Boundary Trees

Trees shared on a common boundary between two property owners can be a blessing or a curse. The most often question asked about shared trees is, “Who is responsible for maintaining or removing a shared tree?”

The short answer is both parties of course, but getting both parties on board for that ride can be sometimes, difficult… Depending on the way the houses and yards are exposed to the sun track, one house may be benefiting greatly during the hot summer months, while the other gets to deal with the voluminous leaf drop during autumn. I have clients that share trees, that equally love the trees, and gladly share the expense of upkeep. I also have clients that are in a constant war over a tree on the property line, and I will never be able to make both parties happy!

When you prepare to plant on a property line, (which is a rarity as most shared trees are inherited), you should discuss this at length with the “sharee” to avoid future conflicts.

But, sharing a tree with your neighbor can be a win-win for both parties.

Trees close to, but not on the “line” are similar, but really only belong to the property that it is planted on, and the expense may not be “welcomely” shared for upkeep.

Then cometh the quandary of the dreaded “Can I cut off anything that comes over onto my side?” That I get asked constantly. Or even worse, the, “I CAN cut off anything that hangs over on my side!”

I just cringe when I hear that, because I know I am about to be roped into the “neighbor war”.

Most law books say you can, but you have to do it from your side, and you cannot “destroy” the tree in doing so. My response to that is ” What the HELL do you think butchering off half the tree is, if not destruction?”

In reality, I can’t think of any kind of tree that wouldn’t be destroyed by cutting off everything at a property line, and I have seen a few trees in my life!

I have also seen, believe it or not, trees that were planted by people (for the sole reason) just to upset the neighbors! I can’t really wrap my brain around that one, it just seems like a waste of a perfectly good tree to me…

For all the good trees do for our lives, it makes sense to “Go in halves” on a couple or three trees between property owners. Fruit can be shared, shadows (shade) can be shared, attraction of wildlife can be shared, pollinators can be shared, the sound of the breeze through the needles can be shared, stunning fall color displays can be shared – you get the idea.

Speaking of fall, we are here! It’s time to scour the nurseries, take a walk in the park for some planting inspiration, and have the neighbors over for a glass of wine and a tree talk… Plant high and often and enjoy your autumn!