Sunday, September 30, 2007

Trolley Tours and Planetrees

Platanus x acerifolia is commonly called London planetree
On Saturday, September 29th, Melissa Fisher, Director of GreenBranches, and I led a tour for supporters of Friends of the High Line. In a traditional trolley provided to us by our friends at New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation, we took a great group on a tour of gardens in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We visited the GreenBranches Learning Garden at the Red Hook Public Library, the new Red Hook Senior Center Garden installed by John Cannizzo and the GreenTeam, and then finished with a stop at the Added Value farmers market for some fresh, locally grown produce. The goal of the tour was to show people how the creation of beautiful, sustainable green spaces can foster community development and improve our quality of life in the city. Much the same way the Friends of the High Line are going to improve the neighborhood and quality of life for those that live near the elevated rail over on the West Side of Manhattan.

Being that trees are one of my biggest loves in the world of horticulture, I wanted to share with you something that I learned recently about the London Planetree, one of the most widely planted street trees here in New York City. I had learned years ago that one of the reasons London planetree is such a successful street tree is because it was one of the trees that survived the coal-driven industrial revolution in Great Britain. It is true that these trees can fall victim to a number of issues such as anthracnose, canker, and powdery mildew, but their hearty appetite for Carbon Dioxide makes them quite pollution tolerant and a favorite for urban arborists everywhere. In addition, I have always admired the exfoliating bark of these trees, but never thought about how that characteristic might help with their pollution tolerance. That is, until I got chatting with a tour member named David, a New Yorker by way of the UK. We got chatting about the amount of soot and grime that was in the air during the industrial revolution and how the exfoliaiting bark helped to shed away those layers of filth that would collect on the trunk. A tree that actually cleans itself by shedding it's skin once it's too dirty and not respiring enough, brilliant! And here I was leading a garden tour showing people a whole new part of the city they had never seen before and educating them about HSNY and I end up with the one of the best horticulture lessons of the day. That is why I love horticulture. It is a science that allows you to constantly be learning about the world around you.

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