The sad tale of the little red Maple…

This will be one of those posts that falls into that catchall label of follies, nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, I suppose.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Jane Austen… but I have been quite put out over something and this morning wished I had somewhere that I could go to cark to the universe.  And then I said, “You do! You have a blog!”  (Yes, I talk to myself, though not always out loud.)

I have a little red maple tree in my front yard.  It has been there for many, many years (since my parents owned this home before I did) — and despite lots of obstacles thrown into its path that might make other trees just wither and die, this little red maple tree has withstood time to now in a valiant fight.

First, there was a huge (and I mean huge) old maple tree at the front of the yard that threw so much shade over the yard that the little red maple couldn’t get as much sun as it would like, and it grew very slowly.  Even after all these years I don’t think it tops 12 feet high.  But though it is compact, it is beautiful — and in the autumn provides a spectacular show of crimson leaves that never fails to make me smile when I look out the front windows or walked past it.

Red Maple Crop

Then, some years ago when Hurricane Gloria hit our area, a main limb of the large maple split and fell and it fell right across my dogwood and the little red maple, shearing off one of the little red maple’s two main branches as well, poor little thing.  But despite its being lopsided for a long time, it still kept producing those beautiful red leaves for me, and it adjusted and has now nearly compensated in its shape again.

The huge maple eventually had to come down, and when it did the little red maple put on something of a growth spurt with all the newly directed sunlight.  But it was still petite.

But now, it is being crowded out by a neighboring bully, and I wonder if it can withstand being ‘overrun’ any better than I am coping with the bully’s owner, another bully.

You see, the little red maple is near the property line of the house next door (but fully within my yard.)  Some years ago the owner next door (a different owner than it has now) planted a row of three fir trees along his property line.  At the time, I mentioned that they were very close to the little red maple and asked if that would cause problems, and was assured that this variety would grow up but not out.  With some hesitancy, I decided not to push the matter.  That was my first mistake.

Three owners later, the current one is an absentee landlord.  He lives in Virginia and rents out the house next door to a nice family, I can’t complain about them.  But those firs?  They have shot up..  and out… so far that they are encroaching on my little red maple.  It still gets sun from my open part of the yard, but it is literally leaning now to escape the pushy fir branches.  (I know, the fir branches have no agenda either, they are innocent pawns here, just doing their natural thing.)

I spoke to the owner when he was here once, asking to have the trees trimmed.  He paid lip service, said “sure” and that was that.  Then last year, when he was here to rent it out again, I asked again to have them trimmed.  He told me there was no reason to do so, they were fine as they were and provided a nice screen between the two yards/houses.  (He doesn’t even live in the darn house.)  He said it would detract from their symmetry, then further got belligerent and said if I trimmed them myself, he would sue me.  (Where did that come from?)

Now, I know that I would be within my rights to trim them myself, or at least the parts that overhang into my yard.  But the fact is, I’m not 100% sure where my yard ends and his begins (to the inch that is) — and I’m not sure they actually do overhang.  They are just abutted to the little red maple tree.  For all I know, the little red maple may just a teeny tiny tad be crossing into his yard.   I could trim the little red maple — but that won’t solve anything.  It will only further misshape it, give the firs more room to grow (where they would then definitely overhang in my yard) and start the problem all over — and I can’t be certain even now what their root systems might not be doing to hurt my little red maple.

As an aside, my renter-neighbors are moving soon, they found a place closer to where she works.  They’ve only lived there a year.  And she says the landlord is much of the reason they looked elsewhere, that he’s terrible — never has anything fixed when it needs it, is totally uncooperative, threatened them when they fixed something themselves and deducted the cost from the rent, and is generally curt to the point of rudeness.  My experience of him has convinced me she’s not exaggerating.

So, in the meantime, my poor little red maple struggles along, putting a brave face on things — it’s leafed out for spring and summer, already taking on that rusty tinge to its leaves common to this type and that will super-blush into a gorgeous crimson in autumn.

And I am at a loss to know how to help it.  But I certainly hope it has the wherewithal to thrive despite the firs.  Maybe someday it will grow so tall as to spread its canopy of leaves over the tops of them — as protection, of course, as I cannot believe that sweet thing capable of wanting revenge…  😉


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