Our Lone Silver Maple

By Laura Miller | April 29, 2021
Image by leonikonst
by Laura Miller
April 29, 2021

Like many new homeowners, when we first moved into our home we quickly set about making it our own. This included new paint for the interior and tackling outdoor landscaping issues. We tamed the overgrown lawn, trimmed the shrubs and cut down huge trees which were growing too close to the house. But for some reason I can’t quite explain, we left one tree in the backyard. 

This Tree Has to Go

Hubby and I both agreed the Silver Maple tree in the backyard needed to go. This tree, which was already quite big, sat smack-dab in the center of the backyard. The trunk leaned to one side. And sticking out from the base of the trunk was a metal pipe that I can only guess was used to support the tree when it was young. 

Altogether, the tree was not at all aesthetically pleasing. Yet here we are thirty-some years later, and the Silver Maple tree in the backyard remains. Why? Turns out, Silver Maples are  considered one of the best fast-growing shade trees. They have thick, dense foliage which creates a wonderful sunblock. 

Or, Maybe Not

As we took refuge from the hot sun that first summer, we realized what folly it would have been to cut down that tree. At the time, we didn’t have air conditioning. We ate many dinners in the cool shade of the Silver maple. And in the decades that followed, this became our beloved family tree.   

When I look at this tree in the backyard, I remember all the July birthday parties we hosted for our youngest son. The afternoon shade covered most of the backyard and provided plenty of room for the kids to play and the adults to lounge in comfort. 

The shade from this tree provided the perfect lighting for my oldest son’s senior pictures. And this beloved family tree was our emergency “meeting” place. It was where I instructed my young children to go should we ever need to escape a house fire. 

Maintaining the Silver Maple

While Silver maples are one of the best fast-growing shade trees, many homeowners shun them. Due to their rapid growth, Silver maples have softer, more brittle wood than other hardwood trees. This makes them more prone to losing branches, especially large ones, in windstorms.

We address this problem with judicial pruning. Branches which begin to extend over the buildings are periodically trimmed back. Although the canopies of the maple trees in the backyard are thick, we keep the interior of our tree cleared of moisture-holding foliage. This promotes good air circulation and reduces fungal growth and rot. 

We also created a large flowerbed around the tree. This protects the protruding roots from the blades of the lawn mower and eliminated the need to use a string trimmer near the trunk. 

By caring for our beloved family tree, the silver maple remains strong. And maybe someday, this long-lived tree will be around to create memories with my grandchildren.

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