Feature trees – asset or liability?
The concrete nib of the property has been disrupted and will need to be replaced.
To owners of copper beeches, falling leaves are accepted as a seasonal nuisance that is offset by the beauty of the autumnal foliage.
But in the case of this tree, it was causing too much trouble. Hence the sad decision to terminate the lifelong association between tree and house.
With good management by a professional arborist, large trees can be carefully pruned to maintain their beauty and prevent them from getting out of hand.
‘‘It has to be the right tree in the right place,’’ says professional arborist Jonas Muller, of Guardian Tree and Landscapes.
‘‘A popular tree like the liquidamber, for example, can be manipulated and shaped. You don’t want to wait until it is too big.’’
Mr Muller says it pays to do some research before planting trees, and not to rely solely on the labels in a garden centre. ‘‘Where will you plant the tree to get the best years out of it? Will it have wet feet, and how much shade will it cast in 20 or 30 years?’’
Mr Muller says any more than a 30 per cent pruning can lead to decay. The tree has to have sufficient foliage to provide light and nutrients to the root system.
‘‘If you cut it back too hard, you get quick regrowth. The tree is desperate for new foliage to feed itself, so it sends out fast-growing branches. The branches have no real, integral strength, so later they can just fall off.’’
Tree roots, and ultimately the whole tree, can be damaged if the root system is disrupted while the homeowner lays paths or puts in a driveway.
Mr Muller says 80 percent of a tree’s roots are near the surface, to collect nutrients from the soil.
If the roots are seriously damaged, the harm may not be immediately obvious. But within a few weeks or months the tree will die, and the value of the property may decline.
What was once a vital selling point for the property may then become an expensive project for its new owner.
Completely removing a tree from a section poses a range of problems. Lawns may be damaged, the removal of the stump may be costly, and the land may slump in years to come as the root system rots away.
Mr Muller says everything you see above ground, in a tree’s growth, is mirrored below ground level. He adds that trees such as poplars and willows have incredibly fine root hairs that probe pipe joins and cracks as they seek water. Once they find the water they need, growth is rapid and the entire pipe system is compromised.
‘‘Once tree roots get into the pipes, you are sure of trouble.’’
Getting a professional opinion on a property and its mature trees is a sensible strategy for anyone buying a new home or investment property.
A long-term look at the pruning, maintenance and ultimately removal costs of any trees may have an impact on the price someone is prepared to pay.
Values of $50,000 have been placed on a good mature tree on an inner-city section, as it adds a sense of quality and aristocracy to a subdivision.
If pruned regularly in a considerate manner, the tree can continue to maintain its health and growth while providing an aesthetic touch that distinguishes one home from another.