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I recently spied an ingenious way to install a green wall in a very small space – literally at the entrance of a house beside the front door.
A lightweight metal structure, used I think to stabilize & reinforce the concrete when forming cement slabs, has been fixed to the brick wall. A Star Jasmine vine is being trained up through the metal & will very quickly hide as well as pad the structure transforming this area into a green wall.
Not only have they repurposed the metal structure making this a sustainable approach, the green wall will also help lower the heat of their front porch & at least part of their house in summer as they face west. The green wall will add significant beauty making a nice entrance & also a cool green porch to sit in if they wish.
Star Jasmine is very quick to grow. It is soft to touch & can be cut back easily. In the weeks around Christmas, this wall will be covered in highly perfumed white flowers, which will probably fill the house with a lovely scent.
I think this is a terrific idea that can easily be done on other walls & structures.
Recently I attended a verge garden workshop run by Marrickville Council. We were shown a Photoshop mockup of similar plans for an exterior wall on a corner property to stop the constant graffiti tagging. Lightweight metal gridding standing a few centimeters from the wall will be attached & a couple of vines like Star Jasmine planted in the ground & trained up to cover the wall.
Within a short time this will become a green wall & probably the pride of the local community. Because the metal structure will not touch the wall, except for the attachment points, there will be no problems with rising damp or any other damage. It looked terrific & appealed to all the participants.
Sydney City Council has done much larger versions under the overhead roadways near the Fish Markets & along the railway line in Erskineville & these green walls look fantastic. It’s fairly cheap to do, Star Jasmine is long-lived & easily managed & pretty much everyone likes green walls, including wildlife. It will also permanently stop tagging.
Imagine how Marrickville LGA could look if the exterior of buildings on corners & laneways were to become green walls. They soften harsh landscapes, lower the urban heat island effect, offer habitat for small birds, lizards & insects & add beauty for the eye.
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
Marrickville Council has put up proposed plans for 3 areas in Marrickville LGA –
- Calvert Street car park – corner of Calvert Street & Illawarra Road Marrickville,
- Dulwich Hill Station shopping area – Wardell Road, Dudley Street & Bedford Crescent
- St Peters Triangle - between Campbell Road, Princes Highway & the Bankstown/Illawarra railway line.
From the website - “Council is undertaking a Public Domain Study project from mid 2012 to mid 2013. The Study will assist Marrickville Council in improving the look and feel of Council-run public spaces such as streets, lanes, footpaths and urban squares like Trevallion Plaza, throughout the Marrickville Council area.” I think it is great that Marrickville Council allows community input via their extensive & busy website ‘Your Future Your Say.’
Marrickville Council’s plan for the Calvert Street car park would require removing 7 mature Podocarpus trees & 2 Firewheel trees & replacing them with 9 palm trees.
I was shocked when I saw the photo of the plans. Palm trees create very little shade so would have a minimal impact on lowering the heat island effect created by the bitumen surface of the car park. In my opinion, this is not planning for a hotter future, which is exactly what the City of Sydney Council is currently doing.
Female Podocarpus trees produce oval berry-like fruit that provide food for birds & flying foxes & perhaps this is why Marrickville Council is planning on removing these trees. They are not the obvious choice of tree for a car park because of their annual dropping of fruit. However, these trees have been in this location for at least a couple of decades & one would wonder why the plan to remove so many mature & healthy trees that are beneficial to wildlife at this stage of their life.
Podocarpus are also attractive trees with a substantial shade-producing canopy & their presence makes the Calvert Street car park look one of the better car parks in Marrickville LGA as well as adding greenery to this section of Illawarra Road, which is almost tree-free.
Palm trees also create fruit that is eaten by birds. The trees drop bucket loads of hard fruit each year & anyone who has one of these trees will tell you that they spend ages ripping out sprouting palm trees from under & around the tree. These must be the easiest trees to grow from seed that nature ever produced & they are very quick growing.
Most importantly, palm trees also shed huge fronds that could knock a person out if the heavy wooded end of the frond lands on their head. The fronds could also damage cars if they land on them. A mature palm can have fronds of 4-5 metres in length.
I fear that if this plan goes ahead, we will have a hot desolate car park filled with what one woman I knew called, ‘living telegraph poles.’
One last thing – a pair of Magpies have lived in this car park for years & I think this is important. They won’t be able to make a new home in palm trees.
In the Council Meeting of 6th December 2011 Clr Macri said the following, “We are running out of suitable places to plant trees. We are scratching our heads where to plant trees. Staff are trying to find places to plant the 500 trees each year. Trees are being planted on top each other.” http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/report-from-the-gallery-6th-december-2011-part-1/
I found this information quite disturbing & have noticed that some of Clr Macri’s questions to staff appear to seek information on money wastage as a result of planting street trees. I agree with Clr Macri that far too many new street trees die & that this is a waste of tax-payers money.
Unfortunately, some of the tree deaths are to be expected. Vandalism is hard to control &, if they choose, Council could embark on a long-term educational program from school-age upwards to get the message out to the community that tree vandalism is not acceptable & ultimately has a negative impact on their life, their health, happiness & value of their property. It is important that the message include that vandalism has an equally negative impact on the rest of the community. Devalue your property by poisoning a large tree & you will certainly be devaluing your neighbour’s property. Depending on the length of the street, perhaps this tree loss devalues the whole street or a good section of it.
I don’t know how many new street tree plantings die from vandalism. I don’t think Marrickville Council knows either. What I do know is that Marrickville Council waters new street trees for only 12-weeks, when many Councils water their new trees for 2-years. It’s obvious which management approach will increase the survival of new trees. Unfortunately, changing this has not been raised in Council since I have been attending.
Urban Forestry is a growing industry that has undergone some significant changes in the past decade. Those who have control of the budget have realized that global warming is going to have a massive impact on living conditions in cities & urban areas & that the old paradigm of managing trees will not carry us into the future. A local example I have mentioned before is that the City of Sydney Council is intending to increase their urban forest by 50% to try to mitigate the impacts of global warming. London, New York, Chicago are great examples of cities that are planting huge numbers of public trees to ensure that these cities are decent places to live when the affects of climate change really hit. Cities have been found to be 5 degrees hotter than suburbs & this is rising annually. Street trees are known to lower the urban heat island effect, which in turn lowers power consumption for air-conditioning.
Much research has been done in recent years about the urban forest & some of this I have posted here. The following is just one of the benefits of the urban forest in terms of the economy. I will post more about the economic benefits of trees & about the other benefits – social, environment & ecological in later posts.
ATTRACTING THE SHOPPER’S DOLLAR – It’s well known that a leafy green shopping strip attracts shoppers. They tend to linger because the environment is nice & as a consequence spend around 11% more.
I’m surprised the shop owners along our shopping strips are not lobbying Council to plant more leafy trees & make their areas look more appealing. Tiles on the footpath don’t really make much of an impact & they cost an extraordinary amount of money. I wonder whether planting leafy street trees, putting planter boxes at regular intervals along the footpath & hanging baskets from the awnings would have more of an impact & perhaps cost less than tiling the footpath.
Drivers cannot see floor tiles on the footpath so are not able to see the beautification effects, whereas they can see trees, planter boxes & hanging baskets of flowers. The City of Sydney Council have done this in many of their shopping strips. Big, vibrant hanging balls containing flaming-red Begonias hang from awnings every 5-metres. They remove half a car space to plant leafy trees, not columnar trees, rather trees that have a broad, cascading canopy. The streetscape attracts shoppers & if there is a café near a tree of this type, it’s usually booming with business. Good coffee is important. Combine good coffee with a great streetscape & this is a business that will work.
Our shopping strips are all signs, windows, different & often clashing or glaring paint colours & footpaths covered with globs of chewing gum. The areas designated as rest areas or green space such as the ‘I have a Dream’ square in Newtown & Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville are used by people because this is all that is available, but they are not beautiful spaces & they are not inviting.
The closest Marrickville Council has come to what I am talking about is the shopping strip in Audley Street Petersham. This area has street trees, art & plants. It looks good & it certainly has benefited the business as outside dining is now quite pleasant. However, go around the corner into Old Canterbury Road & it’s back to the familiar streetscape of signs, windows & footpaths covered with globs of chewing gum.
Leichhardt Council has capitalized on the tourism draw-card of Norton Street by making much of the street a green & leafy place to visit. People like this & many ask me if I have been to Norton Street, before starting to talk about the trees & the streetscape.
We have a number of areas in Marrickville LGA that attract tourists. We are well know for the alternative, artistic culture of King Street & Enmore Road, the food of Marrickville & Illawarra Roads, the Portugese influence of Petersham shopping streets & Parramatta Road has an ever-changing range of pop-up shops. These places already do good business, but they could be much, much better if they were made nicer looking & more people-friendly & this would translate into dollars for the businesses. What makes our LGA so fantastic is the artisans, the diversity of shopping, the great cafes & restaurants & these are here despite the ugliness of certain areas. More later.
In the Council Meeting of the 16th November 2011 Marrickville Councillors discussed a report that came about from a Notice of Motion by Clr Phillips to upgrade the Marrickville Town Hall forecourt. The report prepared by staff is alarming to me, but not, it seems to the Councillors.
A landscape & heritage & environmental impact assessment was done on the exterior of the Marrickville Town Hall by Conservation Landscape Architects in 2007. That report has been reviewed & Council is proposing restoration works to the Winged Victory memorial steps, gold lettering around the memorial base, new underground lighting, new street furniture, paving, new ‘suitable trees,’ new lighting & a potential bus stop relocation – all at an estimated cost of $450,000. The report warned that this sum could be greater once the design has been completed.
ALL the trees will be removed & 3 ‘suitable’ street trees will be planted as replacements along the side of the Town Hall. My guess these will probably be Ornamental Cherry trees to match what has been planted on both sides of Marrickville Road to the corner of Livingstone Road. They are cheap to buy & absolutely useless to wildlife. The current trees along the exterior wall of the Town Hall building are 7 mature Pencil pines, 2 mature Cocas palms & 2 small Cocas palms & 1 mature Norfork Island palm. These trees, especially the Pencil pines, add to the grandness of the building & considerably soften the façade. At dusk take a seat outside the library & listen. Literally thousands of small birds live in these trees & the sound of them settling down for the night is wonderful. I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t like it. Remove these trees & there will be an environmental impact, though I don’t know whether this has been taken into account in the environmental impact assessment. Certainly Council doesn’t care.
There are 2 mature, but small stature Pine trees in the front forecourt connected to the War Memorial & one 5-6 metre Pine tree in a planter box. One of these Pines leans towards the pedestrian footpath, but doesn’t block pedestrian thoroughfare. This is a total of 15 trees to be removed & the replacement with 3 as yet unspecified species. You can bet any money that these will be small stature trees that will not obscure the view of the building & probably deciduous. The community will be left with a sterile box. A grand box, but sterile none-the-less.
The bulk of the upgrade will deal with hard surfaces. Any current softness will go with the removal of the trees. The Town Hall forecourt is a hot, bleak & windy place that hasn’t changed much since the 60s. It will be definitely be hotter & windier after the $450,000 upgrade. If the plans are any guide, I suggest that it will also be uglier. I would hope the granite or stone used does not come from a supplier that uses child labour. http://infochangeindia.org/livelihoods/sidelines/children-of-the-stone-quarries.html
The Urban Heat Island Effect is not pseudo-science. It has been proven that hard surfaces from the ground to the roof trap & increase heat. That Council plans to do all this in an era of climate change baffles me. The forecourt will certainly not be a place to meet or a place to hold civic events. This is placemaking in the reverse.
The following are excerpts from 2010 research from the US National Recreation & Park Association who say scientific testing of the nature-human health hypothesis that the strength, consistency & convergence of the findings are remarkable. “When we compare people with more versus less ready access to parks & other green environments, we find that they exhibit differences in well-being & functioning in each of the 3 trademark domains: social, psychological & physical health. In greener settings – rooms, buildings, neighborhoods & larger areas with more vegetation, we find that people are more generous & more desirous of connections with others; we find stronger neighborhood social ties & greater sense of community, more mutual trust & willingness to help others; & we find evidence of healthier social functioning in neighborhood common spaces – more (positive) social interaction in those spaces, greater shared use of spaces by adults & children.
In less green environments, we find higher rates of aggression, violence, violent crime & property crime (like graffiti) – even after controlling for income & other differences. We also find more evidence of loneliness & more individuals reporting inadequate social support.
Greater access to green views & green environments yields better cognitive functioning; more proactive, more effective patterns of life functioning; more self-discipline & more impulse control; greater mental health overall; & greater resilience in response to stressful life events. Less access to nature is linked to exacerbated attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, more sadness & higher rates of clinical depression. People with less access to nature are more prone to stress & anxiety, as reflected not only individuals’ self-report but also measures of pulse rate, blood pressure & stress-related patterns of nervous system & endocrine system anxiety, as well as physician-diagnosed anxiety disorders.
The impacts of parks & green environments on human health extend beyond social & psychological health outcomes to include physical health outcomes. Greener environments enhance recovery from surgery, enable & support higher levels of physical activity, improve immune system functioning, help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels & improve functional health status & independent living skills among older adults. By contrast, environments with less green are associated with greater rates of childhood obesity; higher rates of 15 out of 24 categories of physician-diagnosed diseases, including cardiovascular diseases; & higher rates of mortality in younger & older adults.
Most important, all of these studies take into account the role that income might play in an apparent link between access to nature and physical health outcomes. While it is true that richer people tend to have both greater access to nature & better physical health outcomes, the comparisons here show that people of the same socio-economic status who have greater access to nature have better physical health outcomes.
While street trees, parks & public green spaces are often regarded as mere amenities—ways to beautify our communities & make life a little more pleasant, the science tells us that they play a central role in human health & healthy human functioning. Much like eating greens provides essential nutrients, so does seeing & being around green.”
Remember Marrickville was chosen for the 2010 ABC reality series Making Australia Happy because a 2008 Deakin University survey found people in the Inner West were found to be the unhappiest in the country. A 2009 TAFE paper said that Marrickville LGA has the least green space of any other municipality in Australia, therefore opportunities to green our streetscapes & buildings like this are vitally important. Remember that housing for 4,325 people is to be built in Marrickville. That will be a lot of unhappy people if Council doesn’t do something to green up the area. I have for a long time noticed the inequity throughout Marrickville LGA when it comes to parks, street trees & streetscapes.
The few street trees along the shopping strip of Marrickville Road are deciduous & bare for a good chunk of the year. The Canary Island Palms a block away from the Town Hall at the old Marrickville Hospital site are expected to be relocated somewhere when the new library complex is built & the wonderfully shaped mature Camphor laurel will be chopped down for the very odd reason that it will be in the middle of the proposed park. The other mature trees like the Casuarinas & Jacaranda will have to be chopped down for building work. 31 trees & possibly more around the back will lost just in this location. At Marrickville Town Hall one block away 15 trees will be lost. Go around the corner to the old Marrickville RSL site where a ‘revolution’ is happening & all the street trees, 1 Hills Fig, a few Eucalypts & a few Casuarinas will also get the chop. Some have gone already.
Clr Macri, though he is happy for all the trees to be removed, is the only Councillor who wants the gold lettering of the fallen soldiers names replaced. I agree with him in this regard. Why allow a War Memorial to become so worn? Surely there are some WW2 soldiers still alive in the Inner West & there will certainly be descendants of these soldiers living locally. What does this say to them? The War Memorial in Balmain was never without wreaths at its base in the many years I lived there. I have yet to see one at ours, though to be fair, perhaps it happens on Anzac Day. The choice of Pencil pines around the Town Hall & the War Memorial was deliberate – they symbolize life & immortality.
The community relies on Council’s expertise to take into account research like the above when designing public spaces. Council is in charge of providing us with a healthy green environment. Whether they are actually doing this is a matter for debate & very much depends on where in the LGA you live. City of Sydney Council announced last August that they intend to increase their urban forest by 50% while only few people know how many trees Marrickville Council planted this year or removed or were lost to poisoning & other kinds of vandalism. For Sydney Council, it’s more than a matter of financial ability, it’s about an attitude & a decision to green their municipality.
I believe there should be community consultation about this upgrade. I highly doubt the community will say that they like the current plans. I think the community wants something with real substance & vision for the Town Hall forecourt.
I made a short YouTube video of the Marrickville Town Hall forecourt here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFbCp6o0gs8
Previous post August 2010 here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/marrickville-war-memorial-the-trees/
1. Last night the Newcastle Councillors voted 7-5 to chop down the Laman Street Fig trees. From the Herald, “Newcastle councillors were still debating the future of Laman Street last night when council staff moved in & began preparations to cut down the street’s iconic fig trees. Councillors eventually voted seven to five in favour of removing & replacing the trees ‘‘as soon as practical.” By the time the decision was made, council staff had moved safety barriers & were planning to start the chainsaws as early as this morning. The council’s liveable city director Frank Cordingley admitted during a heated debate that preparations were under way to remove the trees, despite the council not having voted at the time.” Save Our Figs has written about the Council Meeting & decision. The video covers the history of the fight to save these trees. It’s well worth watching. – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/more-breaking-news-20-7-2011/#more-3718
2. Liverpool Council has negotiated with power company Endeavour Energy to remove & replace street trees in 4 locations after being accused by the community of “butchering scores of trees on Liverpool’s streets.” Liverpool Council’s General Manager said, “Changes to operations were needed to avoid hatchet jobs in the future.” http://liverpool-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/energy-company-bows-to-pressure-on-butchered-trees/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
3. Northern Territory residents are concerned that trees on the Significant Tree Register are not protected form Council workers who come to prune the trees. One worker was unaware that the tree was registered as significant. http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2011/06/11/239661_ntnews.html
4. The community failed to save 3 Fig trees in Main Avenue, Windsor, a suburb of Brisbane despite doing a tree sit. Brisbane City Council recently lifted a 15-year-old protection order so the trees could be chopped down to allow development. “The 60-year-old figs, which stand on the prestigious Eldon Hill in Windsor, are visible from as far away as Mt Gravatt & Mt Coot-tha.” The owner of the land is required to plant 3 native trees as replacements. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/protesters-climb-doomed-fig-trees-20110620-1gakh.html 2 possums were found in the trees. The community clashed with security unhappy with the attempts to catch the possums. The possums were not caught. http://www.couriermail.com.au/life/homesproperty/street-protest-to-try-and-save-fig-trees-at-eildon-hillwindsor-after-council-axes-protection-order/story-e6frequ6-1226078211300 One of the residents said, ‘‘We can’t trust our elected representatives when they tell us something is protected … until there is some sort of economic benefit that someone is going to get out of it.’’ There is a short video of the trees & the protest here -
5. The founder of travel clothing group Kathmandu Jan Cameron & travel entrepreneur Graeme Wood bought Gunns timber mill for $10 million paying $6 million less than a rival bidder. Gunns will operate for a while before being made into an eco tourism destination. http://www.theage.com.au/national/greenies-buy-woodchip-mill-20110713-1he6h.html
6. City of Sydney Council is planning to increase the street tree canopy of the CBD by 50% by planting 2,000 trees over the next 20 years. They say this will reduce the urban heat island effect by up to 2 degrees. 69 species of tree will be used. Allergy sufferers in the community are concerned that some of these will be Plane trees. “Cowper Wharf Road at Woolloomooloo would get a row of Sydney red gums, City Road at Broadway a line of brush box trees, Bridge Street a collection of Celtis, & Elizabeth Street a group of plane trees.” While I think the extra trees is wonderful, I’d be interested to know why it will take 20 years to complete. http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/a-city-brought-to-its-sneeze-20110709-1h7to.html
7. Congratulations to the residents of Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill who recently won Origin Energy’s Australia-wide Sustainability Drive Competition. They were only one of 4 streets across Australia that were chosen to get $250,000 of solar panels, hot water systems & other energy saving equipment. As I understand, their energy saving progress will be monitored & over the next year so we are bound to hear more about Wilga Avenue. It’s great to see a street in Marrickville LGA represented with sustainable living, including veggie gardens on the verge.
8. Willoughby City Council was the winner of the ‘Excellence in Overall Environmental Management’ award (Local Government Awards category) at the recent World Environment Day Awards held by the United Nations Association of Australia. Willoughby Council has met their greenhouse gas reduction target of 50% from 1999 levels. They are using a cogeneration plant at the Willoughby Leisure Centre, estimated to cut power usage form the grid by 50%. They are also using solar power at council buildings & aim to be the first ‘halogen free’ council. http://www.sustainablecouncils.com.au/news/willoughby_city_council_wins_un_sustainability_award/061353/
Marrickville Council has recently replaced the concrete footpath & created verge gardens along Mansion Street Marrickville South. I think they look terrific & greatly improve the streetscape. The street trees now have an opportunity to collect sufficient water when it rains & the gardens themselves should reduce stormwater runoff. There are no problems for pedestrians as there are wide pathways from the roadside to the footpath placed at regular intervals.
Considering that Marrickville Council spends in excess of $2-million every year just on mowing grass verges, I think verge gardens like this would be a far better use of our rates. Imagine what $2-million could do each year if it were put into planting street trees & landscaping our streets & parks. It wouldn’t take too long to significantly green up our landscape.
Research has shown that the greener the environment is, the happier & healthier people tend to be. Verge gardens are also beneficial for the environment. They help collect stormwater & pollution from passing traffic & if planted with wildlife-friendly plants, could also provide a food source for our urban wildlife.
We know a good-looking street tree increases the property value of those near it, so it’s only logical that verge gardens & a better-looking streetscape would also improve property values. Green really does equal money when it comes to real estate, especially in high-density areas like the Inner West.
Of course there are streets in Marrickville LGA that do not have room for verge gardens or where they would be impractical, but many could have them. If verge gardens are put into the right places, they should not impede pedestrians or people leaving vehicles. The size of the verge gardens I have seen across Marrickville LGA mean that people pushing prams or shopping trolleys can do so without difficulty.
On the newish verge gardens in Livingstone Road Marrickville, Council has put a concrete path from the kerb to footpath opposite the front gate of all the houses facilitating unobstructed movement from car to house. This has been repeated in all the other verge gardens I have seen. Where multiple verge gardens have been created along a street, there is a pedestrian pathway to the footpath every few metres big enough for a wheelchair, pram or trolley. Council also don’t put plants on the kerb-side of the garden so that people don’t have to exit the passenger-side of the car into shrubbery that could cut their legs or cause them to fall.
My experience of Marrickville Council is that they are highly vigilant when it comes to safety so I can’t imagine them putting in a verge garden where it would cause people problems.
If Council were not spending all their time mowing grass verges, they could be managing the verge gardens instead. Apparently, once they are grown, verge gardens look after themselves & only need a bit of occasional weeding. There is always room for other plants so if property owners wanted to add other plants, they could. They just need to be safe plants for passing pedestrians, children & dogs – so no cacti or other plants that could cause injury, nothing that could cause difficulty for passengers leaving cars & no high-growing plants that could reduce visibility for drivers.
I know this is a contentious issue in the community. I’ve heard arguments against verge gardens that residents should not have to look after the verges, therefore grass verges must continue. My personal opinion is that verge gardens have much in the way of benefit & there is no reason why Council cannot continue to look after these areas. Some people say they like grass verges & I appreciate that. I don’t dislike grass, but I much prefer plants & flowers.
The reality is the climate is changing & as a society, we must make changes that will help lower the urban heat island effect or we will be condemning ourselves to be living in an oven. Grass verges are less effective at cooling through evaporation than plants & trees. A dried out grass verge can take on the qualities of hard surfaces, not absorbing rainwater well. Grass requires a lot of water & maintenance to keep looking good & does nothing to help with biodiversity.
The upgrade of the front section of Sydenham Green along Unwins Bridge Road in Tempe was completed a couple of weeks ago. This park has always puzzled me in that there are relatively few trees for the space. Sydenham Green seems to have been designed with a Placemaking idea behind it as there is an obviously designated meeting place in the centre of the park. This section is quite theatrical with an amphitheatre & a great arch. There is a giant teapot, kettle & a giant lounge that offers stepped seating. I guess these represent home & pay tribute to the homes that were once here before they were demolished due to extreme noise from planes taking off & landing. Much of the artwork is painted & fired tiles made by local school children & they are great, well worth a look. I have been there a number of times & it is always empty. Maybe because it is hot.
The entrance to Sydenham Green opposite the St Peters-Sydenham Library is the section of the park that was most puzzling to me. It was, until recently, a large area of grass, a couple of Gum trees & a large section of terracotta coloured pavers & grass that had benches placed in & around it. It puzzled me because I couldn’t work out why the seats had been placed in that particular way & why this layout was deemed inviting.
I thought that the best things about this section of the park was a row of Callistemon that lined the front edge of the park. I also quite like the sculpture that tells of the history of Sydenham Green & I love that it has a natural birdbath carved into the sandstone.
Today we went to have a look at the finished upgrade. Hmmmm. We did not think it good-looking, but this is only a matter of personal taste. Maybe plenty of other people will think it looks good.
The problem I have is that Marrickville Council removed the permeable hard & soft surfaces & replaced them with hard, impermeable surfaces – concrete & black bitumen. This will make the area hotter than before & ensure that the stormwater runs off instead of the rain soaking into the ground as it did previously.
Council has also removed the row of bird-feeding Callistemon replacing them with grasses, some other small growing plants & 2 Crepe myrtle trees, none of which provide food for birds.
Should we care about this? I believe we should. So many food sources for urban wildlife have been removed over decades due to urbanisation. Current garden trends are removing even more. I believe that it is incumbent on Councils to ensure that they plant sufficient food sources for urban wildlife all over the place; in car parks, as street trees & especially in parks. If there are insufficient food sources our urban wildlife will slowly disappear. Most of them just can’t move to another area. Plant a couple of Grevilleas or Red Flowering Gums & watch the increase of birds. They arrive in large numbers. It’s a happy sound.
An ornamental wall has been built at the front with the name of the park in silver letters. Clear, visible letters is great. The benches are back in a new configuration & now you have to choice of facing the grass or the bitumen.
8 Crepe myrtle & 8 Lilly pilly trees have been planted. 2 Lilly pillys have already died. The trees were not planted near the benches, nor are they of a species that will create shade so the place will remain hot. Time will tell whether it remains empty.
The 2 Prunus trees on the footpath have either been replaced or have come back to life after they were vandalised.
The design layout is an improvement of what was previously there, but the choice of both ground surface materials & tree species fail to meet the needs of this era of climate change. I am confident in saying this because all recent literature about urban landscaping & placemaking speaks about such simple things as using albedo surfaces & planting sufficient shade-producing trees to make a cool environment that is not only useable for the community, but actually encourages them to go there.
See what you think. I have put up a 1.47 minute YouTube video of the works at Sydenham Green here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkcto3Cdsvs
A couple of days ago I received an email from some residents of Newtown. The following is part of their email -
“We would like to nominate a site for tree planting – the intersection of Phillip & Gladstone Streets Newtown (just down from Enmore Theatre), in particular in front of the Newtown Railcorp substation.
This is a barren, treeless area with a great deal of bitumen/cement paving that is very hot in summer & attracts the dumping of rubbish by passers by. This area extends along Gladstone Street towards the Wheat silos where there are several commercial premises, most notably Ausscrap.
This street also attracts a great deal of rubbish dumping due to the barren, commercial nature of the area. For some reason this rubbish is not picked up or reported to council & as such can lie around for weeks on end. We suspect this may be linked to the lack of residential pride in the street & feel this could be improved by planting trees &/or providing landscaping.”
I know this area & went to have a closer look. There is a small number of street trees, but they are small stature trees & not likely to grow much bigger. They certainly do not produce much shade.
There are long stretches on both sides of Gladstone Street without any greenery street or trees. As there is not much room on the footpath, perhaps trees can be planted on the sides of the road? The road is certainly wide enough to accommodate this. There are no overhead powerlines so taller-growing trees with a decent sized canopy could be planted. Phillip Street also has plenty of places for street trees.
This is a busy area with lots of through traffic & a train line at the end of the block. The noise from vehicles & passing trains is quite considerable. Street trees would help buffer the noise & also collect particulate matter from the vehicles, lowering local air pollution.
There was quite a bit of dumped rubbish scattered around, including mattresses. Recent research has connected a high rate of dumping with a lack of street trees. People start to care less about the environment when it lacks trees & landscaping. The more natural beauty in an area, the more people look after it & feel pride in their environment.
Marrickville Council, I ask that you seriously consider planting street trees in this area for the benefit of the residents & the workers. It looks neglected compared to the other ends of both streets.
You can watch a 1-minute YouTube video of this area here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb6VFe4LtSY
If you would like to nominate a site in Marrickville LGA that you think could benefit from some trees, just send me an email with the area details. savingourtrees (at) gmail.com