georgia (8)

AIB Studios Presents: Tending Our Trees

A Spanish proverb says: "It will beggar a doctor to live where orchards thrive." Perhaps that is because research shows that surrounding ones self with trees and other flora and fauna is good for one's health. In this AIB Presents, Tending our Trees, we not only explore the benefits of life around trees, but how metropolitan areas like Atlanta are working to balance maintaining its tree canopy with smart growth. We hear from those whose job it is to manage and tend to the trees about what it takes to keep Atlanta a city in a forest.
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Georgia Arbor Day #GAarborday

Georgia Forestry Commission celebrated 2016 Georgia Arbor Day across the state in many different  ways.

The statewide Arbor Day event on February 17th at Trees Atlanta was a packed with more than 100 people, including 25 Tree City USAs, 4 Tree Campus USAs,  1 Tree Line USA and 4 mayors from Decatur, Dunwoody, Kennesaw and Mansfield. Director Robert Farris read the Arbor Day proclamation signed by Governor Nathan Deal and presented each community with a certificate and photo opportunity. News releases about the event were sent out locally on Georgia’s Arbor Day, officially declared as Friday, February 19th. Special guests for the “Mayors’ Symposium on Trees” were Danielle Crumrine and Josh Lippert from Tree Pittsburgh, Tim Keane, Walter Brown, Ryan Gravel and Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett.

More than 100 cities across the state celebrated in their own unique ways. The City of Avondale Estates planted a Ginkgo tree, specifically chosen by a homeowner for its beautiful fall color and unique characteristics (hopefully not female!). The city of Duluth planted two fruit trees at Bunten Road Park with the theme of hunger relief. Both mayors attended these local events. Timmy Womick and the Tree Circus made appearances in Albany, Thomasville, Columbus, Warner Robins, Macon, Tifton and Oxford.

At Agnes Scott College, honor trees were planted on campus in recognition of faculty and and staff, and Betty, a baker in the cafeteria, baked a delicious Arbor Day cake for the students.

“My Tree Our Forest” Tree Tags were distributed to 40 communities to hang on the trees at city hall or other public spaces on Arbor Day. The tags help carry the message about the benefits of trees to citizens across the state.

“Hello down there!

  • I’m busy saving you money.
  • I’m busy making city life fun.
  • I’m busy making oxygen for you.
  • I’m busy making useful things for you.
  • I’m busy keeping your streets safe.
  • I’m keeping your drinking water clean.

What are you up to?”

We hope you were celebrating trees in your community too.

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Tree Planting Fatigue Reality

My neighborhood in Georgia has roughly 80% canopy coverage. Most these trees were volunteers from the days before air conditioning and less housing density. By the 1990s most these trees were huge and many were going into decline. Neighbors were also expanding the foot prints of their homes, particularly in the late 90s and over the last few years. The neighborhood consists of around 500 homes, mostly of one third acre lots. Each year I would notice at least 20-30 large trees being removed, signaled by the unique pitch of a chainsaw against wood. Most the yards were well manicured and volunteer saplings, representing future canopy, were being removed. I began to worry about the legacy of our neighborhood forest and in 1998 starting started a NeighborWoods tree planting program. The first four years were awesome and we planted over 40 trees, but after that program fatigue set in and we planted around 40 over the next ten years. Momentum is difficult to sustain in tree planting. One major difficulty is the amount of time between planting seasons which inhibits a consistent momentum and separately it gives time for leaders to get distracted. To demonstrate the difficulty, I offer an additional story.  Last year, during the creation of our tree ordinance it was determined we needed to plant 125 trees a year (City wide) to retain a net zero loss of our canopy. A community business leader thought the City was making too big a deal over the difficulty of planting that many trees and he said he would get some citizens together to plant 500. One year later, despite using his numerous resources, I believe he has planted less than 10, and this fall the program has not even been brought up again.  I did not enjoy watching this failure, but it did reinforce what I know to be the difficulty of maintaining a consistent tree planting program.  In yet another example, a car dealership in our area wanted to plant 100,000 trees in our county.  They developed partnerships with the county government and other NGOs.  They quickly downsized to 10,000 and it took four years and many more resources than they ever thought possible.  My point is not to discourage, but to help us be realistic in setting our goals.  It also makes you appreciate organizations like Trees Atlanta that have planted 100K trees in 29 years.  Remember though, they have more than 10 full time employees and a multimillion dollar annual budget.  So while tree planting fatigue is a reality, it can be overcome knowing what to expect at the beginning and then planning around it and allocating proper resources.  This year our NeighborWoods project aspires to plant 20 trees! 

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Crappy Soil, Crappy Trees

More and more municipalities are depending on tree bank money and replanting to replace lost canopy due to commercial and residential development. Yet the typical tree ordinance is very vague about how those trees are to be replanted and the cost to replant trees is typically grossly underestimated. Dr. Kim Coder, Urban Forestry Professor at UGA, describes it best in his quick description of a soil's impact on the growth of a tree, "crappy soil, crappy tree." There are also issues of soil volume, watering, mulching, and plant selection and diversity. It is bad enough that healthy mature trees are being replaced with 2 inch trees, but the fact is that given the lack of standards for planting and maintenance of replants those two inch trees have slim hope of replacing the canopy they are replacing. In addition to the time it will take, you are giving up existing canopy today for "possible" canopy tomorrow.

Tree Ordinances need to do a better job ensuring the trees are planted properly if they actually aspire to replace even a small percentage of what is removed. I believe the best way to accomplish this goal is to have soil requirements in tree ordinances. The requirements should have both a soil volume and quality component. The replanting of large overstory trees should have at least 800 sq. feet of soil volume as a minimum. The planting area should be back filled with amended soil or at the very least tilled to break up compaction. Improving soil conditions and requiring the trees to be watered will significantly impact replant survival and health. Newly planted trees experience a period of transplant shock during which they are highly vulnerable to stress. Through proper planting and regular early care directed at rapid root development, the period of transplant shock can be shortened and the probability of survival greatly increased. 

Tree Banking also needs to be more closely scrutinized. I'd rather see less trees replanted but planted properly and onsite. Tree Banking contains two big assumptions that bother me, one that there is land available to replant the tree and two that the money being contributed will actually result in a healthy tree over time. Tree Banking also encourages trees to be planted away from where we live and play to "other" undetermined areas. Why not have those funds go towards planting one tree properly on site rather than kicking the can down the road hoping for the best possible outcome that probability wise is more than unlikely.

My experience of working on tree ordinances in Georgia as an advocate for existing trees has led me to the conclusion that in the current economic environment any attempt to preserve healthy existing trees in the "buildable" area of an urban lot is a non-starter. It is less expensive and easier to clear a lot and then replant trees afterwards. If we allow builders to remove most existing trees, doesn't it make sense that they have to replant at least one tree properly?

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Do You Know Your Grove Contest Winners

As you all know yesterday marked the end of our Do You Know Your Grove? seek and find contest. We want to thank everyone that entered in to the contest and hope you all had some fun! There were 8 differences in the photo:


















There is a woman walking on the right

There is a third red planter in the background

There is an extra bike sign on the left side of the street (on the pavement)

I removed the window from the side of the brick building

I removed the window pane lines (not sure what you call them) from the window on the side of the building facing us.

I made the flowers in the lowest basket on the street lamp purple

I added an extra cloud above the building to the left

I removed the large tree branch lowest to the ground in the green tree.


Our winners were chosen through a random drawing out of all the submissions. We are excited to announce that the winners of The Grove Do You Know Your Grove? contest are... Juanita Viala of Georgia, Don Richardson of Tennessee, Lisa Segard of Michigan and Nick Kuhn from Missouri. They will each receive a $50.00 gift card to for purchasing planting supplies, eco-friendly books for Kindle or whatever else you choose to help plant your legacy.


Congratulations to all of our winners and thanks again to all of our participants!



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More Non-Timber Ecosystem Services of Trees

Earlier in the year at Georgia’s Arbor Day celebration at the  Capitol, a “check” for $37.2 billion dollars in ecosystem service value provided by trees was handed to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, the result of the study “Quantifying the Benefits of Non-Timber Ecosystem Services in Georgia” conducted by the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.  That check is looking better all the time.  Scientist are discovering that the net primary productivity of forests which measures how much CO2 plants take in during photosynthesis minus how much CO2 plants release during is respiration is much higher than was originally believed.   Be sure to read the full article with an informative interactive map.

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Georgia’s Live Oak

Georgia celebrates its Arbor Day on Feb. 18 – a great reason for The Grove to celebrate the live oak, Georgia’s state tree. The live oak became the official tree on Feb. 25, 1937, at the request of the Edmund Burke Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.


Georgians going back to General James Edward Oglethorpe have enjoyed live oaks for centuries. Live oaks grow from coastal Virginia, south to southern Florida and west to central Texas – the coastal plains and islands where the first settlers to American made their homes.


The tree gets its name from its evergreen leaves. Live oaks usually have a large, multi-columned trunk base that divides after only a few feet into 3-5 arching, horizontal branches that form a wide-spreading, low, dense crown sometimes more than 100 feet across. The largest trees are usually 200 to 300 years old.


The largest living registered live oak, growing outside of Lewisburg, La., is 11 feet in diameter, 55 feet tall with a crown spread of 132 feet. Georgia’s largest live oak, named the Village Sentinel, is in Waycross.The tree is almost 10 feet in diameter, 86 feet tall and has a limb spread of143 feet.


[Photo credit:]

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Georgia Weekly Leaf Reports

For many people, the perfect autumn weekend includes cozy campfires, gooey s’mores and fiery-hued forests. To help leaf peepers plan their fall escapes, Georgia’s state parks launched “Leaf Watch 2010” in partnership with Georgia Forestry Commission to track fall color as it moves across the Peach State and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Whether heading north for hiking and waterfalls or south for canoeing and camping, “Leaf Watch 2010” offers advice on where to find the best color at Georgia’s state parks. Found at throughout October and November, travelers can get updates on fall color, learn safe hiking tips, and make reservations for the many campsites, cottages and lodge rooms offered at Georgia’s state parks.

New this year is a partnership with the Georgia Forestry Commission and a webcam at Black Rock Mountain State Park near Clayton, Ga. Expert foresters will advise travelers about overall color, specific tree species and even the weather’s effect on leaf watching. The webcam will provide a glimpse of color progressing across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Typically, Georgia’s mountain parks peak in late October; however, color can be seen as early as September and throughout much of November. Some of the most popular parks for leaf watching include Amicalola Falls, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, Moccasin Creek, Smithgall Woods, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi and Vogel. Since some of these parks are crowded on the prettiest weekends, visitors may want to explore lesser-known parks, which can be vibrant. Providence Canyon State Park, also called Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, has hiking trails that highlight sweetgums and sassafras. Hardwoods and mossy rock gardens can be found on the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail at F.D. Roosevelt State Park in near Columbus.

Park officials advise visitors to make overnight reservations as soon as possible. It is not uncommon for mountain cottages and yurts to be reserved nearly a year in advance, and many campgrounds fill up on pretty weekends. Amicalola Falls and Unicoi state parks offer hotel-style lodges with restaurants. To make a reservation, call 1-800-864-7275 or log onto

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