Now Here’s a Smart Way to Handle Street Trees


Street tree paving

Spotted at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I saw this kind of paving around every big shade tree in the parking lot.  Sure, it's a little bumpy, but that only made the cars slow down, which is a good thing in a parking lot.  You know this is what that tree needs to be happy.  I hate seeing trees isolated in the middle of a sea of pavement — that can't be good for the roots, can it? 


  1. It’s not exactly the same thing, but when we visited Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond we were happy to see that the roads and parking lot in the surrounding park were all permeable. Keep water on site!

  2. I’ve also seen a similar idea used in city tree pits. Different paver types are used(granite cobblestones seem to be used a lot), but the joints are kept wide and filled with a permeable sand or gravel.

    Structural soil is used as a base for the cobblestones to make it suitable for paving but also to allow healthy root growth. The paving can be placed up to a foot away from the trunk and if the tree grows very large it is easy to remove a ring of pavers to accommodate growth. It’s really a neat, attractive idea that is good for the tree and sidewalk users and is much better than using a tree grate.

  3. Love it, this is possibly a good way to deal with potholes. I live in Kansas and am actually planning a trip to St. Louis for this fall, I think I’ll have to stop by this place, I think I can handle an $8 ticket.

    Alyssa Steffes-

  4. A partially dissenting opinion here…It’s good for the tree but very bad for disabled folk like me who use a walker. Walking over surfaces like that when you have vision and balance problems is very hazardous! I hope that was well away from disabled parking spots!

  5. Its beautiful and brilliant! Though the concerns about mobility reduced folks is a very real one. though all it would take is a smooth path way in at least one section to accommodate.

    Still much better then the 2 foot diameter pavement holes that the poor trees around here have to make do with. Then people wonder why they die…

  6. This is what I want to do with the playground of my kids’ school – it doubles as a parking lot for functions @ the attached church. A permeable surface would be cooler, not to mention more pleasant to play on.

  7. This is a fantastic surface for infiltration anywhere- not just around trees. I’m a landscape architect and have just specified this product for a large regional park on the edge of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

    It’s concrete, but poured into plastic forms provided by a British company. Once the concrete hardens, the tops of the forms are burnt off with a blowtorch or flame weeder, leaving a void for soil and the roots of grass. An ingenious solution, really.

    I hope we see more of this in the future. There’s no need to have impermeable concrete or asphalt in so many places- accessible areas being an exception. I will note that we did not use this in a parking area for the general public, and if we did, we would use standard paving, or permeable concrete with a smaller pore space that meets ADA standards.

  8. I’m going to St. Louis this summer and I’m scheduled for a tour of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Now I’ll start admiring it right in the parking lot.

  9. 20 years ago we replaced the “godawful gravel driveway” (well said, Deidre) and I wanted this type of solution soooo bad. Well, it just wasn’t widely available at that time, and definitely not in the middle of the country for any price. Besides, husband said the kids needed the smooth concrete surface for biking and blading. By the time this drive needs replaced he will use the same agruement for grandkids.

  10. Yes I agree. This is a great way of greening up pavement, a driveway, or a street.

    I have seen people use this type of paving at their own home. You can mow your “lawn” by just passing over it.

    There is also no danger of those ugly soggy mud patches that develop when parking your car on grass during the winter time.

  11. Troll, which means they have a chance of being filtered out by the soil before reaching the water shed.

  12. I admit I was thinking about ladies in heels more than I was folks with limited sight or using a cane/walker/something requiring a smoother surface.

    I wouldn’t know from snow, alas, but I suspect using it near sand dunes isn’t such a low-maintenance idea.

    I’m not fond of lots of concreted space, but I hate gravel more. I slip a lot on? in? it. I have felt bad for the poor urban trees, nearly strangled by their enclosure. I’m not fond of cobblestones at this point in my life, either, or rather, the stage in my ankles, which like to see how often they can make me slip and fall!

    Lots of pavement does cause problems with flooding due to no permeable layer for the water, while gravel permits that. This method tries to solve both “mobility” problems, but given our diverse natures and needs, nothing’s perfect.

    I still think it’s a neat way to handle parking lots and their trees.

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