Street Trees need Verge Gardens too

I have three street trees in my life. They are all lopcons – Lophostemon confertus, also known as Brisbane box or Queensland box – planted by the council.

Street Tree One

The first is the centrepiece of the nature strip in front of my house. It has midgen berry, dianella, and dichondra repens around it. Minimal added mulch. Plenty of leaf mulch, mainly blowing in from trees further along the street and collecting in the shelter of the low growing verge plants. The verge garden is watered sparingly.  The tree no longer requires any watering even in this dry weather.

Base of lophestemon confertus surrounded by leaf debris.

The tree is thriving and last month I had to remove the ties around the trunk. The trunk is sturdy and the bark is starting to look like the mature tree.

Street Tree Two

The second tree is in front of the house next door, installed just a few weeks later. It is surrounded by grass. This tree is surviving.

This one still has lots of room to fill and the tree isn’t as sturdy.

In the first year, I watered both at the same time.  I’ve watered this one several times since when it looks looks like it is struggling. The tree has competition from grass which has overtaken the initial mulch and now grows right up to the trunk. Tree two has not grown quite as tall as tree one, but the big difference is the thickness of the trunk. It’s not nearly as thick and sturdy.

Like most street trees surrounded by grass, this one shows scars from garden tools.

But it’s not just the competition from the grass. The contract gardeners come regularly with their loud lawn mower and whippersnipper and leave things looking neat but the tree shows the scars. This is the usual fate of street trees on grass verges.

Street Tree Three

The third is a new street tree planted 200 metres down the road. It’s between a busy road and a high stone retaining wall so there is no resident to keep an eye on it.

Tree 3: Lophestomon leaves often droop when dry but this was looking pretty sad. It had begun shedding leaves. The next week, it was even worse after westerly winds dried its leaves.

Tree three is currently surrounded by a thick mulch collar, not too close to the trunk. The “grass” around it is dry, flat and weedy, mowed occasionally by council. In this dry weather the tree won’t survive on its own so I walk down with a watering can with a drink for the sad little tree. After the third watering, I consider it adopted and check it most days when walking or driving by.

Tips for Street Trees

  1. Street trees need residents to adopt them and provide water while they get established.
  2. Street trees are better in the middle of a nature strip garden than surrounded by grass.
  3. The best time to plant around the tree is when it is first planted so you can avoid the roots. If you have an established street tree, avoid disturbing the roots by planting only tubestock, seedlings or seed.