Tough Trees for Tough Sites

By Susan Littlefield

Trees growing in urban landscapes often have it tough. Compacted soils, reflected heat, planting sites with little soil, lack of water, interference from overhead wires, and lack of maintenance are all common urban conditions that keep trees planted along streets, in parking lots, and other city spaces from thriving.

To help those interested in greening the urban environment to be as successful as possible, Cornell University's Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) offers on-line information, including a series of videos, that covers many of the issues that need to be considered when deciding what, how, and where to plant trees in a city landscape.

The 23-minute video "Tough Trees for Tough Sites" follows an actual urban tree planting project in Ithaca, NY to explain how and why to assess a site and prepare it for planting, how to make an appropriate plant selection, and the importance of proper planting and aftercare. Narrated by two Cornell professors, horticulturist Nina Bassuk and landscape architect Peter Trowbridge, along with Ithaca, N.Y. City Forester Andy Hillman, the video takes you through the basic steps involved in assessing the conditions of an urban planting site, improving them if needed, selecting the trees best adapted to the site, and caring for the trees after planting.

For more detailed information on trees most likely to do well under tough urban conditions, check out another offering on the website, "Recommended Urban Trees: Site Assessment and Tree Selection for Stress Tolerance," which profiles over 90 trees adapted to Zone 6 and colder that can take what a city has to dish out. Trees are grouped both by size and by their tolerance to different sites or planting condition, such as trees that tolerate partial shade, have some salt tolerance or are sensitive to salt, or those that are easy to transplant bareroot.

The information and resources from UHI will be helpful to municipal officials responsible for community street plantings, members of the public interested in advocating for or participating in municipal greening projects, as well as urban home gardeners who want to make the best choices in their own landscapes.

To explore all the on-line resources from UHI, go to: Urban Horticulture Institute.

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