I think that I shall never see


We use an online form to request trees from the varieties offered, but this one is sort of faked; these addresses really do not need trees. But you have to give an address to get a tree.

Yesterday was tree-planting day in the neighborhood, fall edition, and it had its usual frustrations. This year I noticed that at least one tree that took me a good two hours to plant (getting through some old stump remains) had disappeared—that maybe it hadn’t even lasted a week after I planted it! And we saw that a couple property owners had taken it into their heads to blacktop their easeway/hellstrips/whatever, which is where we plant these municipal trees. And there were a couple difficult spots where a pickaxe had to be employed to clear some debris in the planting hole. Also, the city had not updated its online tree map, so we had to make our own decisions on where the trees were needed—and our own guesses where utility infrastructure had to be avoided.

Here's one we planted last year.

But it could be worse. I had an errand in the burbs after we planted and it took me to a little cul-de-sac where every lawn had the same closely-shaven appearance, there were few trees of any description, and there were no sidewalks. Our median strips might be a bit narrow, and it’s not exactly a blast to take shovel in hand on a chilly November air, but at least our neighborhood looks like a neighborhood and not some kind of Stepford bastion.  The urban tree picture is not perfect by any means—but the alternative is unthinkable.

This year—why not—I handed out bags of species tulips that I had gotten on sale and asked the planters to throw ten or so around every tree. They will provide some interest for a few years as the saplings grow. Also just for fun, here is an interactive project from my husband about trees (kind of). 

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Check the local tree ordinance to see if those blacktoppers broke the law. They do not own the hell-strip, so they should not be paving it.

    I would recommend filing a complaint if they did break the ordinance. While I hate to stir stuff up, I also worry about a “slippery slope”. Once one person does it, then everyone does it, and you can no longer enforce the ordinance.

    Someone needs to re-stake the tree in the picture, but otherwise it looks good and healthy. And you have a diverse list of trees to choose from. Thank goodness I don’t see Bradford pears on the list!

  2. Remove any staking after a year’ if planted right and not a high-wind spot its not needed.

    Re: that picture. The yellow “crime tape” wrapped around it so tightly can (did) girdle the trunk. If the tape and the stake rubbed the bark completely around, well. R.I.P.

  3. Just to set everyone’s mind at rest–the tape is new and hasn’t girdled anything. And the stake is out of place because of the traffic created by a restoration effort going on nearby. Which is where the tape came from. All very recent and harmless.

  4. It is wonderful when the town supports tree planting. Locally towns have gotten state ‘re-leafing’ grants to help re-tree streets. Several years ago I was in Sacremento where the utility department was planting trees for residents as an energy saving initiative.

  5. Free that tree! Unstake it. Don’t stake unless absolutely necessary and then keep a good amount of slack so the tree can move some. That’s how it puts on caliper and gets stronger. A tightly staked tree is a week tree. If you must stake, unstake after one year.

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