by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

 A tree provides shade, oxygen, food, lumber, medicine and shelters creatures of all kinds.  Some people revere the tree more than any other living thing, and surely its value is great.  Breathe in, breathe out, thank a tree.

Eudora in Pescadero

This tree, named Eudora, is in Pescadero and my niece has taken many of her friends there to appreciate the uniqueness of it.

 When you have certain trees on your property, however, you might come to consider them less highly than you once did.

 Trees of Heaven, for instance, are really a Tree From Hell.  You can’t get rid of them and they grow so fast!  They are a weed tree that will strangle everything else for dominance.  And, they drop sap on your vehicles, ugh.

We had 11 or so of the darn things on our property when we bought the place and had to get permission from the City to remove them, they were so large.  Fortunately, it doesn’t cost a lot, normally, to get a tree removal permit.  The actual removal of the blasted things costs about $1000 per tree!  Yikes!  We still have about 5 to be removed, but 3 are small and need no removal permit (this is true, honest).  It has to be done soon, though, because they are cramping our sycamores.

Tree From Hell

You can see from the picture, they pop up anywhere and I have to keep after the little buggers every week.

 In our area, there is frequently a huge uproar anytime someone wants to remove a tree to make way for a house or an addition or stop the damage they’re causing.  In one town close by, the Sheffield’s had to replace every tree being removed with 2 trees.  Mrs. Sheffield had a forest on her property and, taking down 7 trees, meant she had to replace them with 15!  Fifteen!  Even the Arborist doing the report on the trees argued against planting so many on the property, he said none of them would have a chance to grow so crowded up to each other.

 Once we had a neighbor complain that we were building too close to the oak that we shared (on the property line, thanks so much whoever planted it in 1970-something).  He actually had the gall to go to the public hearing on the matter – yes, everyone gets a chance to air their complaints when you are taking down a tree – and speak against, not the tree we were removing – which was what the hearing was FOR – but against the new foundation we had to add next to another tree.  Did he care so deeply about that tree when he tore into the rootball to build his own driveway?  Not really.  Some people…

 There are rules about building within the dripline of a tree, or driving over the area where the roots are, using pavers instead of concrete or asphalt around a tree, special fencing to protect it and so forth and so on.  Which, is mostly for the good, but, of course, it can be taken too far.

 A few years ago we had a client who was told that his addition was too close to a tree.  He either had to take the tree down OR hire an arborist for $1600 to determine how to mitigate the effects of construction so that the tree would not be harmed.  So, he got a permit to remove the tree (about $250), but, after construction, he ‘forgot’ to take the tree out…5 years later, the tree is thanking him!

 We recently visited Tahoe, which was the loveliest I’d ever seen it, we spent most of our time at one beach or another and I finally got a start on my tan. Anyway, we noticed that homes are built within a couple feet of the pines with no noticeable damage to the tree – they seemed pretty happy to us, but in our area, we have to stay outside the dripline or there will be hell to pay.  Why the difference?

Framing the view in Tahoe

Residents of Tahoe have a nice compromise to the problem of trees destroying their fabulous, money-making views.  They trim off the boughs in the offending area.  Tree above the lake, tree below the lake and only trunk at the lake.  We didn’t even notice for awhile.  It was almost like it was framing the view.

 We went to Acapulco a few years back.  (yes, we were pulled over by the Policia for ‘running a red light’  and had to pay them a bribe of $50)  We stayed where Liz Taylor had resided filming ‘Night of the Iguana’, with spectacular views of the bay.  The lady-of-the-house, Alicia, in anticipation of our visit, had gone to her neighbors and asked if she could have a tree trimmer come and get rid of all the dead palm branches.  She took flowers with her to each house to kind of bribe them.  It was part of the Homeowners Association rules that trees be trimmed to preserve the views, but poor Alicia had to keep going back to them, with more flowers, to beg for access.  It was worth it from my standpoint, I could sit on that patio for the rest of my born days!


Neighbors are always having feuds over trees.  I once looked out my window to see a hand sneaking over the back fence, dropping little bundles of branches that they had trimmed from our fig tree.  What the heck?  Legally, they were allowed to trim branches and take fruit that hung over the fence, but they aren’t supposed to dump it back on our side – and they did that with fruit, too!  Not enough to cause me to gripe too much at them since they loved our dog and rarely fussed at him for barking.  Give and take – that’s being neighborly (but, I can mention it now because I have a blog and they don’t 😉

There are neighborhoods in a feud with one another because the street trees are oozing something nasty that’s tracked into houses and ruining carpets and dripping onto cars and ruining their paint. 

Another city is dealing with neighbors arguing over trees vs solar panels.  The trees have to be trimmed constantly or removed.  And the problem is it’s the neighbor’s tree.  Tricky, that.

Liquid Amber trees have these spikey seedpod ball-things that people are always tripping over and falling and who do they sue?  Not the City that planted them, but the homeowner who was luckless enough to be stuck with one (go sweep up the dangerous balls and 20 minutes later, the sidewalk is again a minefield).

Or, what about those Ginko Biloba trees?  In the Autumn they turn a glorious yellow and the entire sidewalk is covered, so beautiful.  But they have a horrendously stinky fruit that stains the sidewalk AND the air around it.  Yuck.  The fruit is prized by some people, though.  Unless you are one of those who use the fruit (in, what, Kimchee, maybe?), don’t get a fruiting Ginko Biloba…just don’t. 

Trees have their pluses and their minuses.  Some trees are special, some are just a nuisance and others, ironically, get it the way when we’re trying to be ‘green’ and save energy costs.    Let’s try for perspective when dealing with trees.