Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Dr. Seuss Trees September 18, 2008

The City of Seattle has a program where neighbors can band together and request a set of free trees for planting in the parking strip, from a list provided by the city. It’s a great way to green up the block and increase the density of the urban forest.

A street several blocks from my house had obviously done this, but perhaps they either didn’t get the city’s help with pruning the trees or they did it themselves with poor results, because they ended up looking like this:

Crazy tree

The trees are so tall and spindly, with the branches so oddly spaced and shaped, that they provide no shade and are just, well, kind of weird-looking. Seattle is home to a great organization, Plant Amnesty, which tries to raise community awareness about proper pruning, recommends certifited arborists, and otherwise educates tree stewards about proper care methods for keeping trees healthy and well-shaped. A quick visit to their site is worth it if only to see their “Bad Pruning Gallery,” truly a chamber of horrors.

I can see why this one was on the city’s list – its twirlybird seeds are really something, turning pinkish now.


Going from the city’s list of approved small trees to a few online searches, I’m going to guess that this is acer grinnata, or Amur maple. If that’s the case, it should have some pretty amazing red foliage later in the fall. It’s too bad the trees weren’t treated better when they were young – their natural shape is more shrub-like, but with proper early pruning they can grow upright without looking quite so much like they belong in an illustration from “Green Eggs and Ham.”


6 Responses to “Dr. Seuss Trees”

  1. Megan Says:

    So nice to have a resource like this in your city. In Portland, the city is likely to come by and trim the trees for you, but they will end up looking like the examples in the bad pruning gallery. It has me hesitant to plant trees on the parking strip at all.

  2. Racquel Says:

    We don’t have a program like that here, but the city does prune trees that are too close to powerlines & they don’t prune for aesthetics either.

  3. Georgia Says:

    Does the city provide a pruning guide? If so, maybe you can hang one on one of the trees. Or, you could sponsor a neighborhood tree pruning workshop.

  4. Shibaguyz Says:

    We were going to get everyone together and do this because we heard there were fruit trees… not so any longer. Soooo… we’re planting our own fruit trees in our parking strip. Apples to be more precise.

  5. mrtumnas Says:

    Wow! That bad pruning gallery was something else….

  6. greenwalks Says:

    Megan –

    I wonder if they won’t do that as long as you keep things away from the power lines and the branches out of the street? Dwarf trees can be a good choice for that area, to avoid the city pruning horrors.


    Racquel –

    Yes, I wish there were more advocates of good pruning out there! The city people should all have to take classes.


    Georgia –

    Great ideas! I don’t know if these ones can be saved, I’m certainly no pruning expert myself. Maybe they can, I hope so anyway, since the seeds are so nifty.


    Shibaguyz –

    Too bad they stopped providing fruit trees. Maybe because they are challenging to prune? Good luck with your apples, I can’t wait to hear what varieties you choose!


    mrtumnas –

    Scary, huh?!

    – Karen

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