To Plant or Not To Plant

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Dave from the Urban Forestry division stopped by today to inspect our street cars beds & determine the spacing of trees. He provided a list of trees we can choose from that will grow nicely beneath power lines & in beds that are 6 to 8 feet wide. He spray painted two lines along Custer where we can plant two trees. We're supposed to let him know once we've chosen the variety of tree we want to plant, and he will issue a permit for us to plant them. We can't plant any more trees along our View Point Terrace side, because of the English Hawthorne & overhanging Maples. I did, however, plant our Japanese Snowbell tree to overhang the hosta bed on the east facing slope between the Hawthorn & the Maples on our property. The city can't tell you what to plant on your own property, but you do have to go through them before removing a tree on your property. You also have 30 days to replace a tree you remove from your property. Back to the English Hawthorn, he said we can take that out if we want to and replace it with a different tree. I have no desire to do this, because it looks old & nice, although it does drop thorns, which can be painful if you step on one with your bare foot! He said this particular tree is invasive, and up on Powell Butte, they have a real problem with it. I do notice lots of starters coming up all over our yard. I pull them out continually!

We still have a problem with the concrete about two feet beneath the bed on the south side. We don't know if this is an old curb or leftover concrete road from the past. The arborist from the city said that Portland utitilites do not use concrete to cover their utilities, so I'm pretty sure it isn't related to that. Oddly enough, there is a strip of dead grass along where the concrete lies beneath the ground. I talked to our neighbor, and he thinks it is a soil problem, or something that drips from the power lines onto the lawn that kills it. We aren't quite sure what it is from, but I'm hoping that if we amend the soil that the garden beds we plan to put there will thrive. If it is a problem from the power lines, I'm not quite sure how to fix it, but I'm sure there would be a solution.

When I was talking to our neighbor, he said he has a couple of concerns with us planting trees in front of our house. He was really nice, and said he doesn't want to offend us or come across like he's telling us what we can do on our own property, but he did have concerns, and since I asked, he shared what they were. He said he doesn't want trees that will drop sap on his cars, because it will ruin the paint. He has 3 super nice cars. A BMW, a Mercedes-Benz, and a convertible sports car (I am unsure of the make). I told him I wouldn't pick trees that would drop sticky substances, as we park our cars along there as well. His second concern was that he would like to preserve the view that he and the other two neighbors along the street share from their front porches & front yards. He walked me up to our neighbor Don's porch so I could see that he has a view from his porch, and that planting trees along there would definitely block that view. I told him that my intention in planting trees is to improve the neighborhood, and that although trees do add to the character of a neighborhood, there are other factors to consider. I thanked him for sharing his concerns, and was glad to hear them. After talking to him, I went back to gardening, and decided that we should not plant the trees. I know I would be upset if someone changed the setting of my front porch by obstructing a view. Also, I noted to our neighbor that the street I was considering planting on actually does have lots of trees already. They are just on the other side of the street--the side w/ no power lines. We do have an overhanging oak tree on our south facing slope, but the sidewalk there is in the direct sun with no shade. It's okay, though--we've selected drought tolerant & full sun plants. Trees would have improved our lot, but not necessarily made improvements to our neighbors' lots. Also, in the future, I may build up part of the slope & plant a tree with a non-invasive root system like a Clerodendrum trichotomum (these are wonderful canopy trees) that can overhang the sidewalk a bit, but not enough to obstruct views. We had two Clerodendrums at our Pasadena house, and I was bummed to leave them behind.

For now, to make our neighbors happy & to support community, I don't think planting trees that will obstruct views is a good idea. In the future, as the neighborhood changes, it may become a better option. To be honest, I don't even know if we could have planted trees anyway because of the concrete. I'm sure we could jackhammer through it, but that's a lot of work, and there's no telling how thick it is. We still plan to garden those beds, though, as there is a good two feet before you hit concrete, and it doesn't underlie the entire bed. As for gardening those beds, that was something our neighbor said he'd be fine with. Luckily, he doesn't have a weird attachment to the lawn there! Now that would have reminded me of our old neighbors if he had!

--Karli

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