Maple Massacre

Maple Massacre

Remember these guys?  They originally worked for the City and were responsible for my funny Monday post awhile back, called Roots ‘a Rotten. Laid off from the City, they moved on to greener pastures.

With a new job, they are now your friendly utility workers and their job is to protect the utility company’s property. Hey, can you blame them?  But we know how you feel about what they do to YOUR trees. So who is the AXE MURDERER here? Well, let’s have a chat about that.

The utility company , in my case National Grid, is very willing to help you in regards to planting trees on your property. They have a nice little diagram that gives you tips on tree placement in relationship to their lines and your property.

If you click the link above, you will download a pdf file that has this handy chart, tree planting instructions, the Dig Safely phone number (which everyone should have)  and a list of recommended small trees that you can plant under low utility lines or in confined spaces.

It is invaluable. Take it from me. I use it to let clients know that I am not the only one recommending proper tree placement.

I am doing this post because a fellow blogger, Char’s Gardening, commented on my Tree Tips Tuesday post. I realized that she had a really good and simple point. ‘How hard is it to look up’?

After all, overhead lines are the easiest to see, yet the ones we take the most for granted. They have a tendency to look innocuous but can be quite harmful – just think kids climbing the tree.

So I thought I better explore this a bit. And funny thing is, you can easily see how many people ignore what is overhead or down below.

Let’s see what I am talking about. Think this owner made a mistake? Wires are laying on what is left of the tree top, so this poor maple may get the axe again before winter. Nobody wants to kill the cable during football season.

Or how about this poor grouping of trees, left. Look how much property the homeowner has. These trees could have had a nice home moved back a bit.

How often do we see large trees that are better suited for state parks and open meadows planted like you see here. It is not only bad for the trees, but your utility bill as well. The cost of maintaining the trees gets passed on to consumers, even those without any property.

We see this over and over and over again, the ritual maiming of stately trees. All it takes is a little foresight and a willingness to understand the growth habit of the tree being planted.

But what about the trees health? This repeated trimming weakens the tree, and this is very evident in the image above. The size of the leaves are nowhere near what is to be expected.

And it gets worse. City trees have a triple whammy. They get assaulted above, at and below ground. Sewer lines, sidewalks, road salt, road repairs, car exhaust, accidental vehicular damage, and on and on.

Look at the line of trees below left. There is so little left of the trees after so many limbs were hacked, and a good storm will likely snap those large and heavy branches at some point. It is because of the severe angle that they are protruding and hanging over the roadway all the way down the street. A big ice storm and lights out for them.

Have a closer look and see what was done below.

Tree topping is when the tree’s main leader gets trimmed to a nub. It deprives the tree of its natural shape, causing the tree to pump out fast growing sprouts. These sprouts occur in large numbers, making it necessary for the tree to get repeated and often trimmings. This weakens the tree in addition to ruining the character and beautiful shape. In addition, the tree is more prone to disease and open to decay by suffering constant trimming wounds. Branches and limbs are severed, causing immediate energy expended for repair and regrowth.

There are no utility lines here, but these trees have their own problems to deal with. They are cute when small, especially the pine. But, planting these young pine between Fairview maple, both having a 40 to 50 foot spread each, at two or four feet apart is just ludicrous. These are not volunteers, they appear to have been planted, since there is a long line of them repeating the pattern. There is a house to the far right in the image, that sits way back. Why these trees were planted only ten feet from the roadside drainage ditch behind them is beyond me. This guy had acres and acres to plant them.

And the final tree brings a tear to my eye. It is the graceful Weeping Willow, trying its hardest to keep the majesty, even with half of it gone through repeated butchering.

There are old, happy trees that were planted properly. They are near driveways and homes, but at locations that give the roots room to roam and the canopy the freedom it needs. Here are two example, one a maple and one a willow. They are on properties that I designed. I was so fortunate to have these beauties in place when I was hired.

Click to see this willow. It has a graceful and natural form.

The maple below is just beautiful in fall. It is brilliant red, complementing the laceleaf Japanese maple I had specified for the front bed. The newly planted  crabapple also flushes red in fall.

I know many of you are seasoned gardeners and do not need advice on tree placement, but I just want remind a few to look up next time you are planting.

I just realized all the homicidal references I made in this post. Massacre; butchering; axe murderer; beheading; assaulted; limbs were hacked; ritual maiming; kill; suffering; limbs severed; and lights out. Sounds like the promo for a horror movie, not a post about trees.

Whoa, that is some psychological tell. No denying how I feel about trees. If you feel the same way, print out the pdf and go on your own crusade. If you see a homeowner purchasing a tree, ask them where they are planting it and show them the handout. You could save a life and prevent eventual treeicide.

Let’s not stop there, we could make a bumper sticker like this one below to show our save the trees stance.  Kidding of course, since I am no activist. Have a great tree filled day, all.

Update: Elephant’s Eye has a new post where she wrote about TREEdom. She just let me know. Stop in and see. She always has the most beautiful photos from one of the most heavenly places on Earth.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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26 Responses to Maple Massacre

  1. Great post! We’re fortunate that our utility lines are all buried underground. No overhead wires… very nice.

    • Our street has underground wiring as well. But directly behind my property in an easeway, is the electric transformer, cable and telephone wiring. I can never get a good photo of the whole garden for this reason. So many wires because there are so many multiple tenant rentals behind us.

  2. Karen says:

    I so agree with you! This post should be required reading for everyone who wants to plant a tree. Excellent descriptions of the indignities trees suffer needlessly for lack of foresight ‘or simply looking up’.

  3. One says:

    Hi Donna, I love trees but I think I love your Bumper Sticker even more. 🙂 What a fantastic idea!

    • You probably do not have this problem where you live. I imagine your area is far more eco-friendly and cares about the appearances of place. But, feel free to print my bumper sticker. The more trees we save, the better.

  4. I just wrote about TREEdom ;>)

  5. I think anyone who is about to plant a tree should read this post. I see this sort of atrocity all the time, and often wish they’d just deal the final blow, cut the tree down, and plant a beautiful new specimen in a more appropriate location. We have hundreds of trees here, and I know we’re fortunate to have the space to allow all of them to reach their full potential, without being hampered. We’re also lucky that all of our utilities, not just power, are underground. Some trees along the main road leading here though have been butchered repeatedly by the electric company, not unlike some of the ones you depicted above. So sad.

    • I know, that is why I am always armed with the National Grid information. I always wondered why homeowners let trees like that standing. But, what really perplexes me if when they plant them right on the property line when they have oodles of property and frontage.

      Again, it is not the power authorities fault. They have no choice. Their lines are usually there first. Plus, there is an easement involved. People just disregard it and go past their build to line.

  6. Great post done in a very entertaining manner. Yes, we have the horrid sad chopped and chipped trees all over town. We can’t plant near power lines. However, sometimes, the lines come in years after trees were planted. I’m so glad you’re getting the word out.~~Dee

    • I know there are always exceptions, like in new development areas where underground can not be installed. It is good that you have regulations preventing this type of planting, but sometimes the homeowners do it anyway. I always tell them if they plant in easement areas, they risk losing their newly planted gardens. I have one such client now, who has planted 30 feet off her property. I told her not to plant anything she can not part with. She also put in a rock paved trail that goes about 100 feet onto property owned by a corporation. Someday, when development ensues, her private retreat will be no more.

  7. TufaGirl says:

    Sometimes I wonder if the trees came before the power lines.

    • In some cases they surely have been. Someone may know, but I believe that the early 1900’s brought electricity to homes, so that makes trees around eighty to one hundred years or so. But many of the trees I photographed either grow very rapidly or are not old enough by the looks of the tree to have been there before the roads were constructed and lines laid. I just know from experience how many people plant them like this. Also, that is why the power company has the handout, because they run into this all the time. I tried not to get the houses in the images so I did not single out homeowners, but more than likely, they may not even be original owners anyway.

  8. In 2010 you would think we might be more advance to have a more harmonious system of power… in harmony with our earth and aesthetic. Sigh! Great post! ;>)

  9. TS says:

    I’ve seen so many trees chopped into bizarre Dr. Seussian forms that I automatically cringe when I see low hanging lines in residential areas because weird trees are sure to follow. I have a consult with an arborist soon to deal with a girdled root on my dogwood. I’m very curious to talk to a professional about the trees on my property! I just hope the fix isn’t a fortune!

  10. Tricia says:

    How terribly sad for the butcher job on the trees. Our utilities (Electric, Phone, etc) are all underground at out retirement house in North Florida, the only power lines are along the road. The power company which is a Co-op will come along and trim any branches that are close to those lines but they do a very nice job, they chip everything up and leave you a nice pile of mulch.

    The only problem I had with them …. well OK 2 problems but I am being snotty OK.
    1) They came and took out a whole line of Flat Wood Plum trees (Hog Plums) that were growing along the private road in front of our property. I did not plant them and they were not inside our fenced in property line BUT they were totally awesome in the Spring when they were in bloom I just hated that they took them out… buzzed them right off at ground level. SHAME ON them.
    2) They just came and trimmed branches off a couple of our trees, they did a nice job, ground up everyone of them and left the mulch BUT they ran their truck over the driveway edging AND left our driveway gate unlatched and unlocked. WHAT????
    Drive your lazy behinds right back out the 25 miles and fix the edging and LOCK the damn gate. We do not live there full time and ummmmmm that is why we have a security system AND a locked gate. They know this because it is in the records because when they need access to the property they have to call the security company to shut off the alarm AND to turn it back on again soooo I know they have that little tidbit of info. They were just lazy, so go back and get all un-lazy.

    I know I am just being snotty and cranky BUT I have to follow their rules and they should have to follow mine, RIGHT?

    • Up here, if the utility company does any damage to your property, like mar the grass or damage a driveway, they come back to repair it, or they pay a landscaper to make the repair. My friend’s company has made many such repairs. The electric company is not responsible for right of way or easements though, so you do not get help here. They may or may not make any repairs. Easements are in place so they may have access, do their work with out damage and also so a homeowner does not impede their work.

      My neighbor was promised a new driveway if they caused any damage – if she would permit them access to their transformer. She refused the offer, and they had no was to replace the aging transformer. Her driveway was the only way to get in the big bucket truck. All the properties on this transformer are experiencing the problems associated with a very old and not always working properly transformer.

      Sorry for your concerns and the missing plums They do that on occasion.

      It would be nice if an electric company representative could have a say. They could answer a few questions and concerns. There must be one out there that likes gardening.

  11. ellada says:

    when they cut the trees in front of my house I cried, they were so beautiful and I remember that I loved listening to the wind playing with the leaves.

  12. Same problems on your side of the Atlantic. Somehow, I forgot that space does not mean freedom from all those cumbersome requisites of existance – the dreaded utilities. And yet, I can remember cheerful redesigning a large patch of a garden and guess what the tree surgeon said? “Look up” and now I do!

  13. kimberly says:

    Great post, again! I hate the maimed trees…poor things! The photo of the huge tree in front of the beautiful home is awesome…really fantastic!

    • They even have an older and bigger beech and oak on the property. These trees were here before the house was built. Very forward thinking architects of the time not to clear cut and replant. That is why the tree is right in front of the home. My client entertained the thought of removing this tree because it blocked their view. I fought hard to keep the tree. But we did remove a huge birch right in front when we redid the front beds and driveway. The birch was beautiful, but really was causing problems with the structure.

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