has a lot to do with the “hate” on trees.

    That, however, would require a balanced approach to trees — admitting they have a down side as well as an up side.

    C’mon, Julie, I’m sure you can do it if you try …

  5. Let’s see if I have this right.

    NO TREES!!!
    Or at least not any that my immediate neighbors dislike.

    They are messy year round with all that shedding of spring flower,summer seed,fall leaves.(Neat freaks rejoice)

    Limbs can fall on our cars electric lines and houses, all of which would be safe if there were no trees.(Wow, we will be even safer)

    Our individual gardens can florish in the sun without that horrid shade and we can all sit in our air-conditioned homes and look out the windows at those sun loving sterile hybrids with good manners.
    (No one need be offended or worry about their home equity being affected by those “different” gardens).

  6. I have been growling for years about people who dont like trees. What the hell is wrong with them anyway? I like shade, I like a cool house. I bought a house 2 years ago in a plotted out neighbor hood. No trees in the yard. (these yards are small)
    I swore I would never have a homewithout trees. But the neighbors around me had trees, a huge maple next door in the back, with bunches of shrubs and things the birds absolutely loved. 2 yards over were huge pines where jays and cardinals and a HAWK! lived. lovely. 4 months after I moved in the guy next door killed himself (the damn maple probly drove him to it) and the people 2 doors down sold. The people who moved in? you guessed it. They hadnt lived there a week and down went the maple,the shrubs the pines. I stood in the backyard and watched and swore. Well screw em. I am have planted assloads of shrubs and despite the small yard size, I have carefully chosen a suitable tree to plant in spring.
    My yard is kinda the “messy” yard. The one where I let the dead butterfly bushes and some perenial branches sit over the winter, the one that has a nice big brush pile for the birds and critters. How do you have so many birds and squirrels and stuff in your yard they ask. I roll my eyes. They cant even grow grass. But hey, all that landscape mulch completely surrounding the house with no plants in it looks gooooood.
    The neighbors want to build a privacy fence. heh. Go ahead I said. But dont mangle my peach tree next to the fence.

  7. As the song says…”they took all the trees and put em in a tree museum…and they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them. Don’t it always seems to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, they paved paradise, and put up a parkin’ lot.

  8. I think maybe the difference between tree lovers and tree haters is a difference in perspective–long-term vs. short-term. As a tree lover, I am awed by the fact that the silver maple in my yard, though some people consider it a terrible tree, has stood here for over fifty years, has been here through several families, and will hopefully be here for a long time to come. Sure, I would love more sun for my veggie garden, but I’m not about to rip out a tree to get it. It just seems weird to me to rip out a tree for my own gain when quite possibly the tree will be here long after I’m gone. I guess, to me, my little complaints and wants are inconsequential in the whole scheme of things. Some things matter more than the occasional branch falling into the flower beds.

  9. After two year’s worth of hurricanes there’s hardly a tree in site in my town. Sad shame too. I’ve put in six so far this year and one from the year before survived … so let’s see, I’m still down by ten. Sometimes it takes losing something to realize that you have really taken it for granted. I love the sun — just not all the time in every part of the garden (nor the AC bill that goes along with it). The important thing for me now is to plant smart and pick the right types of trees — those that handle hurricanes better (and yes, there are some). And then buy a few more trees next year and the next.

  10. Firefly, but I DO see both the good and bad of trees, as evidenced by my 88-page Web site the chronicles said pros and cons of each of my trees, plus a few that aren’t mine.

    Some trees are good, some trees are bad, many trees are planted improperly, but OVERALL, we NEED trees and the ones that people plant ought to be well-thought-out. THAT’S what my site is all about: helping people to avoid the sorts of mistakes that I’ve made over the years, and helping people see the beauty in the everyday changes of nature that make our world so beautiful.

    I don’t know about your neighborhood, but my neighborhood without its tall shade trees would be a hot, boring city scape. Why, even if every house had a tomato garden, it’ll still be hot and boring.

    On the other hand, yeah, I agree that we need to get control of the invasives, and that starts NOT with the homeowners planting trees, but with the growers who grow and sell them. Now THERE’S a rant for you.

  11. Julie, I am with you 110%! These people are out of their minds, and more often than not, they are too lazy and stupid to care for and realize the huge assets trees present for a property. I can’t believe there are individuals out there who say we have TOO many.
    It is unnecessary over-development and ever increasing population growths that I find to be alarming. Not trees.

  12. LOL, I am a Chicago-proper resident, and I am filled with disgust at all the new construction which leaves ZERO green space on the lot – and then a lot of these bozos don’t want a tree in the parkway as (eep) they might have to rake leaves for an hour every year.

    we absolutely need trees, besides the cooling benefits, they suck up some pollutants and other pollutants stick to the leaves (and not in our lungs).

    As I read once, “A city without trees is just a scab on the earth.”

  13. I totally dis-agree see im 15 but ive always said i was born in the wrong era im a hippi. not literally but figurativly i absolutly love everything nature trees i mean how can u cut down trees for the fun of it? it makes me sick.

  14. I don’t mind chopping down the big oversized trees on my yard to make room for my own fruit trees. I just don’t like it when I have neighbors who have those huge trees and they block out all the sunlight for your own trees. You just can’t help but to hope the tree falls on it’s own one day…

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