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.
Time to look up! The trees are starting to bloom. While the temperature may currently be a bit chillier than we’ve seen this winter, spring is on it’s way, we promise. The first day of spring is officially next Monday, March 20th. We have already seen the first bud break on many of the trees in the area due to an unseasonably warm winter. That means your trees are trying to get your attention!
As the leaves and flowers emerge, now is the perfect time to look closely at your trees. Make sure to take note of any branches where the buds aren’t keeping up with the rest of the tree. Does your redbud look different from your neighbors? Have you failed to see blooms on previously healthy trees? Keep in mind that different species bud at different times.
Now is also a good time to look for insects or pests that weren’t affected by the winter (or lack thereof) conditions. Make sure to notice if there is any leaf discoloration as they peak out. Also, take note of any wounds or cankers on the bark.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
As the temperature begins to rise and summer settles in, there are several things to remember about taking care of your trees so that they remain healthy through the harsh conditions. The summer solitice, or longest day of the year, is on Wednesday June 20th. This is a good time to consult with your local arborist about preventative maintenance and summer tree care needs. Here are some tips for making sure your trees stay healthy during the hot summer days.
- Water regularly.
Georgia summers have been notably dry, and although we are not currently in a drought, it is still important to water regularly. Unless there is significant rainfall, many trees need to be watered one to two times a week, particularly those that are young and not yet established.
Mulching can retain water and provide essential nutrients to the soil at the base of the tree. It can also protect the shallow roots from the harsh temperatures. A 2-4 inch layer of mulch is recommended at the base of the tree for necessary protection.
- Inspect for Bugs.
There are several species that are more prevalent in summer months. If you are unsure of what to look for, contact your local arborist who can help identify devastating species and provide helpful information on getting rid of the pests.
- Hazard Assessment.
Now is the perfect time to inspect trees to determine hazard assessment. The Atlantic Hurricane season officially began on June 1, 2012 and ends on November 30, 2012. It is important to identify problem areas with trees early on to protect your family, home and property. Contact your arborist to do a complete assessment.
- Tree Pruning.
Keep in mind crown cleaning and other regular maintenance is still okay in Summer as is cabling.
ATHENS — A new University of Georgia study examines how to fight the bug that has killed thousands of hemlock trees across the state.
The study shows that the ladybird beetle was successful in stemming the spread of the woolly adelgid but the predator beetle must be released in the upper crown of trees where the pests are more abundant. Up to this point, beetle releases have been made in the lower third of hemlocks.
The three-year study looked at the population rates of adelgids in trees of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The tiny pests suck cells from the tree’s needles, preventing them from transferring water and conducting photosynthesis.
The study says while insecticide helps the kill the pests, application is impractical because the forests are in remote locations.