a peek inside the fishbowl

30 May, 2011

Branching off to chat about urban arboriculture

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

A long time ago, say, forty or fifty years ago, someone had the idea of planting maple trees up both sides of our street. It is a lovely thing, to be welcomed with a parade of trees every day, no matter the season. It’s part of the reason we wanted to live here. The sad news is, that many of the trees have been falling victim to various diseases. The large maple on our front lawn has been in a gradual state of decline for a number of years and it has finally succumbed. All of the other trees around us are full of life, bright and green, yet ours never really left a state of winter.


Mark has already contacted City of Ottawa’s Forestry Services to let them know that someone needs to take a look at it. We’re waiting for the call.

According to the City’s website, the City’s policy is to maintain a 30 per cent tree cover across the city. Currently in urban areas of the city, there is only 17 per cent tree cover. This doesn’t really surprise me. Developers don’t seem to have a respect for trees. I believe that we need to make a greater effort to get new trees into our urban landscape and protect old ones. They cool down our homes and our city, they clean our air, and prevent soil from eroding. Bring on the trees!

I’ve been poking around the website to find what kind of tree they might bring in as a replacement for our old Maple but I have come up dry. What kind of choice do we have, anyone know? I have a sneaking suspicion that we might have to buy our own. I would love to be able to plant a magnificent magnolia or a fragrant crabapple of some sort (I love them so much in the springtime) or perhaps a birch or a ginko. Whatever we end up with, and as sad as I am about losing our Maple, I do feel good about contributing to our avenue of trees. Everyone should be able to live on a street lined with trees.

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18 Responses to "Branching off to chat about urban arboriculture"

1 | Marianne

May 30th, 2011 at 12:29 pm


The city has a tree planting program that lets homeowners order free trees to plant in their yards. They have a spring and fall delivery time. You get to select a first and second choice of tree within the category of large or smaller trees. They will be a VERY young tree, however (read: something that looks like a stick). The choices of tree varies slightly each year but there are about 5 choices in each of the 2 categories. We planted a Japanese lilac from the city 2 years ago. Unfortunately, this spring it doesn’t seem to be doing well, so we’ll see if it makes it or not.

If you buy a tree from a nursery such as the Richmond nursery you can choose one that is a stick tree liek the city of Ottawa ones or something more mature. More mature is more costly of course. Cost will also vary a bit by species. But you can get more specifically what species you want. And it may be worth it to you to payn some moeny and get something that is already more established and more tree-like. They genrally come with a gurantee as well, so if they don’t transplant well you can have them replaced (withina year or two generally). We bought a beautiful red maple 3 years ago and it is doing very well. We paid to have it planted for us, but after seeing that the root ball wasn’t all that large, we probbaly coudl have done it ourselves. I think the tree was about $500 or $600.

Finally, there are a few places you can purchase a much more mature tree and have it transplanted using big-ish machinery. The cost is actually not that much, especially it it’s in yoru front yard so they don;t have to rent special equipment that will haul the tree from their truck past a narrow gate into your backyard. There is a place on Richmond road between Fallowfield and Eagleson that sells several types of native Ontario species. We paid under $1000 (maybe $800?) even though we had to pay the extra cost to have the equipment rented to fit thorugh our gate and get it to the back corner of the yard.

If you want more specific info, let me know. Baby screaming so I gotta go, but I hope this helps!

2 | Josée

May 30th, 2011 at 12:31 pm


We got a free tree through the City’s “Trees for Tomorrow” program


I went to look it up and was dismayed to see that it was only a four-year program and it hasn’t been extended. The City should definintely rethink that! There were quite a few varieties of trees to choose from. We got a beautiful maple for our back yard that is doing very well.

3 | Cheryl

May 30th, 2011 at 12:40 pm


Part of our 50 (or so) year old maple tree fell during the the windstorm back on April 28th. Within a day, the very large part of the tree that fell (and nearly missed our house!) was cleaned up and taken away. A few days later, a representative from the City of Ottawa Forestry Program knocked on our door after examining the part of the tree that was left standing. He said that it was no longer safe as it stood. (We also believe part of it was infected with disease and that it had been for a few years, thus leaving it vulnerable to the windstorm). He said the rest of the tree would have to be removed, and because it was a City tree (it was on our front lawn, but near the curb), that it was the City’s responsibility.

On May 3rd, it took 1hr and 9 min and 6 city workers to take down and remove the entire tree. (I’m pretty sure they’ve done this a few times before!)

He also said the City will return in the fall to remove the stump, and he showed me where a new tree will be planted, also by the City. (For now, the stump is a bit of a gooey, stinky mess as the root systems don’t seem to be bothered at all by the fact that the rest of the tree is no longer there!)

We were able to choose between 4 trees and we were told that it would be planted next spring. (We had to choose the tree by a certain date, then fax that choice to the City). A few weeks ago we recieved a letter in the mail stating the tree will be planted THIS spring instead of next.

I’m sorry, but I can only remember 3 of the 4 choices. They were; amer (sp?) maple, japanese lilac, and flowering crabapple. The fourth one was a yellow flowering tree (I can’t remember the name, however, I did do a websearch on all 4 of them at the time we had to make the decision). And I’m not certain if you would be given the same 4 tree choices, or if your choice of trees is based on your geographic location within the city.

While I’m very sad to have lost my large maple tree, on the bright side, I hope to have a front lawn now! (Those trees drank SO much water that it left none at all for our front grass). Not to mention the fact that a whole bunch of free time just freed up for us each autumn, now that we no longer have to rake a trillion leaves.

I hope this information is helpful. I think you’ll be very happy with the whole process. I was very pleased.

4 | Judy

May 30th, 2011 at 12:54 pm


When we moved into our house we have to remove a number of trees due to complete lack of care for them.

A few things to think about:

Birch trees do not do well in urban environments and are one of the first to go to bugs and other diseases. (Our arborist was not surprised to see the state of ours and passed that info along).

Crabapples are lovely and absolutely horrid for anyone with spring allergies (I do believe you said in the past that your husband suffers).

we were concerned about the large Japanese lilac but after some smart trimming last year it has come back beautifully this year. The other bonus is that is seems to be much easier on people with allergies than any of the other blooming varieties out there.

The last tree we had to remove was a Linden, which were popular with urban planners for a while, but they attract ants like no tomorrow and often get disease related to ant problems.

the city came out and inspected all the Red Maples that they planted on our street 50 years ago, but none have had to go yet, despite the large cracks any are getting. They just encouraged us to water the well this year.

Good luck!

5 | Ginger

May 30th, 2011 at 1:33 pm


How interesting that the city plants and replaces trees in your yard as part of city property. Here, if we want a tree we plant a tree. No part of our yard is considered public or city property. So interesting.

6 | binki

May 30th, 2011 at 1:41 pm


Trees are truly magnificent living organisms. 2011 is the International year of the Forest (trees).

We lost our big silver maple (75 years old) last year and our Ash tree now appears to be showing the first stages of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation. So we too are looking for replacement urban trees. We got our Ash tree from the City and it’s a great tree but you should not be planting Ash trees for a few years until the EAB thing passes. Oak trees are nice but they don’t grow very fast. Good old Maple trees are probably your best bet, unless you’re looking for something smaller like a fruit tree or a big shrub. Or a conifer? No leaves to rake.

Don’t be intimidated by tree planting. Even a tree with a 24″ root ball is pretty easy. If you can dig a large hole, you can plant a tree. Get the kids to pitch in, and they’ll be forever connected to “their” tree.

7 | Jen_nifer

May 30th, 2011 at 2:04 pm


If raking leaves is an issue, think about getting a tree with big leaves. Tiny leaves are terrible to try and rake (or clear off your car)!

8 | Patricia

May 30th, 2011 at 9:04 pm


We got one of the free city trees about three years ago, a Japenese Lilac. It is doing well, but took a few years before it was ready to blossom. It is still quite small but I’m looking forward to see it continue to grow.
We have purchased two mature trees from the Manotick Tree Movers. The first one, a Pacific Sunset Maple (which they no longer sell) is going really well. Last year we purchased a Deborah Maple which quickly died. It was replaced with a Sugar Maple which did not last the winter. Just last week they planted another Sugar Maple. So far it looks good! The service has been excellent. They have quickly replaced the dead trees with no questions asked and even sent an arborist out at no charge to help us decide what to do after the first one died last summer. The trees at Manotic Tree Movers vary in price depending on the size. Including delivery and planting, I believe we spent about $600 on each tree but they are a good size and are already starting to give us good shade.

9 | neeroc

May 30th, 2011 at 9:42 pm


One of the things I’m going to miss most about this house is our magnificent old trees. We have an oak beside the house that is easily 8′ around.

I would vote for a Japanese lilac if you get a say.

10 | Mary @ Parenthood

May 30th, 2011 at 10:35 pm


A lot of maples are suffering from blight in Ottawa, so if that was part of your problem you might want to consider something else. And many conifers (especially cedar!) attract mosquitos.

I like crabapples, but admittedly they are messy when the fruit drops (and can attract wasps) We have a large and showy chestnut tree straddling our property and it’s also a drag – spiky things that are hard to rake and millions of chestnuts sending out tap roots all over.

If you do get a maple and want something with lots of fall colour, crimson kings are not the right tree. My inlaws picked two off the list a decade or so ago because the city
told them they would turn bright red in the fall. So double
check what the city tells you when making your choice.

This sounds negative, but trees ARE lovely and I’m still bitter about the loss of shade we experienced when our neighbours brutalized our large maple in the backyard. But if you get to pick a tree it’s always nice to know what potential drawbacks you might experience beforehand…

11 | Finola

May 30th, 2011 at 10:35 pm


We are thinking of a gingko for our front yard. They are gorgeous and are great urban trees!

12 | LO

May 31st, 2011 at 10:23 am


Ginkos are great but very expensive and you need to buy at a decent size as they are slow growing…
The city often gives an Ash.

Do you sign up for ‘free’ trees thru the city? We do it every year!

13 | LO

May 31st, 2011 at 10:23 am


Some big lilacs would be nice!

14 | kaitlin

May 31st, 2011 at 11:41 am


Urban arboriculture is so interesting to me, especially from a historical standpoint. My research supervisor has written on Ottawa’s urban forest extensively (link here:http://http-server.carleton.ca/~jdean/Research.htm), and gave a talk at the library last month, that sadly wasn’t so well recorded.

But, urban arboriculture could have its own blog. (Which, is not such a terrible idea.)

15 | Mommy Marshall

May 31st, 2011 at 2:25 pm


Our city tree, which is now two years old, is a saskatoon berry tree and is as sad looking and stick-like as the day we bought it. My horticulturalist friend says it should look better soon…we’ll see.

Here’s my two cents:
Go for the red maple, they are big and beautiful all year round. A few years ago we took a tiny sapling from my sisters yard (free!) and it’s now over eight feet tall. I love them.

Stay away from crabapples, they are messy and only bloom for a week or so, then you’re left with a not so pretty tree. We also planted a gorgeous sand cherry that’s doing very well, but this is a small scale tree. Ants do seem to like it though.

16 | andrea

June 2nd, 2011 at 10:37 am


Thank you all for your thoughtful comments! We haven’t heard back from the City yet. We really need to consider our options (and I never thought about allergies – ack)!

17 | Mandy

June 5th, 2011 at 11:41 am


the replacement trees that the city comes a plants are much more mature than the free ones citizens get as part of the free tree program.
Go for a service berry tree – they used to offer them. They flower beautifully and the berries that they produce are edible – but the birds love them and you will liklely never get to taste one yourself. Yoiu will get lots of birds around though!

18 | Limbless >> a peek inside the fishbowl

June 22nd, 2011 at 12:54 pm


[…] A few weeks ago I wrote about the dead tree on the front lawn. A short time later a City of Ottawa tree guy appeared on my doorstep and we went over what our options were. These were the trees we could choose from: […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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