Despite its countless benefits, use of biochar has not been widely adopted in residential landscapes (yet). This is primarily due to the scarcity of suppliers and the challenges of producing it. New Urban Forestry is excited to be able to bring biochar products to the Athens and Oconee markets.
by Shawn Doonan
Narrowing the focus to our state’s register, Athens is home to 18 of Georgia’s State Champion Trees. One of the more notable trees with this designation is the Deodar Cedar, which is located in front of Chase Street Elementary School. Unfortunately, this tree experienced a devastating lightning strike, which has led to the general decline of the tree. Consequently, this tree was recently removed.
All of the trees on the on the national tree register have attained a point of maturity and in many cases are hundreds of years old. Mature trees, like elderly people, are less resilient than their younger counterparts to the trauma caused by climate change, severe weather events, and encroachment in the urban landscape. For this reason, they’re vanishing from our urban landscape. Therefore it’s more important than ever to start caring for the existing champion trees and replacing those that are threatened or have already passed to ensure that this program lives on for generations to come.
Water Oaks have long been one of the most dominant tree species in Athens which is attributable to its prolific acorn production, rapid growth rate, and adaptability to poor growing conditions. Aggressive planting programs in the first two decades of the 20th century also helped Water Oaks establish a firm place in the Athens Urban landscape.
Water Oak is located in Wilcox Triangle in Five Points in Athens. Wilcox Triangle is a small park area that New Urban Forestry adopted — we help care for the trees in this green space.
Another view of the Wilcox Triangle Water Oak. While it is not a Champion Tree, it is one of the larger Water Oaks in the county.
Waste wood: Wood Arts Show
When we talk about urban forestry, we often focus on the best-practices management of our existing community trees. In addition, we are aware that our urban forests bring many environmental and economic benefits to cities, including: reduced air-conditioning expense, sunlight absorption and ultraviolet light reduction, air cooling, rainwater absorption and improved stormwater management, and improved biodiversity.
In short: urban forests improve the microclimate and air quality of our towns and cities.
Economic benefits associated with properly managed trees include increased land, property, and rental value. Well-maintained trees also encourage increased residential, commercial and public investments. There are also many social and medical benefits to consider.
What we often, however, forget to talk about when discussing the urban forest is the value of the wood from trees that are removed during sound urban forest management. What do we do with this “waste” wood? Much of it does become mulch and compost. But what other options exist? Is there something we can do with this wood that adds to, or retains, the value and beauty of the tree after it is removed? Something that may continue to benefit the community as well?
Timber and the timber industry have long been recognized as vitally important to the Southeast. Historically, our pine trees provided naval stores and products like turpentine and the wood for tall ship masts. Live oak wood provided curved timbers for framing the massive hulls of large ships. And the Southeast continues to be an important source of wood, lumber and wood pulp. But we are less recognized for what wood can be when transformed with the eye of an artist and the hand of a skilled craftsperson.
Urban wood, because of unique characteristics as a result of growth habits, accessibility to city artisans and furniture makers, and the relationship of the artist to an individual tree or place, is helping to revive wood art in the Southeast. Urban wood is both “reclaimed” (re-purposed from old buildings and structures) and “upcycled” (created from newly cut urban trees).
Wood works: An Art Exhibition, is a show that will display the work of more than 35 wood artists and craftspersons, including furniture makers, fine artists and wood turners. The show will run between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 at the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF).
Though these artists and craftspersons will not utilize only urban wood, it does have a significant place as a medium, and even as a theme, in the work of some of the artists. Some of the furniture makers, for instance, strongly emphasize the materials. Don Bundrick, for example, builds furniture directly from branches, twigs and bark. Other craftspersons feature natural edge slabs or reclaimed lumber. Still others mix wood and metal, such as the “industrial” furniture of Jeff Walker.
Urban wood, as a result of a renewed interest in wood art and furniture in the Southeast — as as demonstrated in the show — will continue to gain importance and recognition. And as it does so, it will, like the trees in our urban forest, add value back to the community.
As the cooler fall weather moves in and changes our landscapes from summer green to shades of yellow, gold, and orange; you may begin to see one persistent pest that refuses to give up the green. In fact, it refuses to give up at all. Under the cloak of your trees’ leaves, mistletoe has found itself a home. Whether it be on the humble Hackberry or your prized Texas Red Oak, it has been growing—pulling its moisture from the host.
One of nature’s most harmful “bird gifts”, mistletoe seeds, move from one landscape to another looking for that perfect arboreal environment. The two and three year old wood on Cedar Elms and Hackberry trees are prime real estate, but a few other local species will do in a pinch. Once the location is right, the seed germinates and a strange, opportunistic root-like structure finds an opening in the bark and taps in to the tree’s vascular system. Mistletoe becomes a tree squatter, ready to take the neighborhood.
Fall is a great time to spread mulch on your trees and shrubs
With fall here and winter quickly approaching, now is a perfect time to mulch your yard. Not only is mulch a great way to keep weeds at bay, but unlike pine straw, it contains nutrition ready to break down and feed your plants. Mulch also acts as insulation for your plants, protecting plant roots against extreme temperatures; keeping them cool in the hot summer months and warm throughout the winter. With no weeds to pull and richer soil to work with, spring planting will come with ease.
At New Urban Forestry, our love of trees extends to re-purposing wood to make all your plants healthy and beautiful. We make our own mulch using local wood which is processed through a Rotochopper for consistent texture and a quality product. For our colored mulch we use only eco-friendly dyes of the highest quality available to our industry, because we believe that environmental safety need not be sacrificed for beauty.
If erosion is a problem for you, mulch is a great solution. It helps retain moisture in soil, while preventing excessive amounts of rain from washing it away. We suggest spreading mulch with a depth of 3 inches for best results in insulation and erosion protection. If we get rain like last winter, your plants will thank you!
As far as mulching trees goes, try to avoid piling mulch up against the trunk of your trees. These mulch “volcanoes” cause too much water retention at the base of your trees which creates the perfect environment for decay, disease, insects, and critter issues. Instead, create a donut-hole effect, leaving space around the base of your trees to prevent unwanted dampness at the trunk, while still maintaining soil moisture for the roots.
It seems as though those extreme summer temperatures are behind us, leaving us with the perfect weather for working in the yard. So don’t wait until the hustle and bustle of the holidays! Give us a call today for all your mulching needs.
Native Plant Community Design — Taking Examples from Nature in the Southeast for Sustainable Design
Traveling from Athens, GA to Cullowhee, NC for the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University I was able to stop and visit many diverse natural communities on the short drive. My arrival in Cullowhee began with a botanist-led excursion into the serpentine barrens of Buck Creek in the Nantahala National Forest. Finding communities of pitch pine, deer berry, big bluestem grass, and many herbaceous plants that one would just as soon find in a prairie ecosystem in the Midwest than the side of a mountain in western North Carolina, we began to point out and recognize the pattern of plants in this rarely occurring ecosystem. The designer in me was eager to organize the information into an orderly landscape planting design for my clients.
Luckily, shortly after this amazing field trip I met Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, authors of Planting in a Post-Wild World. Their talk and book helped me further my
understanding of designing native plant communities. As a native plant designer, one does not want to get caught in the rut of simply replacing individual plants with a native counterpart. For example, a single ligustrum hedge could be replaced with a wax myrtle hedge, and that could certainly benefit a small area and a few local birds.
However, imagine what one could do when the native plants of an area are seen as a system and a forced design of non-native flora—including exotic, invasive plants— could be replaced with a fully native-plant community that benefits the soil, air, and all wildlife, not just a few species of birds. The ecological benefits of designing and installing native plant communities are clear, but in a post-wild world, designing with native plant communities will benefit humanity in ways that are not fully understood or realized. A meadow on a parking structure roof will add ecological function through filtering storm water and mitigating the heat island effect, but will also connect urban dwellers with natural beauty. In order to bring ecological functions to the urban core and create sustainable, resilient metro-areas, we must design cities that are intimately connected to and function with the natural world, not seen as a separate entity.
Here in Athens, GA, my design work is mainly centered in an area called the Piedmont. This diverse natural community contains twelve common sub-communities including Oak-Pine-Hickory forests, prairies and savannahs, granite outcrops, and floodplains. The Piedmont has many native plant species that overlap community boundaries. This overlap—commonly called edges, where an upland Oak-Pine-Hickory forest transitions to prairies and savannahs—is where the action occurs. This edge is where the greatest diversity of plants and animals is found. I find these edges in my clients’ landscapes in the forms of planting beds transitioning to lawn or tree islands transitioning to parking lots. These are the areas where we can begin to see how different our conventional plantings are from the plant communities that would occur naturally.
Taking our inspiration from nature, a design of a native plant community would be packed with plants that naturally occur together as opposed to the conventional tree-shrub-pine straw-turf formula that is so often seen in modern landscape design. A design based on a natural community would have an innate resilience. For example, a design of a parking lot planting could be inspired by a serpentine barren—a natural community with shallow soil and harsh living environments—or a rain garden design could be inspired by a floodplain—an area that is flooded and drained with rain events.
In conclusion, as one travels through the South and beyond, I encourage us to always seek out and experience the different natural and plant communities occurring within these areas. I find inspiration from these local natural communities as I work to design resilient, functional, and sustainable landscapes. Together, we can work to bring the natural resiliency of these areas to the designed landscapes of our urban cores and begin to build sustainable, ecological cities.
English ivy, [Hedera helix], is an exotic invasive species that is popular for it’s ability to grow in dry shade. Unfortunately, the English ivy has become so successful that it is replacing native species, including trees! Mature English ivy has the ability to climb and cover the tree canopy, adding thousands of pounds of biomass weight totrees, girdling tree trunks, and shading sub‐canopy and canopy trees. This can cause trees to fail and fall on nearby structures and utilities. Although still recommended by landscape professionals because of English ivy’s resistance to disease, ability to grow where lawns fail, and its overall aggressiveness, English ivy carries many problems and issues with it. English ivy does not benefit native wildlife, but does benefit vermin, giving them places to hide.
We at New Urban Forestry Landscaping are committed to the removal and eradication of English ivy in our landscapes and replacing them with native plant species that benefit the wildlife and ecology of the site.
Ivy girdling is a technique that we employ to begin the process of saving the mature trees that English ivy is so adept at killing. We cut the ivy from the ground to around 3‐4 feet up the tree, being careful when removing the ivy from the trunk as to not cause damage. As the top portion of the ivy is severed from the nutrient providing root system, it dies and begins to fall off the tree, liberating the tree and ultimately saving its life.
Smothering English ivy is another technique that we at New Urban Forestry Landscaping use to control the ivy that runs rampant on the ground. We remove and cut as much of the ivy as we can, then we layer cardboard over the ivy debris that may sprout back, finally we cover the cardboard with a thick layer of mulch. Be aware that mulch is great for trees and shrubs, but you can have too much of a good thing! The maximum amount of mulch layer around trees and shrubs is 4 inches. Anymore than 4 inches and you run the risk of suffocating the plant roots and killing the plants that you worked so hard to save.
Although English ivy eradication may seem daunting at first, we like to prioritize the eradication efforts. The #1 priority is to save all trees in the landscape; #2 is to remove and smother ivy that tries to climb on structures and fences, and finally the last priority is to eradicate ivy from the ground by removal and smothering with mulch.
So the next time you are struggling with what to plant underneath your mature trees, before planting an exotic, invasive species, contact us at New Urban Forestry Landscaping and we will help you decide on plants that are beneficial to the ecosystem and will not harm your established landscape.
How do we love our trees? Aside from just giving them a big hug from time to time? There are things you can do to show your tree love that will sustain its life, beyond just regular pruning and maintenance.
We all know that trees need water. But how much water and when? I can’t tell you that. But an arborist looking at your trees can. Are they drought tolerant species? Was it planted in the last 2 years? What is the soil like surrounding the tree? Getting the right amount of water (and seriously, not too much) is one of the first ways to make sure your trees know you care.
Speaking of soil…
What does an arborist know about soil? Don’t forget that tree roots extend far below the surface. Trees start from the ground up. To hug the entire tree, you have to get your hands dirty.
One of the biggest dangers to our trees is soil compaction. Do you park your car under the tree? Do your kids play under a particular tree every day? This compaction can damage the roots of the tree. Your tree may look fine now, but compacted soil can eventually lead to insect infestation or stress which can lead to vulnerability months or years down the road. Improving the soil surrounding trees can rejuvenate ailing trees and prolong the life of your investment.
One soil-improvement method that might be recommended by an arborist is radial trenching. This is the fancy way of saying: digging holes (in a radius) and filling them with nutrient-dense soil. This calculated process is designed to aerate and supply nutrients and prolong the life of the tree.
Do you spray pesticides on your tomato patch? Did you fertilize your turfgrass? Your whole landscape can affect the trees in and around it. They all share the common soil. This is one reason why an arborist should help when planning what to plant and where. We can help plan when treatments are appropriate and will not be harmful to your trees and shrubs, and also how pruning and treatment of trees can affect the other plants as well.
Planning your landscape with the longevity of trees and plants in mind with the help of an arborist can prevent problems that might occur years down the road and show your trees that you love them for many years.
New Urban Forestry is excited to offer a customer referral program. We recognize that our success is based on your support. We would like to give back to those who have shared their positive experiences with their friends and neighbors about our services over the years. As a benefit to you, your friends, your neighbors, and the broader Athens community, we would like to offer a gift to show our gratitude.
We are aware that often you receive little in return when a tree is removed. We believe in the future of trees in Athens. We hope as a business to not only maintain the existing tree canopy in our community, but also prepare for the future tree canopy. For every tree that we remove, we hope that an additional tree is being planted to replace it. We’d like to help in this process by giving our customers a tree to plant.
How it works
If an existing New Urban Forestry successfully refers a new customer, New Urban Forestry will give the existing customer a thank you gift. Please let us know if someone has referred you.
What is a Successful Referral?
A successful referral is when a new customer mentions an existing customer by name and both customers have had work completed by New Urban Forestry.
What is the gift?
New Urban Forestry will donate to the referring customer one 3 gallon tree that is drought and disease resistant and appropriate for our region. If you do not have room for a tree, or do not need a tree, we will give you a t-shirt designed specifically for our customers. For each t-shirt we give away or sell we will donate $5.00 to the Athens Clarke County Community Tree Council to assist with area-wide tree plantings.
Thank you for your business and your support!