Deborah Howe:

Here’s a really good post from Claire Corcoran, who’s a Boston ecologist and member of the Friends of the Public Garden Board of Directors. I’ll be posting photos of the ancient Shaw Memorial elms (they date to colonial times, and are two of the very oldest trees on the Common) soon; in the meantime, Claire’s piece is an excellent read.

Originally posted on Friends of the Public Garden:


I am an ecologist and unapologetic tree hugger, and I spend much of my time in parks looking up at the trees’ canopy. Now that the autumn leaves have mostly fallen from the trees in the Common, the Mall, and the Public Garden, the natural forms of the trees are revealed. Some of them are beautiful and iconic of the species – the classic vase shaped form of the American Elm, for instance, which is instantly recognizable from any distance. The bushy, spreading form of an open grown Red Maple is distinctive, as is the characteristic branching of the Horsechestnut tree, which always reminds me of an athlete flexing his muscles. The old Japanese Pagoda tree’s graceful lines are more akin to a ballerina than a weightlifter. During the dormant season, the many varieties of “weeping” forms are clearly visible as their branches trail down towards the ground – cherries…

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Team Friends

For the last two years, Toby Wolf and I have been working for the Friends of the Public Garden in Boston, developing and implementing plans to renovate the Boylston Street Border, a 10.5′ wide planting strip along Boston Public Garden’s perimeter, between Arlington and Charles Street. It has been an exciting project to shepherd along: we have improved drainage (one puddled area was so bad we called it The Marsh), transplanted mature trees and shrubs to improve their growing situations, added bench pads and benches so visitors can enjoy the garden from among the plants, and we have added in a wonderful array of small trees, ornamental shrubs, a few perennials, and quite a few spring bulbs and ephemerals. Our idea has been to work with the existing rhythm of the border plantings, and to augment it in a way that increases screening from the street while it adds a pleasing show to walkers both inside and outside The Garden. With a Pilot Planting done last year and Phase Two just completed, we have finished the border’s western half, and it looks great:

Boylston Street Border Pilot Area, Boston Public Garden, renovated in 2013 and blooming in Spring 2014.  First we had all trees and shrubs pruned, and then we transplanted broadleaf and needled evergreens, added benches, improved drainage, and augmented existing plantings with more evergreen and deciduous shrubs, hosta and astilbe, and thousands of spring bulbs and ephemerals.  Renovation will continue until the entire 840-foot long border has been rehabilitated.

Boylston Street Border Pilot Area, Boston Public Garden, renovated in 2013 and blooming in Spring 2014. First we had all trees and shrubs pruned, and then we transplanted broadleaf and needled evergreens, added benches, improved drainage, and augmented existing plantings with more evergreen and deciduous shrubs, hosta and astilbe, and thousands of spring bulbs and ephemerals. Renovation will continue until the entire 840-foot long border has been rehabilitated.

As I say, the project has been funded and made possible by the Friends of the Public Garden, who are a delight to work with.

And now I have a new, quite personal project with the Friends, and it’s a doozie: I’m going to be running the 2015 Boston Marathon as part of Team Friends! For the next five months I’ll be training and raising funds for the Friends and their work in Boston Public Garden, Boston Common, and on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. It’s going to be a great adventure; I have wanted to run a marathon — this marathon — since I was twelve, when I started running. I had to shelve that ambition when I had eye surgery at age 25. Twenty-nine years later (you do the math), this past June I began running again, and realized that my ambition hadn’t died. The Friends offered the opportunity, and I’m taking it. What could be better than to run, raise funds for a cause I truly believe in — the care and fostering of green urban parks in general, and the Public Garden and Boston Common in particular — and get to participate in one of international running’s most renowned events?

For the training period, I’ll be posting photos and notes on some of the parks’ holdings of trees and shrubs, as well as the stray hardscape feature as well. As is the way with any park or garden, life moves right along, and change happens from moment to moment, month to month; I’m looking forward to tracking some of that change in this blog.

If anyone reading this post would like to support my marathon efforts, the Friends and I would welcome any donations. The Friends have raised a high bar for my fundraising; I’m aiming to reach the $10,000 mark by January 1, 2015, so I can concentrate from then on in on training and the race itself. To read more about the marathon and Team Friends, and to make a donation, click on this link.  All donations are fully tax-deductible (great for year-end accounting!); any corporate donation over $1,000 will get a company logo weblink on the Friends’ website (great advertising!), and unless you want to, you won’t be put on any solicitation/mailing lists. I will be so grateful, and so will the Friends.

(Even if you choose not to donate now, please watch this site; you should see some cool examples of well-tended trees in the next few months.)

RS beech buds


Word just came in today from Dan Tremblay of Broad Oak Tree & Shrub Care in New Hampshire about the death last week of Jeff Ott, a Portsmouth arborist who was dedicated to trees and the teaching of best arboricultural practices.  Jeff wanted landscapers, landscape architects, and contractors to know what it took to plant and tend a tree properly, and understood that he was in a position to teach them.  

Here is a link to his obituary:  http://www.jvwoodfuneralhome.com/sitemaker/sites/WOODFU3/obit.cgi?user=1340230Ott

All condolences and sympathy to his wife and family.

Big-leafed update

Last week I drove past the Paulownias I wrote about in 2009, and realized that they deserved another blog post.  In the four years since that post, all three trees have shot up.  

I kept trying to shoot an image with the two paired trees in it, minus the utility lines, but it wasn’t doable without risking life and limb.  The trees have grown higher than the house and the utility lines, and have easily tripled (at least) in size.


Two paulownias planted four years ago now shade almost the entire front yard.



The smaller of the two trees measures perhaps 12″ DBH.  The once-sunny walkway is now almost entirely shaded.



It’s a little tricky to see, but the right-hand tree is larger than the one to the left.  Directly behind it stands a large Japanese maple; in the 2009 post you can see the maple’s fall color, and compare its trunk size to the now-towering Paulownia’s. 

Air-tool transplanting is continuing here in Massachusetts; while it hasn’t yet become commonplace, arborists in this part of the world are conversant with the techniques, and some firms have been routinely been moving trees bare-root for the last few years.  Leahy Landscaping of Lynn, MA, has a team of transplanters, led by Mass. Certified Arborist Bob Dobias.  Bob recently sent me some photos of a project his crew carried out this past summer; they moved a beautiful 14′ Fastigiate Beech in Salem with air.  They relocated the tree from a location right next to a building to a spot further out on the property, where it can now grow to its full potential.  Here are the pix Bob sent:



This tree has been growing nicely next to a condo entry, but was likely planted there when it was a much smaller specimen.



Bob has exposed the topmost roots, and is working his way underneath the root mass.  Note that he’s wearing ear protection and has dust barriers set up around the work area.


Fastigiate Beech is a narrow tree, and while a blowout to the dripline frees most of the roots, some root mass still had to be cut.  Bob reports that his crew cut one root that was growing under the driveway.


Nice root mass on this tree.  The time had arrived for this tree to be transplanted; notice that the roots to the right are shorter and have been redirected down by the presence of the building wall.  A tree that grows for too long this close to a wall might not be as readily moved as this one — not because it can’t be dug out, but because the root mass has grown too asymmetrically for the tree to stand well away from the wall.



The Beech being introduced to its new home.  According to Bob, the crew could have lifted the tree by hand, but decided to use the machine to minimize hazards to it.  For the actual move, they tied the tree to the forks; this shot, it has been untied and is being guided into the planting hole.



And from a different angle.  The hole receiving it could be a bit wider, to make the backfilling and mudding in easier, especially as there are no obstructions around it.



With the tree placed in its new home and backfilled, the crew waters and muds it in.  Leahy added better loam for backfill, and secured the tree with duckbills, to insure stability while it grows into the new location.



Proud Leahy crew and Fastigiate Beech.  The Beech should now be able to grow a little fuller both above and below ground on the side that had faced the building.  The transplant operation took about six hours from start to finish.

Bob reports that the tree has experienced some stress from the move, but he expects it will equilibrate crown and root growth and leaf out well next year.  We’ll keep an eye out for more pix next year, to check its progress.

Fastigiate Beech moved by:

Leahy Landscaping, Lynn, MA

Arborist in charge:  Bob Dobias, MCA

Crew:  Alfredo Esteban, Shane Corcoran, Greg Beatrice




Katsura update

Last February I wrote about the bare-root transplant of a large Katsura tree (Cercidophyllum japonicum) at UMass, beautifully executed by the pros at Foti Landscape and Tree. Matt Foti just sent me a photo he took last week of the tree, which has settled into its new home nicely.

Though the crew kept a large slug of soil under the tree’s butt for the move, Matt told me that they did some excavation at the root flare, as they always do, to check for girdling, circling, or damaged roots. (I hadn’t noticed the excavation when I first saw the transplant photos, but if you click back to that post you’ll notice it.) The crew found a girdling root and removed it — and clearly, from this current photo, the tree didn’t skip a beat.

Even in a backlit shot on a very hot day this tree is looking happy.

Even in a backlit shot on a very hot day this tree is looking happy.

ImageLearn when to hire a pro for your home landscape at Scott McPhee’s Elm Bank workshop.  Photo courtesy of Bert_M_B via Flickr.

In the shrub pruning class I teach at the New England Wild Flower Society some student always asks me about pruning trees.  Unless we’re talking about nipping up the end of a low-hanging branch, or working on a small ornamental tree, for the safety of both tree and owner I usually recommend hiring a professional arborist to do the work.  For those who have questions about when to know what’s easily and safely done by Joe or Sally Homeowner, and what ought to be taken care of by an arborist, Scott McPhee of Hartney Greymont will give a talk this coming Thursday, July 11, called Trees In the Home Landscape.

Scott will discuss the tasks can be easily and safely accomplished by a homeowner, the tasks that really require a pro, and how to tell the difference.  An expert Hartney crew will demonstrate on a standing tree some of the principles that Scott is discussing, and then will demonstrate the tree’s removal.  It should be an excellent talk.

Location: Elm Bank, the headquarters of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, in Wellesley, MA.

Date:  July 11, 2013


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