Posts Tagged ‘bare root planting’

Tom Ryan*, my first landscape architecture mentor, and I have discussed the desirability of specifying that the trees and shrubs we design into a site be planted bare root whenever possible. As long as the roots can be kept moist — something now entirely possible with the use of hydrogels — most nursery-grown plants fare better, are more apt to be planted in a way that promotes their future health, and are less expensive than B&B plants. And we all know that healthier plants mean more long-lived designs….

Nina Bassuk and the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell have put up on the web an outstanding illustrated tutorial on how to plant shrubs and trees bare root.

One of the challenges for landscape architects is to get more nurseries to offer bare-root plants for sale. Currently, balled-and-burlapped and container-grown are the most available kinds of woody plants in the nursery-to-contractor trade. Like any business, nurseries respond to demand.

Like any business, nurseries respond to demand. Years ago, I was having a casual chat with the president of a local nursery and garden center, and asking why plant selections were limited to a number of fairly standard species and cultivars (I had recently assembled a plant list that specified some more unusual species than his large nursery carried). He told me that if his nursery responded to demand; without greater demand for more variety, his business stuck with the standard choices. If more contractors were to bring him more complex lists, his nursery would be happy to accommodate them. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg argument — but essentially it means that continued and persistent demand will get results.

If landscape architects, through our planting choices and plant specifications, possess the ability to influence nursery offerings, then why shouldn’t we also be able to influence the method with which those offerings are packaged? With a greater understanding of the benefits of bare-root plants, perhaps more of us will start to specify bare-root plants, and so create the demand for nurseries to meet. It’s an idea worth exploring.

If you have had experience specifying bare-root plants for a project, we’d love it if you would write in and tell us about it.

Chionanthus retusus, Swan Point Cemetery

Chionanthus retusus, Swan Point Cemetery

*This September Tom will be named a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects — a great honor for any landscape architect, and one that he fully deserves.

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