Ask Ann Cannon: When a good fence isn’t enough to make a good neighbor

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • My neighbors don’t like our bushes or trees hanging over the fence into their “airspace.” They regularly trim them straight up, hacking off branches with lilacs and limbs with lovely leaves. Mind you, the trees and shrubs are nowhere near their home or other buildings. They overhang a field and a cement driveway. I understand they have the right to do this, but it looks like crap, especially on their side of the fence. It’s not good for our trees, either. We noticed that their own trees that hang over on the opposite side of their yard are left alone, since that neighbor beside them doesn’t mind the natural look.

Often, our neighbors will poison our bushes and trees to try and stop their growth. They spray Round-Up over and through the fence and then say it’s an accident — that the wind caught the poison and blew it over onto our plants. The leaves turn black and a few limbs have died back to the trunk. This infuriates us. Plus, there’s nothing there for them to spray on their side of the fence since we’re talking about an open dry field and a cement driveway. Why would a neighbor hold such little value on our friendship as to do this? It seems the friendlier we get, the more they seem entitled to cut. Please help me see some logic in this.

Bewildered in South Jordan

Dear Bewildered • Wow! I’m so sorry. I can only imagine how truly frustrating this is for you. This is a tricky situation for sure. So, what do you do when a neighbor cuts back your foliage because it’s creeping over onto his or her property? I’m wondering if you’ve talked to your neighbors directly about what’s going on? A conversation might reveal that there are other issues (besides the obvious one) involved. If you haven’t communicated with them, they may have mistaken your friendliness for compliance. Communication may also give you both a chance to negotiate an arrangement you and your neighbors can live with.

If you have spoken with them and they’re still doing what you’ve described, then I’m sorry to say the situation probably won’t change. Sadly, some people are unreasonable, and some are just really, really, REALLY territorial. You know. Like that kid in the neighborhood where you grew up who was always shouting at people to “get off my property.” They see everything as an intrusion on their personal rights somehow.

As unfair as it is (and it’s especially unfair because, as you point out, they’re obviously not concerned about their trees taking up other people’s “airspace”), the only choice you have is how to personally respond to this situation. Can you somehow decide to not let their actions get under your skin quite so much? This might require a huge effort on your part — I know I’d have a hard time — but doing so may help you feel better in the long run.

Again, however, I’m sorry you have to deal with the aggressive thoughtlessness of your neighbors.

Meanwhile, I had this e-mail from a reader:

Dear Ann Cannon • I read your column in which a writer wrote about friends sharing good news before he or she had the chance. Here are my thoughts:

1. Are they really his or her closest friends if they do that?

2. Has he or she asked the friend not to tell other friends? If they still do, then maybe they really aren’t the closest friends.

I can relate. When I gave birth to my very first child, my own sister (who lived in the same town so knew it had happened), called MY PARENTS to tell them I had the baby and it was a boy! Talk about stealing your thunder!

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.

Return to Story