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

      Showing posts with label transplanting. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label transplanting. Show all posts

      Thursday, November 17, 2011


      New York City has a program to plant a million new trees within its five borough's. I wonder what number I got.
      The pin oak, one of the four in tree pits in front of my building, 'died' in 2009. I called the Dept. of Parks and Recreation in the fall, got a case number and a place on the waiting list. The tree was cut down 5/25/10, and two months later, sprouted shoots from the 'dead' stump, so not dead, but not a tree either.The city plants trees only in spring and fall. No action fall of '09, spring or fall of '10, or spring '11. Finally, Nov. 15, 2011 the contractor hired by the city dug up the stump, enlarged the tree pit and planted, amazingly, what I had requested, another pin oak.With new soil, several inches of dark mulch, and without a fence or curb, in one day it became the favorite peeing place of all dogs on the Upper East Side.The next morning we had warning tape in place and I planted spring bulbs provided by the Block Association. The tape will remain until new curbs and fence are installed.The new tree pit is almost twice as long as the original, adding a good 12 sq. feet of growing space for the tree roots. I'm told that the city plans to enlarge all tree wells as trees need replacing.

      1.In each of two summers without the tree, summer annuals for shade like coleus and caladium grew 3-4 inches higher than the same species under the trees.(above), annuals under a pin oak.
      (below), no tree.2. One youngish woman in my building asked me, the garden lady, what was new in the garden. She told me she never noticed the dead tree or that the tree was sawed off or that the tree had been replaced. Over two years of not noticing a site she walks by directly in front of her building. And I thought it was so important!

      Monday, December 14, 2009

      just when you thought it was over...

      Remember a few weeks ago I posted that all my gardens were neatly put to bed for the winter?

      I foolishly thought my outdoor work was done for the season, but just found out that a client is replacing her fence next week. Which means someone (me) had to cut the woody vines (Hydrangea petiolaris, Schizophragma hydrangeoides) off the fence, transplant six shrubs that might be in the way, and mark any perennials whose crowns would be damaged by heavy work boots trodding upon them. Fortunately the ground wasn't frozen on Monday morning. I feel lucky to have sneaked in under the weather wire.

      The thought of construction workers stamping through the garden makes me nervous. Even though the perennials have been cut back for the winter, their crowns and roots are still vulnerable to soil compaction damage. I'll never forget being reprimanded by Brent Heath (in the nicest way possible) that just because I couldn't see a plant where I was stepping, didn't mean there wasn't something sensitive just beneath the soil surface.

      Admittedly, the fence is in bad shape, not to mention encroaching into our garden by 6-8 inches. I'm sure the construction will be worthwhile from an aesthetic p.o.v., not to mention the extra square footage, but still, I worry.

      Fingers crossed.

      Saturday, May 16, 2009

      Who needs to join a gym?

      There are times when gardening makes me feel artistic and creative. There are times when gardening makes me feel serene. But this week I was a macho, macho gardener and it felt really good.

      Many people think of container gardening as small scale gardening: a pot of annuals on a front stoop, a windowbox on a terrace parapet. But the next time you walk down a New York City street, look up. Those trees you see showing over the tops of buildings are growing in containers, and they didn't get there by themselves.

      For the last three years I've been working on a transplant project in a large rooftop garden. The old boxes are wood with stainless steel corners; we've gradually been replacing those with stainless steel boxes. They look sleek, modern, and elegant, and they should last much longer than the wood. (Even with liners, cedar boxes only last about 5 years.) They're also expensive, which is why we've stretched the project out over several years.

      Moving trees isn't a one-woman job. I LOVE to get in there and lift with the guys (and I also have a thing for power tools) but the truth is I couldn't manage this without my crew. Remember, these are 10 foot Arborvitae we're moving around! First we clear the table and chairs out of our work area and start pulling out the old boxes. (Casey Clark puts his back into it, above.)

      Some of the old boxes have rotted through. We (and by we I mean Mark Ianello) cut these up into pieces small enough to fit into large garbage bags, and the salvageable boxes are set aside. We also bag any old soil we can work off the rootballs. Note: most building won't allow you to leave your garbage behind; contractors (gardeners are contractors) are expected to remove their own debris. I call an independent garbage hauler at the end of a heavy work day like this. We take the garbage to the street and load the truck ourselves.

      The new boxes are lined with landscape cloth to prevent soil from falling out the drainage holes, and we add fresh soil to the bottom of the containers.

      Notice the bag of Fafard Complete Planting mix? It's the best bagged mix I've found and my first choice for container gardening. It's only sold at independent garden centers, so you may have to look a little harder to find it, but the results speak for themselves. I wouldn't use anything else.

      We often do some root pruning before we lift the trees and shrubs into their new containers. This gives us more room for nutritious new soil, and opens up root space in the containers.

      We decide how each tree should be oriented, then lift it into place. Each box is filled with more soil and the taller trees are wired to the iron railing that surrounds the terrace.

      Clean-up is the most tedious part of the day. Despite working on a tarp, soil falls into the cracks between roof tiles. I spend an hour with a shop vac and a crevice tool, then water in the new transplants and hose down the tiles. I think the clean-up is harder on my back than the lifting!

      Step one is complete. The new boxes look great (fortunately my client agrees) and there's now plenty of room to add herbaceous plants among the woodies. This has been an issue lately; the old boxes were so chock full of roots that I could barely squeeze in a handful of pansies.

      At the end of a day like this I'm exhausted but satisfied. My walk home through the park is considerably slower than usual, but I remind myself that I got a pretty good workout and earned my living doing it. Who needs to join a gym?

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