New outdoor trees set at Botanical Gardens arboretum; you can plant trees now, too

cutting trees at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
Damaged trees had to be removed from the arboretum (outdoor tree collection) at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, but new trees that better fit in with the original vision of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted will take their place. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
white blossom of China Snow tree lilac
One of the new specimens to be planted will be China snow, a lilac that is a tree rather than a shrub. Photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

by Connie Oswald Stofko

The bad news is that some of the trees in the arboretum (outdoor collection of trees) at the Buffalo and Erie Botanical Gardens were damaged and had to be removed.

The good news is that new trees will be planted in their place, and the new specimens were chosen to fit into the plan originally designed by famed landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted.

Even more good news is that the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy expects to release a feasability study in mid-November that will outline plans for the restoration of the arboretum as a whole.

And yes, you can still plant trees in your own yard at this time of year.

Keeping with Olmsted’s design

The Botanical Gardens is located inside South Park. When Olmsted designed South Park 150 years ago, he designed the entire park as an arboretum, explained Greg Robinson, director of park administration with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit organization that maintains the Olmsted parks in Buffalo.

The arboretum was a place to see living tree and shrub specimens, and Olmsted created a plan where trees in certain families should be: oak, maple, conifer, catalpa and so on.

Over the years, some of the trees didn’t survive. Sometimes they were replaced by specimens that veered away from Olmsted’s design.

The conservancy is working with the Botanical Gardens on a phased approach to restore the arboretum. A landscape architectural firm has been hired and they are wrapping up a feasibility study for the entire arboretum, Robinson said. The study should be rolled out in mid-November.

In the meantime, trees that are hazardous or dead or diseased need to be taken care of.

On Sept. 29, the Botanical Gardens worked with Above & Beyond Tree Expert Company to remove a blue spruce, a crab apple, a white ash and a Japanese yew from their outdoor collection. The trees were damaged or diseased. Longtime supporters John and Carol Kociela provided the resources necessary for the removal of the trees.

It’s important that the arboretum be kept to high standards because it is a Level II Accredited Arboretum, accredited by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and the Morton Arboretum, noted David Swarts, president/CEO of the Botanical Gardens.

Kristin Popochin, director of horticulture at the Botanical Gardens, contacted the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy for guidance on what trees could be planted in place of the damaged trees in order to adhere to Olmsted’s original design.

One of the trees selected is Syringa pekinensis ‘China Snow’, which is a tree lilac, rather than the shrub lilac we’re used to seeing. It has white flowers and will get 20 to 30 feet tall. It’s a good street tree, Popochin said, and will be planted in the parking lot, an area that’s dry and surrounded by pavement.

leaves of Roseomarginata
The multi-colored leaves on this beech called ‘Roseomarginata’ are different from the leaves on other beeches in the Peace Garden at the Botanical Gardens. Photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

Another tree that she’s excited about is a tri-color European beech Fagus sylvatica ‘Roseomarginata’, which will be planted in the Peace Garden.

“It’s different from the other beeches that we have in the same space,” Pochopin said. “The leaves are a pretty color– pink, white and green.”

Other trees that will be planted include shingle oak Quercus imbricaria, American hophornbeam Ostrya virginiana, American hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana, a copper beech and a cut leaf beech.

These are trees you can consider for your own landscape.

You can plant trees in autumn

“Yes, this is a good time to plant a tree,” said Ed Dore of Dore Landscape, who is working on the planting project at the Botanical Gardens. “As a matter of fact, almost any time of the year is a good time to plant a tree, as long as you are going to get it some water.”

Container trees can be planted anytime because the roots are not being disturbed. You simply load it in your vehicle and take it home and plant, Dore said.

But for field-grown material, either a shrub or a tree, the limiting criterion is when it is dug. (Field-grown material can be bareroot or balled and burlapped, also designated BxB.) These have to be dug during one of two periods: in early spring after the ground thaws and before buds start to open up, or in the fall after the leaf shows signs that it has stopped functioning. Fall digging often can start in early October, but this year’s warm, dry autumn has pushed that back a bit, he said.

The advantage of fall planting is that the soil temperature is warm, which will allow root growth well into January. Then when spring growth starts to emerge, the roots are ready to take in water and nutrients to get the plant going.

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2 Comments on “New outdoor trees set at Botanical Gardens arboretum; you can plant trees now, too

  1. This sounds crazy to ask but I have a gorgeous Dawn Redwood that is at least 15 years old and I need to have it removed. Someone suggested that it’s rare and could possibly be moved to a new site. Would you know of anyone who might want it? I hate the idea of chopping it down but it is necessary.

  2. Linda, I would suggest you contact PLANT WNY. There are folks in that group that would know if your tree is rare, how much it might cost to dig it up and whether there is someone who wants to do that. I hope that helps.

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