Well, That’s a Relief

I stepped outside on Saturday and noticed that the Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) across the street had undergone a significant downsizing. It had suffered substantial breakage from the last couple of storms, and I wondered if its current state was a prelude to being taken down entirely.



That would be a shame. This tree provides a very substantial presence for the whole area where our two suburban streets join in a T. Though it is in the neighbors’ yard, I feel like it is part of my own garden. It frequently provides a backdrop to Judy’s photos of our front borders and parkway plantings.

Without this Willow, the whole corner it occupies would seem rather bleak.



So I knocked on our neighbors’ door to get the story. Turns out, they had brought in an arborist to take a look after the storms had brought down some big limbs. The arborist had recommended taking the whole tree down. Fortunately, our neighbors have good hearts and decided to let the Willow have at least another year or two.

So the arborist did some trimming with safety and the tree’s health in mind. These Willows don’t live that long, about 50 years normally in Chicago. The neighbors aren’t sure, but they think that this one must be at least 45. I’m glad it will have at least one more season.

Do you feel attached to nearby trees that aren’t in your own garden?

68 Comments on “Well, That’s a Relief”

  1. I’m glad you’ve got the Weeping Willow for a bit longer. We had a Box Elder tree in the backyard and it provided us with shade all through the drought years. However, eventually it just became too big for the garden and the roots were growing close to the foundations of the house. I was sad to see it come down….many memories are attached to trees in the garden…

  2. Yes definitely Jason, trees are the landmarks of many a view and walk here, some are like old friends. A veteran willow was removed to put up a new house nearby without any consideration for how much water it took it up from the low lying fields, consequently another neighbours garden became prone to flooding. There are many factors to consider when removing a tree.

  3. OMG, you haven’t read my blog for very long. I LOVE trees and the trees in my neighborhood I feel a great attachment especially my adjacent neighbors trees. When one of my current neighbor moved in she took down 7 trees. I almost fainted. I mourned the loss of these trees. I couldn’t understand this thinking. Across the street used to be a lovely grove of trees. The person who now lives there doesn’t like to ‘deal with the leaves’. Now we don’t have nesting places for the Great horned owl, several woodpeckers are sparcely seen in the neighborhood now. Sigh~~ So in answer to your question…yes.

  4. Oh yes, I have a pussy willow tree on a piece of land that belongs to us but is just outside the garden and we had to have some branches removed last year. It has been damaged by woodpeckers and I think its days are numbered, but it is always such a magnet in spring for the bees and insects when it flowers! It will be a sad day when it has to go, so I know what you mean.

  5. We had a beautiful Maple that provided shade and symmetry but was at a point where it had to come down. I still look out there and feel sad at its loss. I also had an extremely shaded garden when the neighbor decided to take out several trees and all of a sudden there was partial shade and a lot of plant moving to do. There are two trees left but she wants them gone. When that happens, the partially shaded garden will be full sun and more plant moving again. 😦

  6. Unfortunately, I had to have a mature silver maple removed from my back yard recently. Storms over the past few years had caused massive damage. The tree was in just the right position to provide late afternoon shade, so it will be a long while until its replacement reaches a similar height. Trees are so important in our lives.

  7. I’m glad you have another year with a tree that you’re attached to. My neighbor allowed some fence guys to hack back a beautiful native Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria. An evergreen small tree, it produces gorgeous and yummy berries for myriad wildlife. Gah!!! I was heartbroken, as were many critters who used it for cover and food source.

  8. A neighbor’s tree can be a blessing or a curse. One of the things I have tried to do over the years is to put myself in my neighbor’s shoes and try to understand what they might think of the trees in my garden. It helps to have neighbors that share our garden values, but, alas, that doesn’t happen all the time.

  9. There are trees locally that I love (beech, maritime pine, birch) and those that I don’t (holm oak)! The trees that we see from our windows do frame our views, though, and it would change the vista and light if they were gone. I completely understand your attachment to this tree.

  10. I’m glad this willow is being allowed to live for now, they’re lovely trees. I know a lot of people don’t like them as they are very thirsty and drink water like a sponge – sometimes their roots seek out and get into water pipes – but I’ve always loved them.

  11. I’m happy that you and your neighbor will enjoy more time with the weeping willow. That said, a weeping willow is NOT a tree that should be planted near a house. With their massive, invasive and thirsty roots systems, I’m surprised your neighbor’s do not have water in their basement from the damage these tree roots can do to underground drainage systems and they are lucky this tree’s roots haven’t buckled the sidewalk.

  12. I love almost any tree that is not a mulberry or a silver maple. A neighbor that had the only other tulip poplar in the neighborhood took it down – and left all the silver maples! – and I’m hoping it was not because of a problem that will affect my tulip poplar. I was sad to see the elm next door succumb to a storm.

  13. We have three Black Walnut trees in our backyard. I have a love-hate relationship with them. They are gorgeous –sitting on the hammock strung between two of them and looking up at that lacy foliage against a blue sky is an amazing sight. But the toxin released by their roots kills so many of my plants! I never know what will grow and what won’t. And because the toxin is also in their leaves (much less concentrated, but still there) and the leaves blow everywhere, I have spotty problems throughout most of my garden. Still I couldn’t sacrifice them.

    • Oh, yes. I know Black Walnut trees. When we lived in Wisconsin there was a massive one in the neighbor’s yard. At least one fourth of my back garden was under its drip line. We only lived there two years so I never figured out a way to live with it.

  14. Trees are so important in our lives and that of the wildlife. I’m glad your neighbours tree has had a reprieve, but I feel its days are numbered. We planted a weeping willow in one of our front gardens (long before I knew anything about gardening) and after we moved, the first thing the new people did was to cut the tree down. Quite right too, it was too close to the house and drains, it would have been a disaster!

  15. We spend a good deal of time negotiating with neighbors over the care and pruning of trees that our properties share. Luckily, we have good neighbors too. I’ve been in other situations where a neighbor’s drastic act has changed the whole atmosphere, prompting a move (I was renting, so that’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds).

  16. Good call by your neighbours. Our neighbours have in fact just gone the whole hog and removed two mature willows (partly because of overhead cabling). On the plus side we can now see the distant hills, but we can also see rather a lot of the house on the other side of the alley. They also lopped the top off an ash which effectively removed two rooks nestsand that is a shame, but luckily early enough in the season for the rooks to re-site.

  17. My neighbors recently had a tree company remove a stray American holly, which didn’t bother me. Then they started working on their two deodar cedars that tower over their house. I love these trees and I was so afraid they were going to take them down, but thankfully they were just removing deadwood.

  18. Oh yes, I’m definitely attached to some of my neighbors’ trees! The whole combination of all of them together gives the area its personality. I noticed some neighbors recently had arborists over, too. We need to do that, as well, although I’m a little worried they would take down too many trees. When our trees fall, we leave them for wildlife snags in the woods. I guess that’s a benefit of having a property with a woodland at the back. On the other hand, in a different setting, it would probably benefit from a controlled burn–as might have happened naturally back in the day.

  19. YES! Our neighbors have a few oak trees that are over 100 years old. They are enormous. One had root damage during construction of the sidewalks and it declined severely over the past 5 years. It was taken down last year. It was a very sad day. I look at these trees everyday and they are the foundation of the neighborhood. I would be devastated if they were removed. Thank goodness your neighbors had the right mind to keep the tree vibrant for what is hopefully a few more years.

  20. In our urban setting, I enjoy and value every tree, both mine and my neighbors. The south folks have two pin oaks that shed enormous quantities of leaves all winter, but they add so much to the neighborhood. I could wish some people had chosen better, more appropriate trees for their gardens, but even the huge oak that is rapidly creating a shade garden in my backyard is loved. I’m glad your neighbors’ willow is safe for another year!

  21. I love Weeping Willows, and I remember one I used to look at from my apartment window in Oak Park for years, and then one day it was gone. I suspect they are not among long-lasting trees. Now I can’t think of one I have seen since. I hope the trim helps your neighbors’ tree. It’s such a loss when an entire large tree is gone. We have lost many trees in my neighborhood that must have been 75 or 80 years old.

  22. There used to be an enormous willow at the neighbors of our previous house. It was blown down in a storm and did not hit it a single house which was incredible. Had it fallen one foot to the left or one foot to the right it would have smashed one or more building. It was an attractive tree but I was not sorry to see it go as our garden which was shady became sunny.

  23. I have a white birch (another short-lived tree) at the edge of my garden that has been slowly dying for several years and has been dropping increasingly larger branches onto the garden. It’s time to have it cut down before it comes down on its own and does some serious damage.

  24. I’ve got mixed feelings on this question.

    We had a massive old sickly oak on our otherwise relatively bare property when we moved in.

    I loved the tree (despite the fact that it showered the street, lawn and driveway with thousands of acorns), but eventually it dropped an enormous limb right on our driveway. If a limb (or the whole tree) fell on the street, it could have killed someone, caused a car accident, etc.

    We had the whole tree taken down. In its stead, I planted three eastern red cedars and a host of shrubs and perennials.

    So yes, I love trees and it saddens me when old trees come down.

    On the other hand, I think people plant trees WAY too close to their house or the street without considering the mature size of those trees (60, 80 or even 100 feet tall in some cases), which can lead to property damage, injuries or even death when the tree inevitably starts to decline some years in the future.

    I think we should prioritize the planting of small or mid-sized trees in most urban and suburban neighborhoods. Or we should all practice the ancient arts of pollarding and coppicing! 🙂

    • Eastern Red Cedars is a great choice for wildlife, although I’m not fond of all the prickles, especially after they drop to the ground. I agree that people tend to plant trees too close to the house and generally out of scale to their yard. Many people would be better off with small to mid-size trees.

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