Taking down certain trees is not a bad thing, and neither is thoughtful replanting

I love trees. I have planted a baker's dozen since I returned to my family's home here in Roland Park. Dogwoods, cherries, hollies, Leyland cypress and a Japanese zelkova have now turned most of our garden into a shade garden.

Some of the Leyland cypresses are looking scraggly. Generally, they are not long-lived trees. They grow fast and have problems fast. Heavy snows do damage, as do various diseases. It may be time to take them down and start over again. They are my trees of choice on the Cold Spring Lane side of our house. They do not mind the heavy dousing of salt during snowstorms every winter. Sometimes taking a tree down is not a bad thing to do.

That seems to be the case on Oakdale Road, where St. David's Church has recently worked with the Baltimore City arborist to have five Bradford pear trees removed. Planted more than 20 years ago, these Bradford pear trees looked lovely, particularly in spring, for many years. They created a lot of shade on the south side of the church, eventually so much so that the crape myrtles planted along the same side do not bloom vigorously.

Their branches were also hit by trucks going down the hill and broken regularly in strong winds, just as many others planted decades ago throughout the city have been maimed and broken by trucks and winds. Bradford pears are not ideal street trees. Their growing roots on Oakdale Road also punched up large section of the sidewalk, creating a hazard for people getting out of cars.

At night in summer, I noticed they made things a little too shady for good safety on that side of the church.

Bradford pears were Mayor William Donald Schaefer's trees of choice; they popped up all over Baltimore. While lovely in their pear-like shape, their habit is dense, so wind damage is common. They are ornamentals, not shade trees. Passing trucks easily break ornamentals.

Shade trees are recommended for planting next to the street. Think of Roland Avenue. The vase-like Japanese zelkovas in the median create a high canopy. Along Roland Avenue in front of houses, oak trees have been replanted over the last 10 years.

On our side street, horrible silver maples, which were planted long ago and habitually drop hollow limbs, have gradually been replaced by red maples and a few oaks. No longer do we have big limbs crashing on cars on sunny, windless days.

St. David's plans to replant. For now they are grinding out the stumps, removing rocks in the soil between the street and the sidewalk, re-grading and re-sodding. Currently, the area is a mudflat, but that will change. St. David's will work with the city arborist and with the new Greater Roland Park master plan, which offers guidelines and plenty of variety. The list includes serviceberries, gingkoes (males only, so no aroma), and several different kinds of oaks and hybrid elms among many others.

Although a native, the red maple is not currently on the list. The thinking is that many were planted in the neighborhood in recent years. If disease were to strike, the planners do not want all of the trees stricken at once. Think of the Dutch elm disease that eliminated so many graceful elms in Roland Park.

A tree inventory of the area is in progress. My vote would be that if the red maple count is not too high, a few would look great on the south side of St. David's. They would coordinate well with the smaller maples in the front garden and offer a striking contrast to the stucco walls in fall.

Thoughtful replanting of lost trees, not only by St. David's but also by homeowners, beautifies the landscape and benefits the environment for current and future city residents.

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