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Neighbor cut down four healthy shade trees

8 years ago
last modified: 8 years ago

When my husband and I purchased our house six years ago one main contributor was all of the large shade trees in our yard and our next door neighbor's. We have always gotten along with him fine. However, yesterday he cut down four huge (healthy) shade trees and now our backyard is completely exposed. I have lots of shade-loving plants back there that are now in full sun. Although directly behind us is a park, the rest of the neighborhood is pretty congested and we can see into several neighboring houses.

There is an empty lot between our house and his, which was full of these lovely trees. My husband has picked up from him that he just did not want to have to rake leaves each fall. We are planning on planting some arborvitae along the property line between our houses, but I want a shade tree in the back corner of our yard.

When I brought up the subject my husband says that he does not want to start a war with him--so nothing with excessive leaves in the fall. I suggested an evergreen of some sort, but he does not want anything with a lot of needles.

I am really at a loss as to what would be good in this spot. I don't want anything that grows more than 10 feet in diameter, while not upsetting the neighbor (or my husband!). We are located in Eastern Massachusetts, in zone 6. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

Comments (22)

  • 8 years ago

    To be clear, your neighbor just cut down his trees?

    First, plant what you want in your yard.

    Next, don't rake, mow up leaves whenever possible. If the wife ever gets home I am going out to do it tonight. It is nice and dry, they'll break up into tiny bits of organic fertilizer for next year.

    Third(?) Small leaf trees create less of a visual mess. My neighbor's locust of whatever kind, my metasequoias, their foliage is soo small that when it drops it hides in the grass.

    4th, I agree with your husband, don't pick on the neighbor over what he does in his yard or else he has a say on what you do.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    On the other hand, you should find out whether your city has any ordinances on removing healthy trees. If so, you should report your neighbor to the authorities -- you can do so anonymously.

    In this era of accelerating climate change, we need big trees more than ever. It's sad that your neighbor destroyed such a huge investment just because he didn't want to rake. We judge people like that.

  • 8 years ago

    Second the motion to plant whatever you want on your property. Replace the shade that was lost, and the next generation will thank you as being smart and forward-looking. I also would enjoy it if there could be some penalty for removing trees on private property, and I'm sure the neighbor would have a strong suspicion as to who did it. Baby steps.

  • 8 years ago

    It will be a long time before your tree is big enough to cause a big headache for him. He didn't care what you thought about what he did with his trees, why should you care what he thinks about yours? I'd put in the biggest tree I could afford if I wanted shade. Just don't put it so close that he kills it by trimming anything that comes over into his air space. Don't put it 6 inches from the property line! Also , you say there is an empty lot, so his yard doesn't abut yours directly anyway?

  • 8 years ago

    Most conifers that grow well in Eastern Massachusetts aren't great shade trees. They create shade in the winter, when you don't want it. Many are pyramidal and look stupid if limbed up. A lot of the conifers people will try to recommend don't last very long in Southeastern Massachusetts for disease reasons. (Good litmus test...if someone recommends Austrian pine, he doesn't know your area...disregard everything he says.) White pine works, and it looks good & grows fast, but everyone says it is too big for a suburban neighborhood, and hates road salt.

    My personal favorite shade trees are sugar maple, Tupelo, and American Beech. Basswood (American Linden) does well in your area. Unfortunately, American beech and tupelo are hard to transplant and get established. All eventually get bigger then 10 feet in diameter.

    As for evergreens, I like American Holly (ilex opaca) in your climate. Doesn't shed leaves in the fall. Generally complies with your 10 foot requirement. Also like White fir (Abies concolor).

    Personally, I'd make a point of planting trees that are messy and aggressive spreaders...but I'm spiteful that way.

  • 8 years ago

    Taking a step back, I wonder what the trees were. Is there a possibility there was something wrong with them that wasn't apparent, or that they were of an invasive species? Not assuming anything, just wondering.

  • 8 years ago

    Well, the question he wanted the poster to inquire about is whether it is legal. In most places it would be...but there may be some places where quirky local zoning laws or restrictive covenants would make it illegal. Never assume the law in the poster's area is the same as it is in your area...or that it makes sense. You'd be surprised how often both assumptions are wrong.

    Still not something I would do. Way too likely to start a war. I'd be more likely to passive aggressively plant a whole bunch of black walnut as close to the property line as I thought I could get away with.

  • 8 years ago

    all of the large shade trees in our yard..... and now our backyard is completely exposed. I have lots of shade-loving plants back there that are now in full sun.

    ==>> those two comments make no sense ...

    there are very few plants that REQUIRE full shade ... but since you dont list them ... we cant really discuss them ...

    forget about your neighbor.. they were his trees.. his property.. and his choice ... nothing to do about it ...

    if you want to move on with your perennial plant issues... we can do it here.. or in the perennial forum ...


  • 8 years ago

    The OP stated that there was an empty lot in between the houses and THOSE trees were removed. Who owned that lot?

  • 8 years ago

    The time is passing where anyone can do whatever they feel like on their lot, without regard for anyone else - in fact codes regarding buildings etc. have been in place and enforced for a long time. And it sounds like this may not have even been the neighbor's own lot.

    In recent years municipalities have started enacting tree codes, wherein what can be done to and with trees of some size or other significance is regulated, the same as with structures and other physical features.

  • 8 years ago

    @gregbradley, I was wondering the same. Was it the neighbor's trees or an unnamed party's trees? If they weren't his, then it was illegal and he should be reported. I have a tulip poplar that grew really quickly and some years drops lovely tulip petals all over. That would provide shade quickly and hopefully annoy the neighbor a little too.

  • 8 years ago

    What a terrible person you must be, to report a neighbor for doing what he has the right to do, on his own private property that he pays taxes on! Total weasel behavior! Shame on you!

    We don't know that the lot was owned by the neighbor.

    Again, reporting said neighbor is anonymous, but does anyone think he won't have a strong suspicion of who did it? Then what?

  • 8 years ago

    Of course he is gonna know who did it! There is not reason to report someone why cut down a few trees. I am also wondering who owns the land the trees were on. Im kind of confused anyway since you said there is a park directly behind you...

    Did he cut down trees that were part of the park landscape?

  • 8 years ago

    "What a terrible person you must be, to report a neighbor for doing what he has the right to do, on his own private property that he pays taxes on! Total weasel behavior! Shame on you!"

    Aw shucks. Now I can't turn off the italics lol.

    Anyways, this is a great philosophical issue. In general I WILL call the police on you it is a law I care remotely about. Even in Northern Nevada we are too numerous and technologicially advanced to think we don't impact those around us.

    But it is reassuring to know if I want I can cook all the meth I want, dig holes for young Tony Sopranos, or burn tires and store small pox on my property without you caring.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    "What a terrible person you must be"

    I appreciate the difference of opinion, but if a neighbor is a jerk to you AND broke the law doing so, why not report the neighbor? If he didn't break the law, then there'd be nothing to report. Not all laws are just, but if a law is just, then reporting a violater is also just behavior.

    The problem with our country is that there are too many people who only act in their own narrow self interest with no regard for others.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I would say relocate your shade perennials now and put in a few fast growing trees like hybrid poplar. Within 3-5 years you should have some decent shade. Now keep in mind hybrid poplars are short lived to about 30-50 years so plant some oaks or other hardwoods also for long term shade.

    I too believe there should be some fine or payment to be made when people cut down trees on their property especially in the suburbs (except for invasives like tree of heaven). There is massive turn over when it comes to trees. I see it all the time; people sell their house and when it gets sold the next homeowner comes it and cuts most of the trees down. They replant and the cycle continues. These trees never get the chance to fully mature. For those of us who have collections it means they are living on borrowed time and that bothers me a lot. There are a lot of ignorant land owners out there.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Listen, I believe that people have the right to do whatever they want on their property, as long as it is lawful. Take me for instance. I live kitty corner to 2 roads that lead into 2 very STEEP hills. The neighbors at the top of one of the hills, this summer, bought a horse. That blasted animal loudly neighed 24/7 for at least 2 months. I never grew up with horses, but I never imagined a horse could neigh so much. I kid you not. It sounded like it was in total misery, or being beaten. I know it wasn't being beaten, but I'm saying it was non stop wailing. But the worst part of it was not that, it was now all of their neighbors (like me) down wind from their house now smell, every evening, starting at 7pm like clockwork, the smell of wet horse manure.

    I was so mad earlier this summer you have no idea! I felt and still feel like their choice to have that animal has ruined, to a degree, the enjoyment of our home. For the past 12 years I have loved to sit outside and enjoy seeing people at the lake, talking to my husband after work, and just enjoying the gentle passing of life out in the country. Nowadays, I can't even have my windows open in the evening, let alone be outside.

    But did I flip out on the neighbor? Did I call them, send a letter, or perhaps an anonymous note saying treat your horse better so he isn't wailing non stop, and asking them how could you do this to all your neighbors, who are now subjected to the smell of horse manure every evening. Did I do any of that, and personally , I think that's A LOT more to endure, and certainly more menacing than the OP's situation of exposed areas that can be promptly planted with plants that will fill in fast.

    No, I did none of that, because those neighbors pay taxes, and they have every right to do as they see fit with their property.

    On a side note, if anyone can tell me why I live across the street from a beautiful farm that has dozens of cows and we smell ZERO manure, but one horse (at least I think it's only one) at the top of a hill, and we can smell the manure so strong it might as well have been lifting up it's tail and squirting it thorough the front door.

  • 8 years ago

    I would say that your horse problem is due to say you live at the bottom of the hill and the horse is on the top right? Well when it rains all the rainwater is likely mixing with the feces and urine and washing down the hill.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Lots of times when trees are cut down, the tree that remain are susceptible to wind damage - tree protect from wind when they are closd each other. hopefully your will be ok

  • 8 years ago

    If you buy a house near an airport you can't complain about the noise. If you buy a house in the country, you can't complain about the smell of manure.


  • 8 years ago

    It's annoying the neighbor cut them down.

    However, ultimately if they owned the property, there isn't much you can do in most areas.

    I like trees, but if I acquired a property filled with the wrong kind of trees I would not hesitate to take them down. Some subdivisions, in particular those built between 1960 and 1990, seem to have nothing but silver maple, and Bradford pear. I'd honestly find a reason to take most of those trees down, and replace them with something better.

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