Social scientists say that parks, trees, and landscaping help us remain calm and peaceful. They add a layer of quality to life.
I think neighborhood trees say permanence, strength, and quality. I squint at the skinny trees in new subdivisions. Given a choice, how many of us would buy the house with stately old trees, rather than 15-foot trees? Older houses come with older trees. Both need maintenance.
I remember shopping at Sloan Tree Farm near Howell. There are two 170-year-old maples in the front. They wall off the house from the road, but they say stability. They have survived. One shows scars from a lightning strike, but they are both very alive.
The street trees in the subdivision where I live are oak, tulip popular, maple, and sycamore. All of these were standard choices in the 1950s when the subdivision was built.
I have an American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). The bark peels to show off shades of brown, taupe, and green. It sheds more in some years than in others. The seed pods can be 2 inches in diameter and fall green during the summer and brown during the early spring. Productivity varies from year to year. In good years, the leaves are 12-18 inches wide.
My tree is over 50 years old, and has a life span of three times that long. It’s in poor health. The survey taken by the city a few years ago graded the tree’s health as fair.
The litter includes seed pods, leaves, branches, and twigs. The leaves open late, maybe mid-May, and fall early, starting mid-June. I clean up everything and complain only to myself. All trees are messy. I would rather have an old, tall messy tree than something that will look this good in another 30 years.
The city owns the street trees. I can’t take one down without their permission. Even with their blessing, I could pay the entire cost, and they have a list of what they’d allow me to plant in its place. Instead, I have planted two maples in my front yard. One is a Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) I bought from Sloan’s. The other is a Red Maple (Acer rubrum) that came up as a weed tree in the garden and was carefully tended in a pot for three years before being permanently installed.
Trees take many years to die, even when they are weak. The sycamores will shade the street for many more decades. By the time they fall over, my maples will have an impressive height and spread.