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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label street trees. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label street trees. Show all posts

      Monday, September 10, 2012


      Regular readers may remember that last fall, the city contractor finally (18 month delay) planted a new pin oak in front of my building, almost doubling the size of the planting pit.
      The tree languished with a full compliment of brown leaves until May, when in desperation, it finally made up it's mind to leaf out, as it's three old companions had done six weeks previously.
      Building residents were getting restless, would accost me on sidewalk or elevators asking me if the new tree had died. I advised patience, and to support my optimism, planted caladium bulbs in my roasting pan on a south-facing window.

      Notice that the pan is foil-lined and obviously has no drainage holes, but I was VERY careful not to over-water. When the outdoor soil had fully warmed in late May I planted a dozen caladium 'Kathleen', surrounding each tree trunk, just before the block association guys put in the coleus.
      It now looks like this.
      The caladium are barely visible, the plantings have a true tropical feel and there were enough coleus to dig a few last week, leaving no bare spots. I  put the mature coleus in two new planters until next spring when I do the official planting.

      Friday, August 13, 2010


      Am I patient or just lazy? I prefer the more positive spin.

      When I transplanted everything on my rooftop into new containers this spring, I lost only one shrub, this Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) that was one of a stalwart pair. The other was thriving in the next big planter. As you can see, I planted annuals and perennials around the dead bayberry, knowing I might have to rip everything up eventually. My excuse was that the bare branches had a nice architectural quality. Among my closest friends I'm known as the Queen of Denial.

      Two months later, sprouts emerged from the base of the trunk, and in a few scattered places along the branches.Despite strong complaints from our resident Realtor who thinks a dead tree will make it harder to sell an apartment, I'm waiting and watching. This shrub is not dead.

      Nor was the southern magnolia that I just had to have on my farm, after admiring the bright pink cones with vermilion seeds at Longwood Gardens. This despite my farm was in zone 5 and I knew the species I planted was labeled hardy only to zone 6. It grew well for four years, then one spring refused to sprout. I left that dead tree in place, watching it daily from my sun-porch, (this was laziness for sure.) Then after THREE YEARS It suddenly leafed out and was reliable year after year.

      Street Trees
      I tend the four tree wells in front of my building; there are Pin Oaks in the center of each, planted by the NYC Dept. of streets. Over a period of three years, one of the trees started to fail, then die; all twigs were brittle with no green inside.
      Spring 2010 I notified the City. They examined the tree. They sent the chipper shredder. Here's what was left of the 16' Pin Oak on May 25.
      And here's what appeared on July 12th.
      Double click on the image and see the leaf sprouts coming up around the stump.
      Critical Questions
      1. Shall I cancel the order for stump removal and a new tree at the Dept. of Streets?
      2. How long will it take these sprouts to grow into a tree?
      3. Shall I select one sprout and let that develop into a single trunk?
      4.Will building resident demand a new TREE?
      5. If they do will I succumb to pressure?
      6. Do giant oaks from cut-off stumps grow?
      7. Will I live long enough to see it all happen?

      Some opinions please!!!

      Friday, June 18, 2010

      NYC street trees...it's a jungle out there

      What is this man doing and why?

      He mumbled something about making the metal tree well cover fit, doing his job, blah blah blah. Did he know he was killing the tree? My guess is no. And if he had, what difference would it have made? Would he have said to his boss, no, I'm sorry, I can't do what you ask because it will kill the tree? Again, my guess is no.

      Further up 3rd Avenue I passed a street tree with a branch hanging by a strip of bark (a poorly driven truck? a rambunctious teen?). A traffic cop stood on the other side of the tree writing a ticket. I pointed out the damaged tree and explained it could get worse if the branch were allowed to pull off the tree, ripping the bark further. I identified myself as an arborist (a well-intentioned lie) who just happened to have a pruning saw in my bag. I offered to remove the branch to prevent more damage and fully expected to be met with a refusal. To my surprise and pleasure, the cop said, sure, go ahead. And I did.

      According to the NYC Parks Department, both the man with the axe and I are guilty of wrong doing. I don't know if it's a misdemeanor or a ticketable offense. I do know that I was helping, maybe even saving that tree, but in the eyes of the law, I shouldn't have done it. In the eyes of Mother Nature, however...

      In the fall, I plan to become a Citizen Pruner, so I won't have to worry about being punished for a good deed. Our street trees need all the help they can get.

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