One result of last December’s Massacre of the Not-So-Innocents was that a Japanese maple previously shouldered aside by a hefty oak is now fully exposed to view from all sides. To be honest I’d barely noticed it before, but now it’s visually unavoidable. And, of course, the poor thing never had a chance to grow even remotely straight – hence its immediate nickname of The Leaning Tower of Maple.

Given the significant asymmetry, I’m trying to decide what – if anything – I should do with or about it. The degree of awkwardness depends heavily on the angle of view.


This is how it looks from my front yard (looking south to north.) Overall not too terrible, from here. Apologies for the inclusion of the brush and the wall of lawn bags, neither of which are mine. Our township has a very casual schedule for yard waste pickup – “approximately” every two to three weeks, they claim – which means such things sit at the curb seemingly forever. I miss my previous neighborhood where they picked up yard waste every Thursday without fail, plus six dedicated pickup weekends in spring and fall for cleanup seasons!



This is the view if standing at the end of my driveway looking northwest. We’re getting a seriously ‘windswept’ vibe here.



Here’s the view as seen from directly across the street. And here’s the extra glitch: the property line between myself and my neighbor is apparently just to the right of that clump of hosta at the base of the maple; possibly right through the center of the hosta, actually. This means about 95% of the tree extends into my neighbor’s yard… a state of affairs (knowing this neighbor as I do) that undoubtedly is very unpopular with same.

Homeowners here are legally permitted to cut back any branches or limbs that extend into their property space at any time except if by doing so the health or life of the tree would be compromised. Clearly that’d be the case here, and if my neighbor were to cut off the ‘overhang’ there’d be no tree remaining! To be fair, though, if the situation was reversed I’d probably hate the sight of this tree perpetually leaning over my property like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

So I’ve got two choices: (a) leave the Leaning Tower of Maple as is and hope that the new access to sun from the south side may encourage new growth that may somewhat balance the crown shape; or (b) have the entire tree cut down. Partially trimming back these limbs would only make it look worse; I tried via my photo editing software and it was cringeworthy. Option B doesn’t much appeal to me, partly because of the cost and partly because I like the color/contrast of having such a tree in that spot. However, I can’t shake the feeling that aesthetically it looks….well, let’s be kind and just say “awkward.”

Discussing it with said neighbor isn’t an option: We haven’t been on speaking terms for two years. When I first moved in, they asked if I would agree to let them have a large Chinese Elm in my northwest corner cut down because it constantly dropped leaves and branches into their pool — a request that the former owners of my house had steadfastly refused. I am not a fan of Chinese Elms and there are two large conifers in that corner anyhow, so I said okay. But a couple of years later they pushed the envelope by telling (not asking, mind you: telling) me that I “have to keep cutting [my] shrubs and trees several times a year to prevent branches from extending over the fence, because it looks too sloppy on our side.” Excuuuse me?!? There is nothing preventing them from cutting any of that plant material back to the fence plane, and I’m certainly not about to (nor can I afford to) maintain their backyard property line for them in the manner to which they seem accustomed, which is clearly of the Not a Leaf Out of Place or Ever Falling on the Manicured Lawn school. They considered my clarification of the legal realities to be “mean and rude”, and so there we are. No dialogue happening any time soon!

But back to the asymmetric acer, a/k/a the Leaning Tower of Maple:  Considering the three vantage points above, what would you do with it? Most of the time I’m seeing the tree from the “best” possible viewpoint (from the south or southwest) and so the extreme trunk angle is not very obvious. So from a purely self-centered mindset, I could simply let the tree continue to merrily do its thing – realizing, of course, that an especially nasty ice storm might one day result in some drastic pruning by Mother Nature herself!

ADDED on MAY 22nd: Here are two photos of the Leaning Maple’s trunk, in connection with my response to Tony’s comment below.