Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love thy Neighbour



When we moved into the house where I grew up, my mother, who was an avid gardener, decided to remove the overgrown hedge of wild roses that ran along one side of the backyard and plant a long border of perennials instead. 

On hearing this news, the gardener next door was anything, but pleased. Removing the hedge would mean that they would have no privacy.

From that point, the disagreement over the common lot line only escalated.


Once the thorny rose hedge had been removed, my parent's discovered that the neighbour's rock garden extended up the slope and over the property line approximately three feet. Lawyers advised them to reclaim their land and insist that the rock garden be removed.

The sad ending to this story is that decades of animosity followed the removal of the garden and its replacement with a pedestrian strip of green grass.

Childhood experiences like this tend to inform the actions of your adult life. I often think of the hostility that simmered quietly under the surface between the two waring factions and have always tried to avoid such unpleasantness with my own neighbours, although it hasn't always been easy.


In our current home, we have neighbours on two sides. The land to the east and back of our lot is owned by a Regional government. Depending on the particular government official we have crossed paths with, they have been both a wonderful and mean-spirited neighbour.

On the other side we have had the steady company of one single neighbour for all the years we have lived in Huttonville. She's been great and we always got along famously.

Then last fall she moved...


Our new neighbours are a young couple. The house they ended up purchasing had fallen on hard times in recent years and the garden had become a neglected mess of weeds. 

Wasting no time, our new neighbours immediately set to work on all fronts; house and garden. They approached renovating the house and neglected yard with such vim and vigour that it made us, the much older couple next door, tired just to witness.

When it comes to the exterior, our new neighbours have been like two bulls in a china shop. Late last fall all the shrubs and weeds were ruthlessly slashed to the ground. I was absolutely heartbroken to see that a peach Quince, whose flowers you see pictured in this post, was cut down to a height of one foot. That pretty shrub, which had bloomed faithfully each spring, had to be at least twenty or thirty years old.

The yard next door immediately began to look more tidy, although no thought appears to have been given to the need to permanently remove any roots. It does not seem to have occurred to them that it will all grow back this spring.

Hardest of all to watch has been to watch the ruthless trimming of tree branches. The big maple and black walnut in our yard, whose branches dared to stray over the property line, were cut off in the crudest of fashions. Falling maple limbs broke sections of our fence in two places. There was an apology for the fence damage a few days after the fact and a vague offer to make repairs that has yet to materialize. 

A majestic evergreen whose branches used to drape over the fence into our yard was limbed up two stories. Now it is naked, ugly pole with a story of uneven growth at the very top. Words cannot describe how truly horrendous it looks!

Adding to this carnage, is the damage to our trees from last winter's ice storm. 

A view of the back corner of the yard with the house in the distance.


A key tree at the side of the house had to be taken down last weekend and we still have to sort out what is to be done with the trees in the back corner of the yard (pictured above). 

Unfortunately, we share custody of these trees with the aforementioned Regional government and they are never easy to deal with.

This spirea is the one bush that escaped being slashed to the ground.

In the past, our backyard always felt very private. Now that the tree is gone at the side of the house, we can clearly see our neighbour's house and they can see ours. 

If the trees at the back go too, I am likely to have a sunny garden where once I had shade. 

It's a brave new world and this gardening season is likely to be one where my garden undergoes really big changes...

41 comments:

  1. Oh Jennifer this is awful news on all fronts - these new people are obviously not gardeners - what a shame they didn't approach you first for advice on what best to do. And so sad about your winter damaged trees - a lot of decisions will have to be made. I must admit I do like my privacy in the garden but on one side of ours is a rental property and none of the people who have lived there have ever touched the garden which we can plainly see from ours - and it has always been a total mess - so I can sympathise with your predicament.

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    1. Thanks Elaine. When they first arrived I did walk around the garden with one of the neighbours, and without trying to be a know-it-all, I did point out some of the shrubs and trees I thought were of value amongst the weeds. I was therefore extra sorry when I saw the Quince has been chopped near to the ground. They did some work on a window nearby and I guess they felt that it wasn't worth working around the shrub.

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  2. So sorry that this is happening to you & your garden. I'd start planting some evergreens or a hedge on your side, well away from the fence since they'll chop off whatever reaches over the fence. We're the ones who annoyed the neighbour, bought some acreage & built; once we moved in we had a fence put up since we could see they had a bobcat come onto the back property. Neighbours are ticked off at us because they used the property before we came. Luckily we can barely see their house because of the trees.

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    1. Heildi, In fairness, I am sure the new neighbours must find things we do are not to their liking as well. It's work to keep things harmonious.
      With regard to the evergreens, I have had the exact same thought. If I were to plant deciduous trees, they would chop off any branches that dared to stray across the great divide.

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  3. Oh how I can relate to all of this post! It's horrible how some people "trim" the limbs off trees with no knowledge or care about how the tree will survive it. I know just how you feel when you had to watch a well-loved garden ripped heartlessly away. Too bad they didn't speak to you about their plans and they would've realized what knowledge and wonderful gardening ideas you have. We have a sprawling big white pine in our backyard, and although it's not the best shape, I've loved watching it's branches through the years, sparkling in the sun, dripping in the rain, frozen with ice. It's my weather tree. And now I think the loss of two large limbs in the low trunk have caused too much damage and half the tree has yellow needles now. This tree blocks my backyard neighbour's house (someone who with his wife yelled obscenities at me one day as I walked down their street about our shared fence ... my husband called him and the man delivered a letter of apology to me ... it was that bad). So I don't want to see him looking into our yard from their 2nd story windows (we have a bungalow). I don't think I can survive without trees around me. I hope you can resolve your issues this spring, so that your privacy can be restored and you regain your peace of mind. Wendy x

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    1. Thanks Wendy. I hope things never get to the point you describe. It must have been awful! You must have been so upset. At least the neighbour sent a letter of apology. Some people wouldn't even do that.
      It is going to be years before we have the same privacy. I have already talked to hubby about investing in a big tree for the side of the house, because right now, it is like living in a fish bowl!

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  4. It is too bad the new neighbors didn't get an education about how old (and special) the shrubs in her garden are and how the maturity of the landscape adds value and desirability to a home. But it also might be your neighbor's style to have everything open and 'clean cut'. I understand your tree issue because they same thing happened to me last Summer. The fir trees that provided semi-privacy along our back fence were limbed up high. There is nothing I can do about it. There is a group of huge cherry trees to the north of us that will be taken out for a new subdivision. And I also recently experienced a lot line dispute. I am not upset about two feet of property we lost, I am upset about how ruthless my neighbor was in the issue. The only thing I do is put up with it or move and I vote to move. I found a house with acreage that I love but have yet to convince my husband it is the right place for us. If you have the space for an 8-10 ft hedge, I would consider the golden leyland cypress. It grows quickly and it is beautiful. Not only that, your neighbors can trim it all they want if it encroaches their property and it won't hurt these trees one bit. You may need to check how hardy it there in Canada. With a good attitude and the right plant choice, I know you'll solve these issues.

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    1. Hi Stacy, I know you have had problems with the neighbours for a while now. So sorry to hear that it has gotten to the point that you want to move. Thanks for the recommendation. I will check out planting some golden leyland cypress.

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  5. Oh how sorry I am to read what has happened 'next door'. But, I like the positive note at the end, and I think you have wanted more sun in your back yard for a little while so perhaps looking at this from the new perspective, it will all work out. In fact, it might open new pages in your gardening future. You have visited many fantastic gardens since I've been reading your blog, so I know you have the vision to make a change if necessary. Dreadful to see the trees downed by the ice storm though. Heartbreaking.

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    1. Bren. I am okay with the loss of the trees at the back. As you say, I have always wanted a bit more sun. I am doing my best to stay positive; change in a garden is inevitable.

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  6. I am so sorry to hear this happening to you and your garden. The same happened to ours over 10 years ago when the huge eucalypts shading the backyard were lopped and I had all of a sudden a sunny backyard with shade tolerant plantings. Neighbours can be hard to deal with and we have some real gardening nasties living across from us. Over the years I have had plant damage due to disrespectful people, you would be surprised how many people don't give two hoots about plants, trees or gardens. I hope everything works out all right for you. Best Wishes.

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    1. Thanks Karen. I am determined to keep things pleasant. I have a feeling they aren't gardeners, but I am okay with that. Hopefully they have done all the tree trimming they are going to do.

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  7. Oh so sorry about all that has happened. I had neighbors that were from hell - didn't take care of anything, torn the fence down and didn't even say a word to me. When I got home from work my dogs were out in the front yard. Let me tell you I was one MAD lady. They did put up a cement block fence and didn't even ask for me to pay half, which I wouldn't have done since they didn't even bother to ask or tell me what they wanted to do. They finally had the house taken back from the bank and a flipper came in and totally re-did the entire house. So I have some very nice neighbors now and their yard is beautiful.
    I think that your neighbors are just young and maybe they have never owned a home before and do not know the in's and out's of being a good neighbor. It sure makes it hard, doesn't it.
    Hopefully they will wake up.
    Have a wonderful Easter.
    Mary

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    1. Thanks Mary. I think this is their first house and for sure there is a learning curve. Your story gives me hope that it all works out in the end. Glad you have great neighbours now. Happy Easter to you as well.

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  8. Sorry Jennifer, So sad about your trees. But storm damage is Mother Natures way of getting rid of the old and making room for the new. As for the neighbors... They are young and new at the gardening. Have not learned how to sit back and enjoy what they have. They will soon learn just as everyone else has. My best friends husband was the same way. He was all about cut and chop. Cutting branch's of a old oak that shaded the front of the house without thought or cleaning the blades between cuts. I watched that tree slowly die over 5 years from the spread of fungus. The Beautiful Magnolia and and sour Cherry were so severely cut back. The Magnolia they took easter picture under with the kids and thier baskets turned to water sprouts and never bloomed again. The cherry tree that I once picked cherry's and made a pie on a hot august day with my God Daughter never did recover and is now gone. He has since grudgingly admitted he should have listened to my advice at the time. But as I said we learn from our mistakes. The cherry tree and Magnolia have been replace with a perennial garden with a grape vine covered gazebo and a swing chair to enjoy it all.

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    1. I am sad about the trees at the back, but accepting of the change. I agree with you that the loss of the trees is just Mother Natures way. The hard part for me is the sudden lack of privacy. We live on a very busy street corner, so it was nice to be able to go into the back garden and feel like I had left the world behind.

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  9. This is a horrible situation for you! I bet the young neighbours don't realize how they are impacting things. All your hard work to create a gorgeous shade garden and now you're faced with this.

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    1. Ironically Heather, I think they have tried to make a big impact in a short time. Hence the ruthless approach.

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  10. Aaahhh, all the talk of ruthless hacking made a pit in my stomach. I have neighbors on either side AND behind, that don't do a dang thing in their yards. It makes me crazy. I wish I could strategically plant trees in the night that would enclose my little piece of Eden.

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    1. Mindy, you bring up a good point. Perhaps it would have been just as awful if our new neighbours had done nothing at all and let the place fall into a worse state of repair.

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  11. Oh, I can so relate to your story, I have neighbours on both side which have no interest in keeping a garden and the things they do use their gardens for, all has an impact on me and my garden. Over the years it is been a source of frustration and a matter of biting my lip, as there is only so much you can complain about as long as they keep inside their own garden. But last week I caught my neighbour’s eldest son, age 10 in MY garden – he had climbed over my fence to fetch a football they had kicked over. He just climbed into my flowerbed, trampled on my emerging lilies and was so surprised when I was angry at him for trespassing. He replied “But I want my ball back!” I am going to have to speak to his father again about kicking balls into my garden, for umpteen time. It is the same neighbour that cut off all the branches of my holly tree on their side when they painted their house, instead of just bending the branches aside. The tree had to be cut down eventually as it became completely lopsided and started to list. Not easy, I would prefer not to have neighbours :-)

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    1. I am sure it must have been awful to have your lilies trampled Helene. It would have been better and come to your door, apologized for the ball flying over the fence and politely asked to have you retrieve it.
      We may have the same issue with our trees as you did with your holly. A tree is balanced on all sides. If you cut off the branches on one side you destroy that balance and the tree becomes unstable.

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  12. Oh dear, I feel for you Jennifer. I have just written a post about new neighbours overlooking our garden, so we have lost our privacy of 23 years. Neighbours can be such a problem without meaning to be. When we were first married and clearing the overgrown garden which came with the house we had bought, I have to admit we cleared everything out simply because we couldn't separate the plants from the weeds. The old lady we bought from had been blind for years and no one had done anything to the garden for a long time. Hopefully you new neighbours will learn from your lovely garden.

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    1. Change is always hard, isn't it? I am sure it must be difficult to have that new house looming in the background on your garden Pauline. Time will tell if the new neighbours are gardeners. For now, I am happy that they seem to care about their property and want to restore the house which has been neglected in recent years.

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  13. Oh, my. So sorry to hear about your loss of privacy, and the sudden change of sun conditions to your garden. I suspect the young couple just doesn't know any better. Perhaps invite them over for tea and explain some of the plants in their yard? They may not understand that some of the plants are overgrown, yes, but others are still beautiful. Of course, it may be too late for that. But I'm certain they would appreciate a gardening neighbor (you) that they can ask questions of in anticipation of forming a new garden. Perhaps you could even persuade them to plant more trees to resolve your privacy issue! Good luck! We recently had a survey done, and our neighbor has part of our property fenced in. We won't say anything - as your parents probably found out, it's probably not worth it.

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    1. The only problem you may have Holley is when it comes to resale. Potential owners like to have such issues resolved before they purchase.
      I appreciate all your suggestions for keeping our relationship with the new neighbours on the positive side. I did walk around with her and point out a few shrubs and trees that I thought were valuable. They seem to blame the large numbers of mosquitoes here on the shaded environment the trees provide. In reality, it probably has much more to do with the nearby pond and river.

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  14. I'm so sorry to hear about all these sudden major changes.....they are so very drastic, how heartbreaking! I hope these two learn as they go along....I hope you can get through to them somehow. I think I would have been sobbing!
    I hope your garden adapts to these changes. You have posted some beautifully artistic pictures here. Good luck with it all....xxx

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    1. Thanks Snowbird. I am sure there is a learning curve here. It is their first house.

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  15. I understand that change can be good, but this is so sad, Jennifer.
    Definitely not one of those "good" changes, in my opinion.

    I wish you a good weekend.

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    1. Actually Lisa, I am hoping that the loss of the tree branches in the back corner might make it possible to grow a wider range of flowers. That could be a nice thing. The loss of the tree at the side is nothing, but sad though. The birds seem confused as to where the feeders that hung from its branches have gone. I will dearly miss the privacy and the shade it provided.

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  16. Ah, that was too bad. :-(

    The second pic is just perfect with colors and such - love it!

    http://tinajoathome.com/

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  17. Oh man Jennifer...I am at a loss with this one. I am sorry to hear about your trees and find it really odd that they "trimmed" your branches in such a manner. I feel blessed to have a garden buddy as a neighbor and we always run things by each other...HOWEVER I have a back neighbor who has caused some issues that I could go on about. I have learned full well that having neighbors can be a wonderful experience or it can be an eye opening experience. I do hope that you are informed on any more changes taking place around your property....All the best and a wonderful weekend to you! Nicole xo

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  18. If only we could harness the wisdom of mature years with the energy of youth, what a perfect combination that would be. I remember doing things in my early years of gardening without realising the consequences - and living to regret it !

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  19. Our old neighbour had a beautiful garden crammed with flowers. The young couple who moved in hired a small front loader to flatten it. Fortunately we saw the thing parked outside the night before and with permission rescued numerous plants. It was pouring with rain, my husband dug and I ran back and forth with the wheelbarrow. We were exhausted, soaked and covered in mud at the end of it. I'm so glad the old neighbour didn't see the destruction.

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  20. Changes are the hardest thing to go through...and when someone comes in and literally clearcuts the garden it's beyond hard, especially for a gardener. My heart goes out to you, it's not easy. We will be going through this soon, as our wonderful elderly neighbors are going to move..I dread what is coming, but aside from putting up a 30 foot fence, on my husbands advice...what can we do? So we wait, sometimes in dread, sometimes in hope.

    I've gone through so many neighbors in my little condo, each one a different type...so I guess what will one more in our house be but a parade of interesting people.

    I hope that somehow things improve for you...maybe your young neighbors will gain some wisdom, and respect.

    Jen

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  21. My neighbors like grass, a few shrubs and small trees so we are open on all sides...but the house on one side is still vacant...it is so hard when people just slash and burn and you are the victim of it all....I hope things look up and you can remake parts of the garden to your liking.

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  22. Ugh. I'm sorry to hear about these unwelcome changes.

    When I went to visit my FIL last night, the beautiful woods behind his house had been removed for the usual McMansions. What a shame, much of the woods could have remained.

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  23. I feel for you, Jennifer. When you've worked so hard to create a lovely space, it's difficult to see it changed by actions out of your control. It's bad enough when Nature creates problems like the trees damaged by the ice storm, but to have the neighbors' actions affect your garden, too, is doubly hard. I guess I should be thankful I live in the country, though some "neighbors" seem to think our fields are the perfect dumping ground:( I was sad to read Sweetbay's comments, too--fighting developers isn't easy either.

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  24. The old, old story. Neighbors can be either a blessing or a curse, and sometimes both. But as others have said, maybe they are young and will learn. It sounds as if they are merely uneducated in the ways of landscaping and gardening, not necessarily mean-spirited or bad people.

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  25. Oh my I can so understand how sad you feel about the loss of your beautiful trees and privacy as well. We are lucky that my mom lives on one side of us and her yard is always gorgeous. The new neighbor next door on the other side just recently dug up all the roses that the previous renter had planted and then moved them in places where I doubt they will do much at all. Plus she dug up this wonderful yellow daisy like perennial plant I had given the old neighbor and dumped it into a spot on the parking area with a bunch of weeds growing around it and now the plant is almost dead. I felt sick about that as I would have taken the plant back to my house if she would have offered it to me. What's funny there is that our property line actually extends through the back section of the house next door and I guess if we wanted we could probably get nasty and asked for our property back but the hassle just doesn't seem worth it. I hope you plant new trees that you can enjoy and hopefully your neighbors come through on helping with the fence repairs.

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