Benefits of tree retention – perception vs reality

When undertaking tree assessments for development purposes we endeavour to try and retain trees of good quality.  However as I am coming to realise, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. I recently visited several landscape designs selected for the Rotary Garden Design Festival 2012 and one of the designs had a striking feature of a structurally poor, yet from a landscape component point of view, structurally significant Cherry-plum (Prunus cerasifera).  Which, I hasten to add is not generally a species I associate with quality.

The design, compiled by Paul Pritchard of Paul Pritchard Landscape Design & Construction, had one astute requirement: tree retention & integration. As an arborist I noted the poor structural condition the Cherry-Plum was in, however that quickly dissipated into an appreciation of the dominant sculptural qualities the tree presented which were heightened by a dense shade giving canopy.

Landscape and architectural designs can dismissively remove trees at the initial concept phase allowing an uncompromising ‘blank-canvas’ approach that often excludes trees altogether. Again as an arborist I may have dismissed the tree either on the basis of poor structure or botanical insignificance. But lose a pivotal focal feature? It would take years to replicate the structural canopy benefits the tree provides.

Despite decayed wounds within the stem, the small tree had good health with lush un-failing canopy that provides shade, seasonal change, as well as calming the surrounding industrialised environment: the family home and tree both outnumbered by adjacent factories & warehouses.  Previous site conditions set development precedent limiting impacts to root system and tree health. As the core piece of a remarkable design the tree is neatly assisted by fluent Spotted Gum deck and impressive steel wave pool fence, the latter often a detraction compromising landscape design.

Astutely retained, the tree is the structural component of a very impressive design.

Nick Kelly – Consulting Arborist


About Stephen

Stephen is the Manager Consulting and a Director of Tree Logic

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One Response to “Benefits of tree retention – perception vs reality”

  1. Simon Molloy Says:


    I also believe that as we mature as people and professionals we learn to look at trees from a number of different aspects.
    Your article also highlights the need to listen to the client and work with the other professions associated with such projects.
    As you also say to have a tree of similar size and “mature” form will take many years to establish. This also highlights the conundrum of the renewal of the urban forest. At some point these older trees will need to be replaced and it is equally as important to recognise this.

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