Friday, June 19, 2015

A Winning Combination!

Case study:
Plaza street trees 
A year ago in the summer of 2014, Highwoods Properties contacted its landscape maintenance company, Signature Landscape, about adding and replacing street trees throughout The Country Club Plaza. Over the years, only a handful of pears, red oaks and pin oaks have lived and become large enough to provide significant shade, but most trees had not survived despite several attempts to bolster the urban canopy with new plantings. Most recently, they had tried some 3-inch caliper Dawn Redwood along West 48th Street, all of which perished under the harsh conditions like many attempts in the past.
Brad Drees, Director of Asset Management for Highwoods, knows all too well the struggles to planting and keeping trees alive on the Plaza:
"Keeping trees alive on the Country Club Plaza can be a difficult task due to the small area they have to be planted in, the heat reflecting from the hard surfaces, auto exhaust and ice melt applied in the winter."
Timing on such a high profile installation is critical to the success of the project and so is the tree or plant selection. In this case, the conversation started in late spring and planting was to be done as quickly as possible, which put installation into late summer. In addition to the hazards listed by Drees above, this presented possible problems with availability and the potential for transplant shock and death in a typical KC summer.  Without automated irrigation, and  very limited canopy space, the list of varieties that can be used with any expectation of success shrunk even further. Aesthetics and whether a consistent tree variety for each block was the answer, or if a more diverse, park-like mix was the smart thing to do to avoid problems with pests in the future that we don't know about yet (with EAB making itself at home in all of our ash, that was fresh on our minds) was also a factored.
Loma Vista's team of experts collaborated  with folks from Highwoods and Signature to recommend a mix of 2-inch and 2.5-inch Columnar Tuliptree, Heavenly Gate Ginkgo, Swamp White Oak, Pacific Sunset Oak, Patriot Elm, Green Pillar Pin Oak and Summer Charm Tree Lilac. About half of the trees were available in balled and burlap stock from spring dug crops, but the other half needed to be container grown trees, which drew some hesitation from Highwoods. But because of the timing and the fact that the trees were essentially going permanently into larger containers, and because container trees suffer less transplant shock in stressed planting times and they establish faster, the decision was made to mix in some container trees, which were the Ginkgos, Maples, and Elms.
One year later, the container grown maples and elm are establishing quickly and are out-growing the B&B trees, but all are looking good. Only time will tell the true tale of whether we have been lucky with the mild temperatures and ample moisture or if the selection of tree varieties played into the success of this project. But so far, the trees have had a great start and they are adding to the ambiance and enjoyment of the historic landmark shopping district in our great city. Drees adds:
"We purchased 84 trees from Loma Vista and Signature planted them in July and August of 2014 and so far have a 100% survival. We can't get any better success than that!"
We are proud to have played a role in this important project and look forward to enjoying our trees on the plaza for years to come!


By Chad Weinand, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, Loma Vista Nursery

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