Loss of tree costing me a fortune

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When a diseased tree was removed from my next-door neighbor’s back yard recently I couldn’t stop watching. It took four men almost two full days and a lot of skill to do the job. Huge pieces of trunk dangled back and forth in the air and had to be guided to exactly the right spot before they were dropped, and all that was done with no damage to my neighbor’s garden or my own.

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Several of the tree’s branches were hanging over my house, so I watched nervously, in case doing that might help. (Ha.) Above, the view from my bedroom.

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I was told that the tree was an ash that had probably gotten infected due to the removal of several of its branches. It clearly posed a safety hazard as long as it was standing.

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As suspected, the interior of the tree was being hollowed out by disease.  On the right, the machine used to get these humongous pieces of tree down the sidewalk to the chipper parked in the street.

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Because the tree had already lost more than one major limb, I underestimated how much shade it was still providing, as did my neighbor. So we experienced that familiar shock that gardeners report after trees come down and their shade gardens suddenly become sun gardens. We’ll see if these ferns make it or not. Ditto for all my hostas, thriving in their deer-free and (formerly) shady spot.

Moving on, there’s the effect of all the increased direct sunlight on my house. Honestly, though I’ve read lots about the cooling effect of trees, I wouldn’t have guessed how much impact this tree’s loss would have on my comfort level and air-conditioning bill.

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Suddenly, full sun was streaming into my living room, which made sitting in my favorite chair pretty uncomfortable. The wooden blinds on this window had been a poor choice to begin with – too heavy to operate easily, and not terribly effective at blocking the sun.

So I gave away the heavy wooden blinds and ordered some spiffy, high-efficiency double honeycomb shades that open and close from the middle. Above, what they look like now as winter approaches – open on the top for light, closed on the bottom (if needed) for privacy. On the right, what it looks like fully open, offering the best possible view of the garden.

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That doesn’t help the now-sunny porch, though. The view above used to be shaded all day and is now sunny until early afternoon, so I have still more shopping to do to and money to spend, though not from Next-Day Blinds this time – it doesn’t have indoor-outdoor products. Home Depot does, though, and they can be custom-sized. Covering the sunny sides of the porch is going to cost me.

Finally, next spring I’ll be shopping for a nice medium-size tree to put between the sun and my house and porch, and that won’t be cheap, either. It also won’t do much good for the first decade or more, so I’ll also be buying a market umbrella for the patio.

So I’m convinced, more than just reading about efficiency measures had never done, of the incalculable value of deciduous (leaf-dropping) trees that shade in the summer and let light through in the winter when it’s needed. There are lots of other benefits of trees, too, especially in urban settings.

The loss of this and several other trees in my part of town recently has neighbors wondering if there’s a tree replacement plan in effect. Residents are reluctant to replace them at all, much less with trees that’ll grow to the same impressive size as this surprisingly useful ash.

And by the way, my neighbor didn’t have to pay for the tree removal; it’s covered by our co-op fee.

Originally published on Greenbelt Live.

23 COMMENTS

  1. You have just outlined all the reasons I have not pulled the plug on a large messy Sycamore planted 20 feet from my house in my south facing front garden.

  2. My former house was “all sun, all of the time.” My current house holds 8 HUGE OLD trees in the backyard. I’ve never been a shade gardener, but to my surprise, I really enjoy the shade these babies supply. I can sit on the back deck and not burn up in the height of summer, which says a lot, and in June/July/August I haven’t had the need to turn on the AC until late afternoon.

    As a gardener, I had no idea just how much I would like the shade, but I do. I “get” where you’re coming from and can appreciate the loss.

  3. I took down a 50 year old ash tree a few years ago. I became known in my neighborhood as the Ash Assassin. The tree wasn’t long for this world, anyway. It had been afflicted with bacterial and fungal problems for years. The emerald ash borer had just arrived in Louisville arrived and its days were numbered. The removal left a huge gaping hole but it also created some fun new opportunities. A beech tree is planted in its place. My neighbors have forgiven me.

      • I would wait until Spring to plant and spend your time preparing the site. You wouldn’t want to move into a house that just had the old stuff removed. You might want refinished floors and a new coat of paint. Spring is a perfectly fine time to plant, especially if there’s some shade during part of the day.

        The site will need help:
        https://web.extension.illinois.edu/askextension/thisQuestion.cfm?ThreadID=15340&catID=199&AskSiteID=87

        Also, it’s nice to make friends with people who know people in the wholesale nursery business who sell trees ip to 15 feet tall at wholesale prices and then befriend nice young men who work at said nursery who like to do some extra work on the side.

        😉

  4. One phrase surfaced a hunch I’ve had for a long time. “got infected due to the removal of several of its branches”. Some tree people tell me that it is fine to prune as much as 1/3 of branches but I don’t buy it! I know that one of our beautiful Acer palmatums is suffering because of that and now we are in survival mode with major TLC for this maroon Japanese beauty.

  5. Our house had big, brittle melaleucas planted four feet from the house when we moved in. They’ve been removed and replaced with trees planted at a more reasonable distance (the yard has been regraded and the smashed roof tiles have been replaced, too!). The new trees don’t offer any shade yet and it’s going to be a loooong time. At least the acorn that I planted on the slope below the house is now tall enough to see from inside, though.

    • The tree trimmer in Susan’s photo is wearing spikes. That’s OK if you’re taking a tree down, but a real no-no if you’re trimming a healthy tree. It’s possible that they spiked the tree when they removed those branches in the past and that’s what caused the disease.

      I don’t let anyone near my trees with spikes.

  6. I have two very large maple trees along my driveway that are declining. I hate to take them down because they provide shade to vehicles and house (and us!), but a large branch recently came down in windstorm and damaged my car. I’m not sure how many time my insurance company will cover such loss, so down they must come. So sad.

  7. Much to my joy, the neighbor to the West of me removed a long line of flowering pears a few years ago. I was so overjoyed since they’d been robbing my yard of sun more & more as they grew taller. It still amazed me that there was so much … LIGHT … coming in through my windows, though. A shade structure definitely helped.

    Now I think the neighbor to my south may need to remove a 15-year-old deodar cedar that’s suffering mightily in our 4th year of drought. If she does, I may not have any shade garden at all. Ferns just cannot survive direct California sun!

  8. Shades on the outside of the home are a far more efficient way keep heat out, but since you are not in the arid southwest it’s probably not the issue it is in my hotter, semi-arid climate.

    • hb: I agree and recommend Sunsetter blinds. I love them.

      We lost a 90yo oak the day we moved into this house. It cost $6K to remove and changed the back yard from full to partial shade. The tree guy said we could keep the oak if we vacated the kitchen/dining room area whenever there was a storm. (snark)

  9. Loss of large trees is a Watershed Management problem.

    Atlanta has been loosing huge oaks for a decade. The sun/shade issue has not been as dire as the watershed management. 50-60 year old homes that never had water in their basement, are now getting water in the basement. And, topsoil erosion is almost logarithmic in scale with each downpoor.

    With each client I’ve gained due to tree loss, often it’s not their tree but a neighbor’s tree loss causing the watershed management problems, there is a great sadness at losing an ‘old soul’. Along with designing new trees, I’m designing great swaths of groundcovers/shrubs for faster watershed management controls.

    Leaving my 30 year garden a few weeks ago, part of selling it within 24 hours of listing, and at highest price since 2008, were 6 huge crape myrtle trees controlling every sun/shade issues. My estimate was $40/month savings for 6mos/per year, do the math !! It is having your cake and eating it too. More, were the birds/butterflies, summer blooms, and fall color those trees attract.

    My new home is 115 years old, with full baking sun at the back, and am in shock no one previously planted trees. They will be planted later this fall. No longer young, as I was at the front end of my previous home, I am buying 6″ caliper trees and hiring a man with a Caterpillar to plant.

    Back rooms of our home? Closed off all summer did not use them, except as walk thru to back door. Hot ! Investment for the trees/men will come back for decades.

    Sorry for the loss of your tree, and all the collateral joys it brought.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    (Obama said something interesting at the front end of his terms, I saw the video on tv, ‘we should be paying double for our energy.’ Hmm. Really? I took quick action, and planted 2 more trees, 35 gallon, to catch the late morning sun at the front of my home.)

  10. Took down a black walnut two years ago. Same hollowed out innards as above explained why we had limbs falling even in mild storms. Replaced it with a sugar maple 4 foot “twig” that the electric company gave me for free just for this reason of shading the house in the summer and not in the winter. Amazingly, it’s shot up to about 20 feet now. Need more like 40 feet to get my shade back though. Mostly affects our deck, getting up to 120 degrees in the afternoon. It really is a shocking difference when trees of this height are removed.

  11. Losing a tree is never easy! However, as you look to replace it, please keep in mind that for each inch of caliper, you’re looking at a year of transplant shock. So a 6″ caliper tree will not put out a lot of top growth for about 6 years as it works on replacing roots. Oftentimes, like Marty mentioned, the small whip of a tree will catch up and exceed the size of a larger tree in the same time span. Planting trees of a smaller size may also be easier when working within an existing landscape as their smaller ball/container is easier to wedge into roots or structures already present.

  12. I know I shouldn’t be laughing, but I am quietly giggling on the other side of this continent in the Pacific NW. About 20 years ago, we discovered that at least one of our Douglas fir trees (it turned out to be two) had root phytophthera. The arborist recommended removing all susceptible trees within 50 of either tree to eliminate the possibility of the disease transferring by roots to remaining trees. A total of 8 Douglas firs were removed by felling them to the rear of our property into the neighboring forest. Fortunately I done almost nothing in that part of our property at that point, but the difference in the amount of light we received was like night versus day. So I sympathize how that makes a huge difference, because I have lived through it and now my garden benefits from the additional sun.

  13. Thanks for sharing your experiences. We have an old maple on its last legs located too close to the house. We’ve been putting off cutting it down because of the energy-saving shade it provides.

  14. I too commiserate. We had to take down a huge basswood tree early last spring. It did give us an opportunity to install PV panels on the roof but the late day heat in my kitchen was a shock. I not only get the heat from the sun but also the reflected heat from the hardscaping.

    I appreciate the comments about the shades and the Sunsetter blinds but I think we’re going to have to build a porch or a pergola to help while the new trees grow…

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