UNITED STATES—Like Michael Jackson said, “You got an easement on down the road.”. . . or something like that. In older neighborhoods, that is where the utility easements are usually located. These are zones for utility poles that suspend electrical, telephone and television cables. When electricity first became available, that was the easiest place to put the cables, and the practice continued for decades.
Utility easements in middle aged neighborhoods are usually at the rear boundaries of back yards. They were put there to get out of the way of shade trees in front yards, particularly street trees. Where there are alleys in back, easements are on one side of the alley or the other. The same applies to narrow streets with easements. More modern neighborhoods have subterranean utilities.
Those of us who must contend with easements know how difficult they can be. Trees that encroach too closely to the high voltage cables on top of the poles must be pruned for clearance, even if such pruning disfigures or kills them. Lower cables for telephone and cable television sometimes get tangled with vines or big shrubbery because clearance from vegetation is not such a priority.
Utility providers have access to easements to maintain their systems. So do the tree services that have the grim task of pruning encroaching vegetation for clearance from high voltage cables. They do what they must to maintain reliable service; which is unfortunately not always compatible with what we want for our trees. Clearance pruning is too often unsightly, but it is very necessary.
The only way to avoid unsightly and disfiguring clearance pruning to only plant trees that will not encroach into high voltage cables. Of course, in small gardens with big easements, the choices of trees that stay proportionate to available space are very limited. Except for Mediterranean fan palm or palms that stay very short, palms should never be planted below utility cables. They grow only upward, and cannot be pruned around cables, so must be removed when they get too close.
Highlight: New Guinea impatiens
Good old fashioned busy Lizzie is hard to find nowadays, if it can be found at all. The nasty mildew that kills it so quickly might not be prevalent everywhere, but happens to be a serious problem where most of the bedding plant farms are located. Now, the formerly uncommon New Guinea impatiens, Impatiens X hawkeri, which is somehow resistant to the mildew, is becoming popular.
The two specie have distinct personalities though. Busy Lizzie dazzles with cheery cartoonish colors, and bloom profuse enough to almost obscure the light green foliage. New Guinea impatiens has bigger and bolder flowers of white, pink, red, magenta, lavender, purple, apricot and reddish orange, but does not try to hide its rich green, bronze, purplish bronze or gold variegated foliage.
New Guinea impatiens are more expensive, and are not available in cell packs like most other bedding plants are. They are most popular in four-inch pots. They do well in pots and tolerate partial shade, but want rich soil and regular watering. Mature plants can get more than a foot wide, and might get as tall if crowded. Although grown as annuals, they can survive as short term perennials.