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I’m posting about this because it is the worst example of tree vandalism I have personally seen & because of the great actions by Canterbury Council in response.
I was told of the vandalism in Wonga Street Canterbury, so just out of interest we went to have a look. I was unprepared for what I saw. Nine street trees, all mature Brushbox had been poisoned. Large drill holes were evident in all trees. It was like the person/people who did this thought – …..hmmm, looks too obvious – so they poisoned other trees on both sides of Wonga Street perhaps to disperse any finger pointing from both the Council & the community.
Who knows why they poisoned these trees. I don’t like to stress money when talking of trees as they provide many more benefits than money, but when talking about tree vandalism, I think it is worth focusing on property value & profit.
What we do know is that the vandal/s significantly decreased the value of many properties here, though I doubt they realize this. A lot of people don’t understand that the street tree out front has a big impact on their own property.
A friend who is a Real Estate Agent in the Inner West wrote the following to me recently –
When a buyer looks at a house they also look at the street. Time & time again I hear “I don’t like this street, it’s got no trees.” Streetscape makes a huge difference to property values.
Wonga Street is a busy road so the trees collected particulate matter & helped purify the air for the houses along here. The Brushbox trees being mature looked great once. You can tell from looking at the other untouched trees further along the street. In my opinion Brushbox trees have the ability to turn an ordinary street into something that is grand & that translates into money.
What Canterbury Council has done deserves praise. They have attached a sign to all the trees that says in large red letters – “This tree has been vandalized,” or “This tree has been poisoned” & ask people to contact the Council if they have any information.
They did not use nails to attach the signs, instead using a metal tie that makes it very difficult to remove the sign while at the same time protecting the tree. That the trees are dead or dying & they still took care not to use nails impressed me. It sends a clear message to people about respect & care for trees.
Next, they have not removed the dead or dying trees. I was told by a resident that these signs have been in place for around 3-years. Another said 12-months or more, but they were new to the area, so I can’t be sure.
If I were to poison a street tree it would be because I wanted it gone. A few months to one year before it was removed would not concern me. However, if the tree had signage on it & was to remain insitu for an indeterminate number of years, that would act as a massive deterrent.
Canterbury Council also planted some replacement trees. It appears that they will not remove the poisoned Brushbox until the new Brushbox trees have established to a decent size. I love that they planted the same species of tree.
Leaving the ugly vandalized tree insitu & with signage while the new tree grows takes the power back to the Council & removes any reward the vandal may have thought they would be gaining. I think their approach is excellent. But then again, I am hardline when it comes to community owned trees paid for by the tax-payers dollar. I do not believe anyone has the right to vandalise public trees & that includes radical pruning to keep the street tree a bonsai.
I imagine those who live in the leafy end of Wonga Street hate to pass these dead & dying trees, but at the same time appreciate that the Council has taken action to ensure that this doesn’t travel the length of the street. They are the ones who benefited by the shade of the Brushbox over this record-breaking hot summer. They will also benefit by higher property values if they decide to sell. I know. A Real Estate Agent told me so.
Now it has been transformed into this!
A couple of days ago I cycled over to Arthur Street Marrickville to see whether the large traffic island on the corner of Ann Street was indeed being transformed into a garden. What I saw was very pleasing.
Marrickville Council has done some great work here & I am sure that the local residents are happy about this. From being a very large traffic island covered with bitumen with a stunning Gum tree somehow managing to survive, it has been transformed into a garden that will soon support wildlife.
Twelve Lilly Pillies have been planted around two sides. I assume these will create a small hedge. Ground covering Grevillias have been planted in the remaining space. On the other side of the tree that has been released from bondage, are five Bird’s Nest ferns. I have never seen Council plant Bird’s Nest ferns on traffic islands before. They look good now & will be stunning when grown. Fingers crossed that they are not pilfered in the night.
Council have also painted the surrounds & added a chain link fence to protect pedestrians from falling into the gutter.
This corner of Arthur & Ann Streets has a number of lovely qualities. The house next to the traffic island has a water feature in the front garden & the sound of falling water is audible from the street. Across the road are large trees where Ravens, Currawongs & Magpies can always be found. There is also minimal traffic.
As I stood there looking at the new plants & the other work done by Council I became aware of the dappled shade from the Gum tree, the sound of birdcall & of falling water & thought – this is how streets can offer spaces of green & respite.
It may be that you only stop here for a couple of minutes to take a breather on your way home from work or the shops, but you will certainly benefit if you do so.
As we have so few parks in Marrickville LGA, our streets are defacto green spaces. Many people walk for recreation & the greener our streets become with verge gardens & better street trees, the more the community will benefit.
I often take a slow walk along David Street Marrickville because doing so makes me feel good. The houses are nice, many of the front gardens are green & interesting, the street trees are spectacular & the cool dappled shade wonderful to be in. Plus, I don’t have to battle litter, barbeque smoke & blaring car radios like I do in some of our parks.
I can get the emotional benefit of being in a park if I walk or cycle down the right streets & I know I am not alone from the people I have spoken with who also choose to walk these streets for the same reasons as I do.
What Marrickville Council has done here in Arthur Street is create a space that can nurture people’s need for peaceful green space. It also increases biodiversity so is good for urban wildlife. If every area of concrete or bitumen could be greened our municipality would become cooler & nicer.
Research scientists say the payoff is a happier & healthier community so I think more work like this is a priority. Thank you Marrickville Council. This is great work.
Last week at the public meeting concerning the Victoria Road Bushpocket site a resident said that – if he were paranoid, he would think Council do not want Bushpockets.
In this area of Victoria & Meeks Road there are four Bushpockets –
- one along the rail line in Meeks Road (destroyed by accident & replaced last year),
- one with a bioswale at the bottom of Victoria Road (the swale was destroyed for a cycleway last month),
- a triangular section next to the houses on Victoria Road &
- one of around 30-metres that faces Victoria Road to the corner of Meeks Road. This was savagely pruned sometime last year. I did not write about it because Marrickville Council sent an apologetic email to the Bushpocket volunteers. Today I see that this site has again been pruned & what is left behind is again, frankly, an unattractive mess.
Out of the four Bushpockets, three of them have been either totally or partially destroyed by Marrickville Council. Feeling paranoid about the motives that lead to such results is almost inevitable.
Sometimes heavy pruning of natives can be a good thing as it can encourage thicker growth, but not with these plants. Their foliage is on the outside of the shrub. If you do anything other than tip-pruning, you expose the inside of the shrub & they remain in this form & condition until you do something that changes their shape again.
Where there were once native shrubs that cascaded over an unseen wooden boundary fence to the side of the road, the site was left last year with a view of bare inner branches & the wooden barrier fence, plus the mounting litter & weeds. Now it has been pruned again, this time 30-cms or so behind the fence as if the shrubs were somehow dangerous. This ugly outcome is extremely disappointing.
In February 2012 I wrote about Marrickville Council’s plans for Old Canterbury Road Lewisham, between Parramatta Road & the railway overpass. See – http://bit.ly/woTF6K
Council have replaced the footpath, removed 1 ailing street tree & planted 23 new street trees with root barriers. The trees were 10 x Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), 11 x New South Wales Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) & 2 x Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulates). Council also created 36 new verge gardens between 1 metre & 1.3 metres wide & 4 metres long.
Thank you Marrickville Council. I thought the new streetscape was a vast improvement on the old & will watch with interest as the trees grow & the verge gardens fill out.
The street trees & verge gardens will help remove pollution & particulate matter – important as this is a high traffic road. They will also cool the street, add oxygen to the air, provide food for urban wildlife & have a positive impact on property values, among other benefits.
If this kind of streetscape beautification work happened across Marrickville LGA – as funds were available, we would have a much nicer place to live with greater diversity for urban wildlife. I’d wager the community would be happier too.
31 large mature trees were removed from the front of the St Vincent’s de Paul complex in West Street Lewisham in early 2011. The removal of these trees also took away the appearance of a beautiful avenue of trees along this section of West Street, something that was really appreciated by the community.
So on a recent visit to Petersham Park I was surprised to see that Marrickville Council had replaced a long section of the concrete footpath outside St Vincent’s de Paul failing to include a single street tree.
The footpath area outside the St Vincent’s de Paul complex is very wide & has no overhead powerlines. There is no building close to the road. There appears to be no obstacles of any kind – just wide open sky. It appears to be perfect for street trees & frankly they are needed along here being a busy road within a stones throw of even busier Parramatta Road.
How can the urban forest increase if every opportunity to plant trees is not taken? Many Australian Councils have a 3:1 or 4:1 policy. That is, for every tree that is removed, 3 or 4 trees are to be planted to not only replace the original tree loss, but to also increase the urban forest.
It is very disappointing that concrete is enough for Council when they appear to have had a wonderful opportunity to restore beauty on this side of West Street.
I was taken to see another verge garden in Greenbank Street Marrickville recently. It appears to have been organized by two houses, but it may be that the one house organized it & the other house didn’t mind their neighbour making improvements in front of their place.
Whatever the details, this verge is really special & shows just what can be done. They have obviously paid for Marrickville Council to remove the concrete. Three verge gardens have been created – two of around 5-metres each long & another of around 2.5-metres & they span two adjoining properties. Concrete has been left roadside for car doors & there is a path between each garden for pedestrians.
The garden beds have been planted with a mix of natives & ornamentals & covered with mulch. Except for the occasional weeding, it looks like that these verge gardens will pretty much look after themselves.
Around the corner in a nameless lane (at least on Google maps), the residents have planted a row of Lilly Pillies in the small space between the house & the kerb & covered the visible soil with mulch. These places traditionally look not so good as they collect weeds & litter, but these residents have demonstrated that such a difficult place can look very attractive. Lilly Pillies can be pruned to form a hedge & I expect this is what is planned. The Lilly Pillies have the added benefit of preventing graffiti tags on what is a vulnerable wall because of its location.
Further down the land is the entrance to another property, which is bordered by small native trees & the back fence is covered with a vine.
The residents on one side of Greenbank Street have planted around almost every street tree & it looks nice. It’s when you come to the larger verge gardens & the lane way that you see the potential many of us have to radically improve our streetscape.
It doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive either. If you can encourage a good number of residents in a street to embrace verge gardens & become a Sustainable Street, you can apply to Council to come & depave for you as happened in Lincoln Street recently. See - http://bit.ly/YpZmrH Council might even throw in some plants.
If it’s just you, then there is a cost involved for Council to depave, but they do all the work like check for hidden infrastructure & take away the concrete, which saves you effort & skip fees.
Very cheap plants suitable for verge gardens can be sourced at Marrickville Council Nursery – native tube stock only – http://bit.ly/ZhY4kS
Randwick City Council Nursery – established plants – both native & non-native – http://bit.ly/SnKwUo
& Rockdale Council Nursery – established plants – both native & non-native – http://bit.ly/SVe4ai
If you find yourself near Greenbank Street, I think it’s worthwhile to stop & have a look at these verge gardens as well as a look in the laneway. I say this because good gardens & less hard surfaces changes the way an area feels & it is good to feel this whenever you can. You may not like some of the plants, but that’s the beauty of a verge garden – as long as it doesn’t become as hazard to cars or pedestrians, you can plant what you like. I think they have done something wonderful & inspiring.
I was very happy to read of the City of Sydney Council’s new initiative to add more street trees into their LGA by allowing residents to not only choose the trees, but plant them as well.
Called the Neighbourwoods Program, residents can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 “to offset the time & work involved in planting shade trees.” As I understand it, grants will be available for groups of neighbours to plant trees in their street.
The residents can choose what species of tree they wish to plant & the trees don’t have to be natives. This may upset those who lobby for the planting of native trees only, but will please others who have a particular wish for exotics. I imagine the council sees this as breaking down people’s resistance to street trees if they are able to choose to plant what they like.
The Arborist for City of Sydney Council, Karen Sweeney calls this approach – equal opportunity for trees. ”People should have a love affair with their trees. Trees are like puppies; they’ll be with you for a long time.”
I meet a lot of people who talk to me about street trees. The overwhelming response is a dislike or even hatred towards deciduous street trees. We have thousands of these across Marrickville LGA, so that may amount to a lot of tree hatred. I am aware that deciduous street trees are planted to allow sunshine to get through during the winter months, but for me, street upon street of bare thin witchy branches makes for a bleak landscape.
For others, deciduous street trees make for hours of sweeping & cleaning leaves off parked cars, with many doing this daily. When one or more residents desire a street clean of leaf litter while others don’t worry about the fallen leaves at all, this can result in simmering anger. I have been told many times of the “lazy” neighbour who doesn’t sweep up the leaves outside their place.
Almost everyone I have spoken to who said that the tree is bad because it drops too much litter has also said that they wished the Council would remove it. Others don’t like natives & would prefer an ornamental tree or a tree from their homeland. Perhaps this is why we have so many street trees that have been pruned to remain short? A tree that is kept as a shrub is much easier to manage.
I think that the City of Sydney Council’s idea to allow residents to choose their own tree species will be a hit. The fact that some may not choose to plant native species does not worry me because Sydney Council is planning to almost double their urban forest by 2050. I am sure that the Council will ensure that there are sufficient native food-producing species for urban wildlife & so any move from residents to plant non-native trees will balance out.
In addition to this new tree-planting program Sydney Council plans to plant trees in median strips, car parks & public spaces, as well include special trees in a Significant Tree Register. They also plan to educate the community on the benefits of trees.
The City of Sydney Council also surveyed the amount of hard surfaces they have & plan to plant trees in these areas to lower the urban heat island effect. I love that Sydney Council’s focus is on shade trees. A street tree that only creates a minimal amount of shade around itself & does not shade a good part of the road will not have much of an impact in lowering the urban heat island effect. Maybe we will see more broad-leafed trees.
The Neighbourwood program is an exciting initiative. We all benefit from lovely tree-lined streets, even if we do not live in the area. To read more about this see – http://bit.ly/Y60X9J
I had been told about new verge gardens being created by Marrickville Council on Unwins Bridge Road, but had no idea where on this lengthy road they were or how much depaving was being done.
Marrickville Council has created 32 new verge gardens from almost the corner of Campbell Street all the way to Mary Street. Right now it looks like a building site, which it is. When the work is completed though, this stretch on Unwins Bridge Road will look significantly better than it did before.
The community & wildlife will be much better off for any depaving & the creation of gardens. Verge gardens & street trees will help with the pollution in this area as the trees & plants will collect particulate matter from passing vehicles. They also help lower the urban heat island effect & add beauty, which adds to property values. Also, a good-looking streetscape makes for a nicer place to live.
Imagine how the municipality would look if all the excess concrete was removed & replaced with green plants, more street trees & colour from flowers? 32 new verge gardens in this location is significant. I thank Marrickville Council for doing this & can’t wait to discover their future depaving projects making our municipality a nicer, more attractive, sustainable & healthy place to live.
I was travelling though Marrickville recently when I came across a rather special verge garden. It was the first verge garden of this kind of design that I had seen in Marrickville LGA & frankly, it looked wonderful.
It was raised above the ground with sides of sandstone blocks & the front made of thick planks of wood that provided a seat for passers by. It was filled with small yellow-flowering plants, some herbs & strawberries. Space had been left at the roadside for car doors to open & this was left as lawn.
Beside the verge garden was a wooden trolley on wheels that was filled to the brim with plants, many of them edible. It was the kind of trolley I had dreamt about, something that could follow the sun when I was growing tomatoes.
I guess standing out the front taking many photos attracted the owner who came out for a chat. His name is Steve Webb & he told me that the wood for the trolley & the verge garden were recycled, as was the sandstone blocks & that I was right, the verge garden did double as a seat for passers by.
Next to the verge garden was a rabbit hutch, also on wheels. Inside were two bunnies whose names were Mavis & Fluffy if I remember correctly. Their job was to mow the verge. Now that’s an idea to save $2 million per annum Marrickville Council – mobile bunnies. (just joking).
Steve’s front garden was as interesting as his verge. It was a delight with a small brick path meandering around herbs, flowering nasturtiums, stawberries, native violets, Gerberas, grevillias & a lemon tree. Another tree held a round kid’s size swing.
Steve runs Edible Kids’ Gardens, which creates playspaces & learning environments to get children interested in gardening & healthy eating. His verge & front garden are testament to his ability to create a highly interesting, edible & useable landscape in what I think are difficult spaces – small inner west front gardens.
Edible Kids’ Gardens helps schools design & construct an edible garden & use features like dry stone creek beds, pathways, bridges, outdoor classrooms & music playwalls. Planting is done to encourage pollinators while deterring pests using permaculture principles.
The Edible Kids’ Gardens website says Steve also designs gardens for “children with specific needs, such as developmental delays, visual & sensory impairments, & autism spectrum disorders. I can tailor a garden with a view to providing horticulture therapy for people living with acquired brain injury, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.” He also creates residential & commercial gardens.
Not a bad find considering all I did was discover a verge garden. You can find out more about Edible Kids’ Gardens here – http://www.ediblekidsgardens.com.au
In August 2012 I came across a traffic island in Arthur Street Marrickville where I found a street tree living in what I thought were appalling conditions. A large traffic island had been covered with bitumen & much of this had formed a collar up one side of the tree’s trunk as it had grown. I thought at the time what a wasted opportunity for a verge garden & wondered at the miracle of the tree’s survival as it was very healthy.
Last Sunday I cycled past this tree & to my delight saw that Marrickville Council has started to depave this traffic island. They have already removed the bitumen & there is only the layer of gravel to go. I am pretty sure they will be creating a verge garden here as they would have only removed some of the bitumen around the tree if they didn’t plan for anything more.
Because of the shape of the traffic island & that it is on the corner of Arthur & Ann Streets, it will be visible from quite a distance & therefore benefit the streetscape of two streets. Of course there are the benefits of less heat & more green, plus help with stormwater if this island is made into a verge garden. I will keep a check on the progress & post again when the work has been completed.