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Posts Tagged ‘tree spacing’

p1010687One thread of this running conversation is the idea of setting plant close to each other, and then seeing how they elbow and jostle for space and light.

In this image the idea is taken to its extreme: a mature Chamaecyparis pisifera snuggles up to a mature Quercus alba in Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery. I imagine that the False Cypress was planted as a polite little evergreen statement behind the monument just visible behind it; it liked the spot and the care it received, and grew into this affectionate behemoth.

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Every now and again I come across an opinion about tree spacing:  someone loves to cram trees close together, someone else protests that anything less than specimen-width spacing leads to poor air circulation and disease.  Maybe it really depends on the effect for which you’re aiming.  

Here’s a photo of the entry drive at Regis College in Weston, MA.  It is lined with Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), spaced at about 15′ on center.  Planted in the mid-40s, the trees are now over 65 years old.  Some of them are in decline — though it’s hard to say if that’s because they’re spaced so closely, if it’s because they’re so close to the road, or if they’re simply tired.

p1000718They do give instant identifiability to this entry drive.  Planted before the concept of branding ever existed, they symbolize passage between the public realm and the academia of Regis.

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I drove in to Boston yesterday along the DCR’s VFW Parkway, a slightly winding, mildly rolling roadway lined on both sides and on the median with rows of mature pin oaks.  

Boston's VFW Parkway

Boston's VFW Parkway

My eye reflexively looks out for hazard limbs whenever I drive the parkway, and yesterday I saw a couple of doozies:  one 20-30′ long limb that hung from its tree with just the wrong degree of droop, and one 15-20′ long limb that was attached to its trunk at the correct angle, but it was riddled with the ochre fruiting bodies of fungi that have colonized the long-dead wood.

 

That, and the repeating ranks of thick trunk/columns marching along the roadsides, got me thinking about decay and renewal.  In England, it’s not unusual to see an established site design, its trees having matured and expressing the gravitas of site and species, with a second, subordinate planting of juvenile trees that echoes the layout of the mature plants.  Those guys are thinking ahead:  when the mature planting finally fails, the second string of trees will already be established, and the loss of the elders won’t be so devastating.  I saw a wonderful example of this technique at Wayland’s Smithy in Wiltshire, near the Uffington White Horse.

Wayland’s Smithy is a chambered long barrow –that is, a kind of neolithic burial mound — perched on top of one of the chalk downs that runs the length of Wiltshire County.  It is surrounded by a ring of mature beech trees, visible in this photo:

Wayland's Smithy and beeches

Wayland's Smithy and beeches

 

 

What you can’t see in the photo is the wider ring of beech saplings, planted some time in the 90s, that will take over the majestic role now held by the mature trees.

This approach makes a lot of sense to me.  The Parkway pin oaks are emblematic of the Parkway, and so far still stand — but when they start to go, what will take their place?  I’m all for getting a new planting of something going.

Over on Cambridge’s Memorial Drive, the city arborist has begun to plant in new London plane trees, to take over when the giant and iconic London planes finally succumb to anthracnose.

(That leads to the question of if it’s wise to replace specimens of a pathogen-infected tree with smaller specimens susceptible to the same pathogens, but that’s fodder for another post….)

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