Home Is Where Your Trees Are

A Clearing In The Wildwood. Part 3

So far, only that situation has been considered where a new home owner has control of his trees from the beginning. But the suggestions offered above apply with equal force when the new home you are buying or debating has already been started, or even completed, by a builder-developer. Knowing what to look for, you can tell whether he has conserved or laid waste the tree values in the property. If he has any tree sense, chances are that he has conserved values and will co-operate with you in improving them while there is yet time. If he has massacred the trees, sheer off and buy elsewhere. A sure key to a developer's tree sense, apart from his placement of the house and the care shown in grading, is his treatment of the driveway. Pennies pinched by slamming a driveway in on the shortest course, without regard for good trees, are dollars thrown away. Roots ripped or hacked off to let in concrete or blacktop could just as well have been pruned carefully and the trees' necessity for food and top-pruning recognized. The writer has vivid memory of four fine oaks in front of a $55,000 "development" home near Princeton, N.J., which were plainly slaughtered by such thoughtlessness. Not far from that house is another new one where a dozen tall hardwoods in the front grounds are now grisly skeletons just because about eight inches of soil, excavated from the cellar hole, were spread over their roots instead of being hauled away.

In the Saturday Evening Post (January 28, 1961), Charlton Ogburn, Jr., estimated that the nation's metropolitan population will increase by sixty million in the next year, of which twenty-five million will move into new houses in suburbs. Mr. Ogburn, a park commissioner of Virginia's fast-growing Fairfax County, across the Potomac from Washington, canvassed a lot of land planners, architects, and builders with this question in mind: "Will the land for the oncoming developments be scalped and flattened, or will the new dwellings be fitted into the existing terrain with minimum destruction of trees and undergrowth? . . . The answer will make an important difference in the kind of country we have to live in - and in the kind of people we are. . . . When . . . our dwellings seem to belong where they are, to be parts of their surroundings rather than invaders, we ourselves seem to gain a sense of belonging, of having roots. We even gain some of the serenity which is apt to be the scarcest commodity of all in the abundant life."

Mr. Ogburn found that the more intelligent - and successful - builders have learned to care for trees because it pays off. Added expense is more than returned in their properties' saleability. The Federal Housing Administration promises maximum evaluations to tree-saving builders. One subdivider even "located every major tree on a big topographical map and cranked them all into the plan." In another development the builder put up signs reading:
Trees Must Be Kept in Perfect Condition. Do Not Destroy Unless Construction "Super" Gives Approval. Anyone Guilty of Damaging Trees Will Be Put Off the Job.
Homes in new sections usually have to have the utilities brought to them - power and telephone, at least, if not water and sewer as well. It is wise to find out just where your trees stand in relation to these welcome but sometimes reckless arrivals. The workmen who clear the right-of-way and run in your service lines are not interested in saving trees, only in getting wires up or pipes down. Here again your builder is responsible, but keep an eye cocked over his shoulder, and get repaired promptly any tree damage he fails to forfend. In the end you will be glad you did, when other buyers' trees go to pot and yours are the nicest in the neighborhood. One other thing the bulldozer can do for you before it departs: clear a strip of ground for your tree nursery. Put it in a sheltered spot, below a slope, and don't let them scrape away all the topsoil.

In the course of events you may be wanting replacement trees or added starters for empty spots. There is no better time or place to collect and start some specimens than right on your own ground, to which your species are already accustomed. Your woods will be full of sprouts and switches which can be moved with little more effort than it takes to destroy them. The rudiments of transplanting are described in Chapter VIII. Here it is simply suggested that, while an unkempt tract is being tailored, future additions to its wardrobe can be provided for on the spot, to avoid expensive trips later to commercial tree farms.

Before passing on to the physiology, care, and culture of trees, let new home owners introduce themselves to the great Tree family through some of the following books:
Pocket Field Guide to Trees, William Carey Grimm (The Stackpole Co.); Handbook of the Trees, Romeyn Beck Hough (The Macmillan Co.); Introduction to Trees, John Kieran (Doubleday & Co.); Our Trees: How to Know Them, Arthur I. Emerson and Clarence M. Weed (J. B. Lippincott Co.); A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America and A Natural History of Western Trees, Donald Culross Peattie, ed. (Houghton Mifflin Co.); Illustrated Manual of Pacific Coast Trees, Howard E. McMinn and Evelyn Maino (University of California Press); Trees and Shrubs of the Southwestern Deserts, L. D. Benson and R. A. Darrow (University of New Mexico Press).