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.
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.
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.
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!
The Lyndon House Willow Oak is set to be removed at the end of the month.
The Athens Clarke County Community Tree Council is responsible for, among other things, designating Landmark and Champion trees throughout the county. (landmark trees from tree ordinance):
Criteria for designation. Landmark trees shall be healthy trees that meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Age greater than 50 years as determined by planting records or the written opinion of an arborist, the Athens-Clarke County Arborist, or the community forester.
- Large canopy trees greater than 36 inches dbh, medium canopy trees greater than 24 inches dbh, and small canopy trees greater than 12 inches dbh.
- National, state, or Athens-Clarke County champion trees.
- Unique or rare species.
- Association with a documented historic event, person, or community landmark.
- Trees planted for Arbor Day celebrations and other community-wide public celebrations.
- Trees planted in honor or memory of an individual or an event.
- Trees belonging to a significant cross-property or neighborhood-wide planting that affect the greater landscape beyond the property on which they grow.
One notable Landmark and Champion tree is the majestic Willow Oak that stands in front of the Lyndon House on the edge of downtown Athens. This tree, honored with champion tree status in 1999 at the ribbon cutting of the Lyndon House arts center is being removed at the end of this month. Didi Dunphy, program supervisor at the Lyndon House and Roger Cauthen, Landscape Management Division Administrator for Athens Clarke County recently discussed the decision to remove the tree as well as some of the plans for the wood and the campus of the Arts Center.
Determining the exact age of the tree has proven to be rather difficult. There is speculation that the tree dates back to the 1850’s. Didi and Roger help explain:
“My look into it for photographic evidence only went back to the 70’s, where I could distinguish that tree in a landscape, and that was at the beginning of the arts facility being in our historic house museum. However, there has been discussions that it could be as old or potentially as close to as old as the house, but we really won’t know until it has fallen and with the hopes that the rings will be distinguishable,” said Didi
Roger elaborates, “As long as I have been witnessing the tree, since 1980, it’s been in a similar size and form with the fluted trunk. So when I first began to observe the tree and be a part of the local government, it was regarded even then as a significant tree.”
The decision to remove the tree was not altogether unexpected.
“I’ve been in place as the supervisor for a year and a half now. At the time, Roger came over, very early on and told me that several arborists had been looking at it and that it looked like it was entering the end of its life cycle and I had thought maybe 3 years, but it’s accelerated. And it’s based on a number of dead, large dead branches, that for me as a facility with a lot of people and youth has become hazardous period,” Didi said.
Mitigation efforts had been made for many years to preserve the life of the tree.
“It’s been mulched with organic mulch for a very long time now. It has a lightning rod system that has been maintained and restored every several years for quite some time. It has over 20 support cables in the scaffold limbs of the tree to reduce the risk that limbs would break away and fall out and disfigure the tree – that are all a part of its whole integrity now,” Roger said.
Being an arts center, there are naturally plans to honor the tree through art as well as use some of the wood, if salvageable. Oneta Woodworks has also agreed to partner with the county to dry, store,and mill the wood.
“My goal is to try to make the sadness a little less. But it will be a tremendous loss because that is a majestic tree,” said Didi.
There are plans to use pictures painted by children inspired by Klimt along with historic paintings of the tree and photographs taken throughout the years to create a 2d exhibit in honor of the tree. Depending on the condition of the heart and interior of the tree, wood sections could be used to create a bench for Sandy Creek Nature Center and outdoor seating at the Lyndon House which the UGA Landscape Architect Department will help design. Burls may be used by a local woodturners group that meets at the arts center.
As far as replacing the tree, Roger has been counting acorns dropped by the oak in hopes that at least one will grow into a sapling. However, bugs,
rain, and squirrels did not leave many to choose from.
“Roger has promised me a bank of trees along the edge of that part of the campus to give it a buffering,” said Didi.
Roger added, “that tree has been so dominant in its presence and character over the years that it’s impossible to replace that architecture there. But at least in the interim period perhaps while we get a seedling going, we would like to have a tree presence along that edge.”
If you are interested in using wood for an arts project and possible art exhibition, please contact Didi Dunphy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Soon, New Urban Forestry will be at a shopping center near you! No, we don’t sell groceries. Our company is moving into commercial locations to beautify the appearance and make a more pleasant experience. The health of trees will be improved and maintenance costs reduced, if the Arborists at New Urban Forestry work for you. Customers of New Urban Forestry will notice the quality of the tree work around their businesses.