Trees a boon to property owners

I really believe that there is no more liveable, vibrant, and beautiful neighbourhood in our fair metropolis than the Beach. And although every season helps to showcase that fact, I think the Beach in autumn is perhaps the most outstanding. Our urban forest is at its brilliant best when the leaves turn, with a dazzling display of colour that must leave the other great cities of the world green with envy!

I am sure most Beach residents really do appreciate our urban forest, one that is integral to our neighbourhood. Dominated by majestic red, white, and black oaks, and silver, red, and sugar maples, the native sandy soil here is good for these species, well-drained and nutrient-rich. Balsam fir, beech, white and red spruce, and white pine trees also flourished here once, but several of these have not adapted well to urban environments.

Emma's willow, a weeping willow planted on the Ashbridge Estate in 1919, towers over arborist Philip van Wassenaer as he leads a tour of the estate's heritage trees on Sept. 9. The tour was organized by LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests), and included a speaker from the Ontario Heritage Trust, which looks after the heritage property. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Participants in a LEAF-led tree tour admire one of the Beach’s many mature trees.
BMN FILE PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

According to Toronto’s Urban Forestry Division, the lifespan of most trees within urban areas of the city is generally reduced by about half, with an average maximum age of 100 years. The awesome oak trees that many Beach residents are so fond of are fast approaching the end of that lifespan. Over the next five to 20 years, residents will notice a dramatic change in their neighbourhood.

There is a wide gap between the trees that the city planted over the last 20 years, and the mighty oak trees that we now have.

Some Beach homeowners prefer not to have an oak tree (or any tree!) replanted on their property when an old tree is removed. City officials do not replace trees on city-owned setbacks (boulevards) if there is resistance by the property owner. Some residents just don’t want the hassle of acorns, leaves and maple keys in the drains, rain gutters and lawns, or the potential damage caused by the roots. And of course, front yard parking areas also take away natural places where native trees could thrive.

Trees on city-owned property are covered by a different set of bylaws and rules than trees on private property. Homeowners and potential buyers should be aware of the rules and bylaws regarding trees.

Especially relevant are bylaws regarding construction around trees. Failure to follow them can result in a reality check on your improvement plans in the form of hefty fines.

Beach residents should also be aware that since many of our big oaks are getting old, they can pose a safety issue. The easiest way to identify a problem with your tree is to simply look at it. The best time to examine a tree is in late summer or early fall, just before the leaves have started to change and drop off. If the crown (the top portion of the tree) is already dropping its leaves noticeably more than the rest of the tree, or the leaves on a branch are much smaller than the other leaves, these could be signs of root damage. If the tree drops its leaves in August, it could be under stress due to lack of water. The most common cause of root damage is construction and landscaping, most often from the resulting compaction of the soil around the tree. An oak tree’s roots are closer to the surface, and more widely spread than most people realize. It can take several years for a mature oak to show signs of stress, resulting in its demise.

Our trees are a valuable asset to the community, and a valuable asset to your property. A University of Guelph faculty of landscaping study showed that a majority of home buyers preferred properties with mature trees, and neighbourhoods with mature trees over those without. The study found that each mature tree could increase a property’s value $20,000 or more.

Trees in our neighbourhood should be looked after to maintain and enhance that value. Regular watering is important, especially during the summer. Using the drip method is a good technique, as it doesn’t waste water. Place the hose about four feet from the trunk, and slowly let the water drip into the ground. Every couple of years, you could get an arborist to inspect your investment. There is no provincial licensing requirement for arborists, but there is an accreditation through the International Society of Arboriculture.

Improper cutting of branches or inaccurate diagnoses can hurt or kill your tree. If your tree looks unhealthy when you sell, potential buyers will be worried about the cost to have the tree removed. But if your tree looks healthy, you will be rewarded in your sale price.

In any event, healthy trees are great for everyone!


Thomas Neal is a well-known and respected Beach real estate agent   ~   416-690-5100

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