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.
By Jessie McClellan
A historic cemetery sits just on the edge of the campus of The University of Georgia with an entrance across from Sanford Stadium. Tucked away, many drive past daily without ever having stepped foot in this park-like resting place. The Oconee Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places List in 2013 in the areas of Architecture, Art, Landscape Architecture, Community Planning and Development, Ethnic Heritage: Black, Ethnic Heritage: Jewish, Engineering, and remains a grand example of the landscape architecture style of the 19th century.
The land for Oconee Hill Cemetery was purchased in 1855, complete with many graves that predate the opening of the cemetery. Gravesites were created across the campus before the opening, which highlighted the need for a public cemetery. The original 17 acres were purchased for $1000, but the site quickly expanded in 1898 to include an additional 82 acres. Many notable people are interred at Oconee Hill, including several former UGA presidents, governors, aviation pioneer Ben Epps, and Ricky Wilson, guitarist of the B-52’s.
One of the notable features of the cemetery is the landscape architecture, as recognized in the National Register. It was originally designed by a member of the UGA faculty, James Camak, and features a park-like setting that is reminiscent of botanical gardens and arboretums. Oconee Hill’s architecture demonstrates styles consistent with the features of the Rural Cemetery Movement of the time. Unfortunately, little has been done over the years to preserve the trees and landscape.
A group of community members formed the Friends of the Oconee Hill Cemetery in 1999. One of their major accomplishments, among many others, includes acquiring federal grant funding from the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (with the help of Athens-Clarke County) for the management of the trees on the property. This grant funding, which is matched by donations by the friends group and others, will allow for Phase Two of a project to preserve and protect the trees on the grounds and replace trees that have been removed.
Phase 1: a tree Inventory, completed in 2015, was also grant-funded. The inventory identified 40 species of trees of 563 trees inventoried with an average diameter of 20 inches. This does not include the forest on the periphery which averages 127 trees per acre. The inventory found that many of the trees had been poorly pruned and/or were diseased. It also determined many invasive species on the property, including English ivy and privet.
Work was completed in early 2017 on the tree maintenance plan for the burial ground. Phase 2 prioritizes high risk issues that could cause damage to existing markers. This phase involved the removal of dead and hazardous trees and trees with dead limbs, along with reducing the risk of dead limb failures. These projects will help to preserve some of the mature canopy throughout the grounds. To meet inventory recommendations, the invasive plants must also be removed so that native species will be allowed to thrive.
This urban forest is a vital asset to the Athens community. The management of the trees is essential to preserving this historic burial ground, as well as allowing for future interments, as it is still an active cemetery. New Urban Forestry is honored to be a part of the continued efforts to maintain this historic landmark.
For more information on The Oconee Hill Cemetery, please visit the official website or see Oconee Hill Cemetary of Athens, Georgia, Volume I, written by Charlotte Marshall. See the video for a more in depth look.
This preservation project has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, through the historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. However, the contents, opinions, and recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior or the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products or consultants constitute endorsement or recommendation by these agencies. This program receives Federal financial assistance for identification and protection of historic properties. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, gender or disability in its federally assisted programs. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity , or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office for Equal opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240.
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.
Urban Soils and Tree Root Issues
A couple of years ago, during a notably large storm, a prodigious water oak fell on my neighbors’ house. This beautiful old tree could not support the weight of the branches because the root system had been compromised from years of cars rolling, parking and compacting the soil surrounding the base. Fortunately, in this case, the family was not in the house and only the house and tree were compromised, but it offers valuable insight into the damage that human activity can cause the trees in our community.
The dirt around us is constantly changing. Wind and heat and gravity and water all affect our soils. These are important positive components in creating an environment for many ecosystems. In an urban environment, one additional component is changing the soil around us: people.
People have a huge impact on the urban soils. Enormous cavities are dug for underground parking decks, the Georgia red clay is hauled away and piled to be used somewhere else, it is added to other tracts for other projects. The soil is leveled and graded and compacted. It is walked on and parked on, played baseball on and picknicked upon. Human activity is one of the main contributing factor in the changing urban soils.
This changing soilscape directly impacts the growing trees around us. Without careful consideration to how we impact the soils, human activity can have serious negative effects on our canopy.
One negative impact is the creation of a surface crust. This is caused by removal of the natural vegetation combined with compaction caused by foot traffic or wheels, and fine particles filtering in and filling in gaps beneath the surface. This hard crust doesn’t allow water to seep into the ground and be absorbed by the tree roots.
Water drainage and insufficient aeration can have a negative impact on the absorption capabilities of the trees. If the soil is too fine, such as with clay soils, it can become water-logged which can be equally bad for the root system.
When a new home is built, the ground must first be leveled. During this process, the topsoil is removed and often fill material is brought in from somewhere else. This can create layers in the soil that are different from the natural makeup of the land. This can be damaging to existing trees and can cause problems when planting replacements. The change in soil composition, including the ph and chemical makeup as well as density of the soil can prevent trees from receiving the nutrients they need to thrive.
There are several ways to remediate these effects on our trees. The first is to be aware of abused areas of your own landscape. Pay attention to where you park, where your children play, or areas that see more foot traffic. Try to park in areas that are far away from trees or only on existing parking pads. Divert traffic away from natural areas or create trails that have proper erosion control.
If you notice that the roots have been damaged in your landscape, there are plant healthcare guidelines that can prolong the life of your trees and repair damaged soilscapes. Contact a certified arborist to help with your tree concerns and you can hopefully prevent your trees from falling during the summer storms.
When I was in college at UGA one of my favorite things about living in Athens was driving into town late at night after Thanksgiving break, the end of a long drive back from visiting my parents in Virginia . Every year, I would drive down Clayton Street first thing, even if it wasn’t on my way, and I marveled at the sparkling lights in the trees, newly lit for the holidays. It was beautiful. And it reminded me of why I chose to live in Athens, so far away from my family.
Trees provide such a sense of place. My final year of college, I lived on the cobblestone portion of Finley Street, home to another famous Athens tree.
Would Athens even be on the map if it weren’t for the Tree that Owns Itself? (of course) That particular tree doesn’t just put Athens on the map for something other than music, but it also represents the spirit of the town.
When you plant trees, you might not be thinking about who will decorate them with lights in the future, or even if you want to leave your money to it when you die, but you are creating a history of the land and defining a sense of place for future generations to recognize as home.
As the climate talks in Paris come to a close, it’s hard to ignore the chatter about greenhouse gases, carbon footprints and emission levels. One method that some people are using to combat the rising level of greenhouse gases is through carbon offsetting through tree planting.
On a large scale, companies pay to have others, often non-profits, plant trees on their behalf in order to offset their emissions. According to an article in The Guardian, “Carbon offset schemes allow individuals and companies to invest in environmental projects around the world in order to balance out their own carbon footprints.”
But this leads to questions on an individual level — will planting trees in my backyard really have an effect? Or, how many trees do I really need to plant? Can I do my own carbon offsetting?
There are several calculators available like this one or this one which will calculate offset for you. So for example, if you drive a gas car that gets 26 mpg and on average 12,000 miles per year, this calculator recommends you plant 9 trees to offset the emissions from your car. This puts into perspective real tangible ways to help the environment. I can plant 9 trees. That seems feasible.
New Urban Forestry is not a carbon offsetting program, and we can’t tell you exactly how many trees you personally should plant. We CAN however help you to plant your trees. We can offer advice on the care of your trees and also which trees are sustainable in the Athens and surrounding areas.
New Urban Forestry often is called on to remove trees due to safety concerns; we are charged with removing a valuable resource from our local community. We want to be able to replant those trees.
Together we can continue to give Athens a unique sense of place, and also create a more sustainable world for our future.
Check out Manito Percussion. Manito Percussion unites art and science to create sustainable, solid shell drums that speak to the ears, eyes, and hands. Each drum is hand-crafted with the physics of sound in mind. These drums are crafted from wood that New Urban Forestry supplies. Sets of 2 or more drums are most often crafted from the same tree, ensuring even shell densities. What a great way to repurpose trees! You can see more of these great drums here.
New Urban Forestry recently has been working on some exciting new projects in the Athens area using recycled wood products. One interesting project we are currently working on is building a bridge for a local homeowner on her new property as part of a trail intended to circumvent a lake. The custom lumber pieces for the bridge came from trees taken down on the property. This is just one of the many ways that these trees could be reused to improve the property. Please stay tuned for more pictures, updates on this project, and news about other cool projects.
New Urbanism is an urban design movement that arose in the United States in the early 1980s. Its goal is to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning, from urban retrofits to suburban infill. New urbanist neighborhoods are designed to contain a diverse range of housing and jobs, and to be walkable.
New Urbanism can include (neo)traditional neighborhood design, transit-oriented development, and New Pedestrianism. New Urbanism is the re-invention of the old urbanism, commonly seen before the advent of the automobile age, while New Pedestrianism is a further elaboration of less common, pedestrian-oriented, urban design experiments that date to the early 20th century.
In 1991, the Local Government Commission, a private nonprofit group in Sacramento, California, invited architects Peter Calthorpe, Michael Corbett, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Moule, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stefanos Polyzoides, and Daniel Solomon to develop a set of community principles for land use planning. Named the Ahwahnee Principles (after Yosemite National Park’s Ahwahnee Hotel), the commission presented the principles to about one hundred government officials in the fall of 1991, at its first Yosemite Conference for Local Elected Officials.
Calthorpe, Duany, Moule, Plater-Zyberk, Polyzoides, and Solomon founded the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism in 1993. The CNU has grown to more than 3,000 members, and is the leading international organization promoting new urbanist design principles. It holds annual Congresses in various U.S. cities.
The CNU’s Charter of the New Urbanism says:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.
New urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in urban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of brownfield land.