the problem of street trees and garden update



It's not street trees that are a problem. It's overhead wires. In order to avoid branches touching the wires and risk a fire, you have to trim the trees into interesting, ugly, contorted, unnatural shapes.

The tree in front of my house is an Australian native, Prickly-leaf Paperbark, aka Melaleuca Stypheliodes. It used to be very bushy, and had a possum nest in it.  Years ago, when the contractor came to cut back the tree, he noticed there was a baby in the nest, so left it and came back later to finish the job. That was another age, another time. It wouldn't happen today. Today time is money, and there's no money to spare.


Does smoking a cigarette while wielding a chainsaw look like dedication to tree work? Or sublime indifference?

One potential solution to this problem would be to plant small trees. But local councils seem to be committed to growing tall trees that people couldn't grow in their gardens. Some trees are less suited to the necessary chopping than others. The avenue of trees in my street, English plane trees are, in my opinion, not suited to being grown underneath wires. The avenue looks great superficially, from a distance. Looking carefully, you realize how much the trees have been butchered.







Other councils use other trees as street trees, like Eucalypts or Callistemons. Unlike plane trees these are evergreen, their foliage is softer and they don't look so stark when cut back.




This fits with the Tree Following meme on Lucy's blog, Loose and Leafy.  People follow one or more trees for a year and give monthly updates. Looks like I'll be following some street trees ...  as well as following other tree followers. Highly recommended interesting meme, definitely worth a look.


Now  - a few snapshots of my back garden.  Parts of it are largely unchanged. Other parts look different, undeveloped. The result of another stage in the endless journey to make a garden that's not perfect, but somehow feels right.




 Common Tussock grass (Poa labillardieri) replaced African daisies (Osteospermum) 



This garden update coincides with The End of the Month Garden View, hosted by Helen in The Patient Gardener's Weblog. So check it out, to see what's happening with passionate gardeners all over the world.

Comments

  1. Oh dear, I do hate seeing butchered trees. Particularly when there are other, much better choices. I love your "not perfect, but somehow feels right" sentiment, I am embarked on a similar journey, feeling my way forward.

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    1. lovely to hear from you, Janet, I adore the Plantaliscious name.

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  2. It is a shame they have to deform these trees for the electric wires, but it will be necessary and indeed my eye fell too on the cigaret in the man´s mouth...... I love a kind of wildness in a garden, it can´t be perfect and it needs not to be perfect.

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    1. thanks for the visit and comment, Janneke.

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  3. I think your garden looks comfortable. A place for "quiet contemplation"! I noticed the cigarette in the man's mouth, too...living dangerously! I never thought of Callistemmons as street trees, but they are attractive and can take a lot of pruning. I think it's one of those plants we borrowed from your country, but they do well here.

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    1. It's funny for me to think of Callistemons in California, but since my garden has heaps of Californian plants, it's only fair that there's two-way traffic.

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  4. I think part of the problem is that the people trimming the trees are just council workers with a chainsaw, so have no idea or interest regarding the tree. One day maybe they'll replace the wires with underground power and the trees can grow as they wish.

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    1. Hi Missy, I think that's exactly what the problem is - it's possible to prune trees skilfully, but these workers are not trained and not given the time to do the job properly. There used to be talk about underground powerlines, but it's basically too expensive I think to be seriously considered.

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  5. Your pictures tell the story. So sad to see the butchering of the trees. Your garden is looking very inviting. I really like the winding path and the plantings along the way!

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  6. Your garden looks really interesting and has made me think I could do a similar thing instead of waiting until mine is just the way I want it before photographing it. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Hi Sue, thanks for the comment. It's so easy to just photograph the individual flowers, or just the bit of the garden that is looking good. But then you'll never get interesting before and after shots ... and also I think people need educating that instant gardens are boring and real gardens exist in time.

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  7. First of all Sue, I reckon your back garden's looking as lovely as ever.
    This tree-lopping thing - it makes me mental. Most of the guys doing the work - most of the people involved in the process of deciding about and doing the tree-lopping DO NOT KNOW A THING ABOUT PLANTS OR NATURE OR THEIR CONNECTION TO PLANET EARTH. There.
    The rot set in, I reckon, when the work that Councils and their gardening departments did began to be contracted out to private business in the 1990s. I noticed, living in Hawthorn then, how standards fell, how no-one much ever seemed to be accountable for anything, how you could rarely contact anyone within Council who knew what was happening or who would accept responsibility.
    Tree lopping is an ugly business. If we all knew what we were doing, there'd be no need for it. Councils used to be repositories of knowledge and skill. Now they are just machines for careerists.
    Are any of the tree-loppers gardeners or lovers of gardens? They're not required to be. They're likely to be just blokes doing a job.
    So we all lose, and we are all meant to be winners in this new efficient world.

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    1. Dear, dear Faisal, I don't know if we're all meant to be winners, and this world is looking less and less efficient all the time.

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  8. How I hate the sound off chainsaws in spring! If the trees were pruned early and regularly, the use of chainsaws could be avoided I think. Over here we don't have wires above the ground but still lots of trees are butchered into ugly monstrosities.

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    1. interesting, Denise ... underground wires are not a cure for insensitivity and lack of skill.

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  9. Why not simply plant trees that mature at 15 to 20 feet and would fit nicely under the wires instead of choosing thees that are destined to be whacked to bits. I know that pollarding trees is popular in some areas but it requires annual attention to make the tree look good. Sounds like what you're talking about is making poor tree choices and then when they grow the way they should, butchering them. In Seattle, there is an organization called Plant Amnesty http://www.plantamnesty.org/documents/PA_infoKit.pdf that exists to try and educate people about choosing the right tree for the space. Sorry that your tree is loosing a limb.

    Your garden is beautiful as always!

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    1. Hi og, that organization sounds wonderful. Ultimately I suppose it's about education.

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  10. They do the same thing in the U.S. - butcher the trees in the right-of-way where most of the wires reside. About those Callistemon (Bottle Brush) -- I am always amazed that homeowners buy more than one and then plant them too close together. Apparently, even with easy access to the internet, people don't bother to research before planting. Tsk. Tsk.

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    1. hi Linda, the thing is, these aren't individual people, these are street trees, planned and planted by local governments that should have the knowledge.

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  11. I love the natural state of your garden....we butcher trees here for wires. In my new neighborhood they did a revolutionary thing and buried all the wires underground so no worries with trees and wires running into each other.

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    1. how wonderful - that they were prepared to spend the money to protect the trees. It must look so much more attractive too.

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  12. I agree that cities should plant small trees or shrubs under power lines. Nothing is sadder than the sight of butchered trees. They are unsightly and are more susceptible to disease and wind damage.

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    1. many of these trees look pathetic, but they actually seem to survive pretty well.

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  13. Your garden is beautiful. Getting that natural, "uncared for" look right requires a lot of care. I've designed a set of Sculptural Steel Garden Tools, and would really appreciate it if people would come take a look: http://igg.me/at/akaKate/x/6915331

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    1. thanks, Katherine, it is like a paradox, because it is very hard to make it look natural, and it's not really natural at all if it's so hard to keep it 'maintained' looking natural. I will definitely check out your designs.

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  14. Love the look of your garden. Do you have ice storms in your area? We have wind, ice, and snow to mess up the electricity or the trees so our electric company likes to come through the neighborhoods every few years and trim trees for us. We had two small oaks in the back yard that ended up looking like oversized toothpicks. We gave up and had them cut down. Now we've got several small trees and a few large shrubs and roses and ... still I worry that they (electric) might come through and cut (trim) my stuff.

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    1. Hi Joy, we don't have ice storms, but we have fires, so the local council makes sure the trees are cut back so the branches don't come into contact with the wires. They are not our responsibility because they're in the street. If the tree was in our yard we would have to organize and pay for it ourselves. They would only trim our trees if they were growing over the fence. Your situation seems very different - it sounds like the electricity company has a lot of power. (Pun half unintended) I do find this very interesting, because it's like there are a lot of different functions of trees, and so a lot of competing interests, wildlife being one, that needs us to advocate for them.

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  15. We have the same problem here, with the council or British Telecom coming round and chopping branches off our trees. However, some of the trees in the woodland have been here for at least 200 yrs, so which came first, the trees! Why did they have to put the wires through the tree branches in the first place, sorry but it makes me so cross!!

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    1. HI Pauline, I find that quite shocking, that they can mangle such ancient trees. But I suppose the principle is the same, something like seeing nature as there to serve human needs.

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  16. They should just bury the wires. That's the best solution. I hate seeing trees destroyed just for wires when they should all be underground. What a frustrating mess.

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    1. Hi Tammy, hi and thanks for the comment. It's a depressing picture.

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  17. I expect it's down to one department looking after trees and another the wires - co-ordination earlier on might have been a good idea. Though I think some people simply like pollarded trees and plant them with that in mind. They look knobbly and ugly in winter that way though.

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  18. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Lucy. Decisions regarding trees have effects that last a long time.

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