Russell Moore, Engineering consultant, Soldotna, AK

portrait-Russell-Moore[1]Trees on Former Maintenance Site Reduce Runoff and Improve View

When Russell Moore’s parents built their home on Soldotna Creek, he says you could look over the water and see vegetation except at the Department of Transportation maintenance yard where the trees were gone.

In 2013, the Soldotna Parks and Recreation Department undertook a transformation project at the site to enlarge Soldotna Creek Park, a recreational area on the Kenai River. With a grant from the U.S. Forest Service administered by the Alaska Division of Forestry, trees were planted with the intent of the site serving as a large rain garden, reducing surface water runoff into the adjoining waterways.

figure1-Russell-Moore[1]When Russell heard of the project, he was excited and jumped into the project to personally participate. Russell and community members are thrilled with the results. “I can now see the trees from across the river. They are going to grow, and as they mature, they will have the presence the community will enjoy when they visit the park. For those who live across the river, the trees will help enhance their view to the other side.” He adds, “I feel good to have been a part of the park’s renovation and to know that people beyond us will be able to enjoy it.”

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.

Texas Ebony: The Deciduous Evergreen

Flickr | Dick Culbert

(Pithecellobium flexicaule)

Although summer may be dwindling down, the heat of the sun and limited rainfall is not backing off. This year’s current conditions could be a hint to what next summer will be like. If you’re planning ahead for alternative ways to stay cool in the long-run, then planting a tree is the way to go.

As the name implies, the Texas ebony is native to Texas and only grows in the southwest region of the country. This tree has several unique traits, a notable one being that it doesn’t drop its leaves. If you’re searching for The Right Tree in the Right Place and are limited on space, then check out what this tree can offer to your landscape.

Environmental conditions

  • Grows in several different soils including acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay. Can survive in the driest conditions once tree is established.
  • Grows at medium growth rate of 1-2 feet a year, and can reach anywhere from 35-80 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • This is an evergreen tree and keeps its dense foliage year-round.
  • Blooms fragrant, creamy white and yellow flowers and has 4-6 inch brown seed pods. Fun fact: the seeds have been dried and made into jewelry and shells have been used as an alternative to coffee.
  • Can grow in compact spaces, making it a practical choice if you don’t have a lot of yard space. (Has a spread of 20-30 feet).The Texas ebony is a wonderful tree if you’re looking for shade but don’t have the space. You get the benefit of a larger shade tree with its dense foliage and colorful flowers, and the advantage of an evergreen with year-round foliage

    TX ebony leaves

    Flickr | Wendy Cutler

Do you have a Texas ebony? Shade a picture below!

 

 

 

 

When Science Meets Art: The Tree of 40 Fruit

Tree Grafting is an old practice of inserting a section of a stem with leaf buds into the stock of another tree. It’s a way of bringing two varieties of fruits together in a single tree. It’s also used in repairing injured trees and produces more fruits on each tree. The sight of a grafted tree is quite the marvel.

Sam Van Aken is a professor at Syracuse University and an artist who has been grafting trees for years. Among his pieces is a single tree that produces more than 40 varieties of stone fruits including peaches, plums and nectarines— thus the name The Tree of 40 Fruit. Because of the varieties of fruits brought together, when the tree blossoms it does so in different hues of pink, crimson and white.

The end result will leave you in awe.

What do you think of tree grafting?

Barbara O’Brien, Retired librarian, Tucson, AZ

Pathway Planting Leads to Safer and Friendlier Neighborhood

portrait-Barbara-O'Brien[1]“I always wanted to be a forest ranger, but I became a librarian,” says Barbara O’Brien. Now, she says, “I’m a mini-forest ranger.”

Barbara’s chance to work with trees in the great outdoors came when Trees for Tucson, the City of Tucson and the Broadmoor- Broadway Village Neighborhood Association’s Urban Forestry Committee joined forces to transform a rocky, six-block-long dirt pathway into one that was more attractive, less prone to crime and more easily walked by senior citizens. The result is a paved walkway with palo verde, desert willows and other drought-tolerant native trees on one side and – under utility lines on the other side – a variety of desert flowers and shrubs donated by gardeners in the area.figure1-Barbara-O'Brien[1]

Besides the physical transformation, less crime and increased use for exercise and fresh air, the benefits from this project came from having neighbors do the planting. Work days, as well as tours and special events, continue to be scheduled along the pathway. Barbara reports, “Neighbors from here and from blocks away come out on a Sunday or Saturday with shovels and go to work. You’re meeting people you wouldn’t meet ordinarily because your paths don’t cross. I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I’ve known neighbors who live close by. But now I know people blocks away.”

 

Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

(Chilopsis linearis)

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

Tery Hursh, Physician Assistant and Clinic Owner, Dillon, MT

Trees Bring People Downtown

portrait-Tery-Hursh[1]Street trees are making downtown Dillon, Montana a destination, according to 20-year resident Tery Hursh.

Businesses and civic organizations in the 4,132-person town have joined with the Dillon Tree Board to plant trees and enhance the landscaping along Atlantic Street in the downtown business corridor.

City leaders see the new trees as an example of how the expertise and commitment of the Tree Board has shown the city the value of trees, while adding vibrancy and foot traffic to the downtown corridor.

figure1-Tery-Hursh[1]“I hear positive comments every week from patients about the beauty that the trees have brought to downtown,” says Tery, who works in the area.

Citizen participation helped make the transformation happen. In one weekend, more than 20 volunteers transformed that downtown street.

Funding for the trees was provided by a grant from Montana’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. Were it not for this critical support, visitors and residents would lose out on the benefits of street trees in town’s main commercial district.figure2-Tery-Hursh[1]

“The trees have brought beauty, slowed erosion and made the community safer,” Tery adds.

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.

Is the western soapberry the tree for you?

(sapindus drummondii)

Western Soapberry full tree

Flickr| David Elckhoff

Named because of the lather the fruit gives off when mixed with water, western soapberry is a North American native and an excellent shade or ornamental tree to adorn your landscape. If you’re looking to add a little more green to the yard and want something drought tolerant, then this tree may be the tree for you. Below are a few attributes that make the western soapberry stand out.

Environmental conditions

  • This tree grows well in a variety of soils with dryer climates in the South and Southwest (hardiness zones 6-9). It prefers full sun and partial shade, meaning a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day would suffice.
  • Tolerates wind, drought, compacted soil and infertile soil
  • Transplants easily and establishes with minimal irrigation

Physical traits

  • The western soapberry will grow two feet a year and reach 25-50 feet in height with an equal spread
  • Blooms May to June with loose panicles of yellowish-white flowers
  • Produces orange fruits that resemble cherries and lather when mixed with water. Fun fact: Native Americans used the berry-like drupes as a soap substitute.
  • The western soapberry is a favorite of butterflies in early summer

 

western soap berry

Flickr| David Elckhoff

If you’re looking for something unique to add to your landscape then the western soapberry may be a good choice.  It requires little care and offers great shade from the summer heat. Check out Inviting all butterflies! Create an oasis designed for them! If you’re looking to attract more butterflies to your garden.

Do you have a western soapberry? Share a picture below.

Paul Weckman & Emily Wolff, restaurant owners, Covington, KY

Trees Bring People Downtown to Shop and Dine

portrait-Paul-Weckman[1]When Paul Weckman and Emily Wolff opened Otto’s restaurant, they selected downtown Covington because they value the historical significance of its 1850s structures. But something was missing.

“The neighborhood didn’t seem complete without trees,” Paul says. To do their part in restoring trees to the business district, the owners of Otto’s and a neighboring restaurant entered a partnership with the city. The resulting project transformed four parking spaces into a new outdoor dining area with trees.

figure1-Paul-Weckman[1]The cost of the project was split 50/50 between the city and the businesses, and the newly designed spaces proved seating for 25 additional customers and changed the ambiance of the street. City officials work with business owners to enhance the customer experience throughout the area.

“These trees created a desirable outdoor dining area and increased overall traffic,” says Paul. “Significantly more people are visiting the area for dining, shopping and strolling.”

figure2-Paul-Weckman[1]Were it not for this innovative private/public partnership, this historic business district would have missed out on increased vibrancy and people.

“We tell our staff that our restaurant should look like a beautiful painting,” Paul adds. “Trees make that possible.”

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.

What you should know before planting a sycamore

Largest Sycamore

Flickr | Ted Van Pelt

Choosing the Right Tree in the Right Place can be a daunting task. Should I plant a fruit tree or flowering? Will it be fast growing or slow? Will it even grow in my zone?

There are numerous factors to consider with each tree. Here are a few more things to note if you’re flirting with the idea of adding a sycamore tree to the family.

  • There are 10 species of sycamore, most of them sharing similar characteristics.
  • Sycamore trees are majestic in nature, averaging 40-100 feet in height and spreading 40-70 feet in width.
  • They are fast growing, growing more than two feet a year.
  • With its natural inclination to establish a sturdy trunk, it tends to have an aggressive root system, so be prepared to plant your sycamore at least 15 feet from your house or sidewalk. Planting it too close to surrounding structures not only threatens the tree’s health, but you also risk spending a bunch of money repairing any damage it may do to your home’s water lines, foundation, or driveway.
  • Some sycamores develop multiple trunks.
  • These trees are nicknamed “buttonball” trees because of the 1-inch balls that hang from the tree. These dry, hairy fruits hang in groups of 2-7 and encase small seeds. Their fruits will also drop in the fall.
  • Sycamores are among the oldest species of trees on Earth, known for their longevity and hardiness.

 

Sycamore Seed Strand

Flickr| Curandera vision

Sycamore trees can add character to your landscape, with their ashy white bark and lush green foliage. They also house food and nesting sites for birds including red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds.

Do you have a Sycamore tree? Share a picture in the comments.

Evan Matszuyama, student, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Tree Planting Helps Preserve Culture

portrait-Evan-Matszuyama[1]When Evan Matszuyama was 8, he would accompany his mother to classes at the University of Hawaii. There he came to know Dr. Richard Stevens who spent years bringing Hawaiian communities together to plant native trees throughout the islands.

Dr. Stevens’ influence was so great that Evan is now working to become a university professor and follow in the footsteps of his mentor. He has also gained an understanding of the significance of natural habitats in cultural traditions and the need to preserve or restore native vegetation.

figure2-Evan-Matszuyama[1]“Aside from physically giving back to my community by planting, I’ve gained an understanding of the value of diverse indigenous species that are fragile and need to be preserved,” says Evan. Through the work of Dr. Stevens more than 10,000 trees have been planted by students, veterans and citizens around veterans’ memorials, in communities, and in rural landscapes.

figure1-Evan-Matszuyama[1]Most of these projects would not have been possible without funding and technical assistance provided by Hawaii’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. As Evan continues his education, Dr. Stevens’ good influence lives on and bodes well for the future. Through the connection of teaching and tree planting, indigenous trees are being restored and preservation of Hawaiian culture is helping to enrich the land and its people.

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.