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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Plan before planting trees

Hear an expert's opinion

I planned the layout of my sidewalk and front yard borders around three magnificent old Norway maples. The weakest one didn’t survive the construction process and we had to take it down three years ago.

The second one, despite intensive professional care, quickly lost its will to live. My husband worried that if we didn’t take it down, we’d find it crashed into the living room one windy night.

Even when a tree is obviously dying, it’s a hard decision to take it down. It’s been gone since mid-June.

Losing a big old tree changes everything. Its absence still brings me up short when I drive up our street. The rooms on that side of the house have been hot as blazes this summer. And the shade-loving plants that thrived under its canopy have fried in the afternoon sun. Oh, I miss that tree.

I’ve since found out that Norway maples have a healthy life expectancy of 35 to 45 years. It must have been the “it” tree in the 1940s and ’50s. My neighborhood is full of them and many are dying.

I’ve spent the summer dithering about what to replace it with and how to adjust my plantings. My dilemma is complicated by the utility lines running to the house.

Let’s face it. Putting in a border of shrubs and perennials is short-term gardening. Even the longest-lived can be moved or removed if you make a mistake. Planting a tree involves long-term thinking and deserves serious thought.

Read on

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