Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

When a tree becomes an enemy

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka under Trees Updated: June 24, 2013 - 10:31 AM

I love the silver maple in my back yard. Or perhaps I should say, I have loved it.
It is the defining feature in my yard, a stately giant whose sheer size inspires awe among visitors. The base of the trunk is at least four feet across, and the canopy looms over my house and the neighbor’s house. The arborist who takes a look at the tree every few years once told me that the only bigger silver maple he’d seen was in a Minneapolis park.
It was healthy, too. Not that it made much difference on Friday night.
When the wind zoomed into high gear and the power flickered I was in the upstairs bedroom , retrieving a weather radio. The world outside the windows turned white with rain, the wind howled and there was an ominous thump on the roof. The house shook. There was a wrenching sound outside and a deafening crash. I scurried down the stairs in the dark, heart pounding.
Later, when I looked out the window, I thought the entire tree had fallen. In reality, only two very large branches fell. They ripped part of a new second-floor balcony off the side of the house, crushed a corner of the porch roof, dented the air conditioner, put a hole in the deck and tore the electric service wire from the house.
But I was lucky, and unnerved by what could have happened. The garage and fence were just feet away from the tree and were miraculously untouched. The neighbor’s house was undamaged.


After living with this giant for 25 years I think our bargain -- you give me shade and beauty, I give you plenty of water and the expert care of a watchful arborist -- is over. I know the winds on Friday night were a freakish event, but they seem to be occurring more often. I’m not sure I can live with this tree in my yard anymore. On Saturday night, when more storms were forecast, I slept on the first floor on a cot.
Silver maples aren’t planted in residential areas anymore, for good reason. They are shallow-rooted, grow like weeds and their wood is notoriously brittle. Now I realize what a hazard my tree can be, in the right conditions.
Since Friday, I have moved from mourning the loss of my tree to being resigned to cutting it down. The back yard will be a sunny desert, but perhaps I will be able to grow vegetables in the back yard again. Gardens and yards evolve, and for me it’s time to move on.

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