Debate Magazine

What's Your Optimum Distance from a Tree?

Posted on the 14 November 2018 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

It would be easy to write a few paragraphs listing all the plus points of trees: they clean up the air; are net oxygen releasers; somewhere for birds to nest; provide welcome shade in summer; somewhere to shelter in a sudden summer downpour etc etc. So much so that politicians love being associated with tree planting (that was rather serendipitous - I noticed that post just as I started writing this one).
Most relevant for this discussion is that they look nice (whether that is an aesthetic thing or simply because they are associated with all the Good Things listed in the bog standard opening paragraphs on trees).
From closer up and on a practical point of view, trees are a pain in the arse. They undermine foundations; soak up so much water that other plants won't grow around them; drop leaves on your lawn and in your gutters; you need to prune the overhanging branches and go and grovel to your neighbours if a storm snaps off branches into their gardens (happened to me after the Great Storm of 1987 - in south Germany - it wasn't just a UK thing); a car parked under a tree gets covered in sap, seeds, leaves and bird poo (depending on time of year).
So there must be a trade off. Trees, yes, but Not In My Back Yard - which boils down to the question posed in the title.
For example: the back gardens on my street and the one behind it are stupid long (by London standards). The neighbours behind us had two large trees in their back garden,they looked great swaying in the breeze but were far enough away not to cause any inconvenience to Yours Truly (they didn't block any sunlight to our house or shed leaves in our garden). The neighbours extended their house a couple of years ago and they chopped down the larger one, reducing the quality of the view from our back garden (I still miss the larger one).
To my mind, that's the best place for trees - in somebody else's garden, at least twenty yards from your house, or at least twenty yards up or down the road from where you park your car.
But what if everybody thought like that? We'd have no trees on urban streets and gardens at all.

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