Category Archives: Uncategorized

“LOVE YOUR TREE”: MOMENTUM FOR STEWARDSHIP

Stewardship of a neighborhood is a mentality. Maintaining the beauty of local streets and trees requires more than a few passionate individuals, but the commitment of a community at large­. A neighborhood can only truly transform when any given resident stops to pick up a piece of trash or remembers to curb their dog –without thinking twice. That’s how stewardship works best; it’s the key to improving our daily space exponentially.

The challenge: Casting stewardship in a positive light. Penalties and fines may reduce littering but also leads to resentment. Who wants to live amid bitter neighbors? This past year, Curb Allure was lucky enough to be involved in “Love Your Tree,” an initiative that helped solved this riddle. How our initiative evolved serves as a terrific template for others who want to foster street stewardship in their own communities.

From left to right: Kim Johnson (Curb Allure), Cheryl Blaylock (TreesNY), Helen Rosenthal (City Council Member District 6) and Melissa Elstein (West 80’s Neighborhood Association) at the First Annual Love Your Tree Day

Last year, a group of civic leaders on the Upper West Side of Manhattan –West 80’s Block Association, Goddard Riverside Greenkeepers, Community Board 7 and Curb Allure, and others– joined forces with District 7 City Council Member, Helen Rosenthal to launch “Love Your Tree” Day. On a lovely May afternoon, neighbors convened for refreshments before setting out to clean up streets and tree beds. Each participant received a free tree care bag containing a dog reminder sign as well as other tree care necessities donated by local businesses. By introducing street care in a fun, social way, “Love Your Tree” hoped to instill residents with a sense of responsibility for the beauty of their block.

The plan worked. “Love Your Tree” Day received such a positive response that the group hosted Daffodil Day on September 27th. Within the first half hour of this three-hour event, the “Love Your Tree” organizers had already run out of bulbs! The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation took note and invited our new initiative to co-host the popular MulchFest at West 83rd and Riverside, one of the city’s main mulching stations, along with the Riverside Parks Conservancy, Trees New York, NYC Department of Sanitation and GreeNYC.

Melissa Elstein of West 80s Neighborhood Association at MulchFest in Riverside Park @ 83rd Street

Melissa Elstein of West 80s Neighborhood Association at MulchFest in Riverside Park @ 83rd Street

As evidenced by the schedule below, the “Love Your Street” initiative (newly re-branded to encompass all aspects of street care) already has a full calendar planned for this year.

Curb Allure Founder Kim Johnson is optimistic that there’s more growth to come. “We cannot wait to see what else 2016 will bring,” she says. “Hopefully other NYC neighborhoods as well as other cities will get inspired by our program and its success to start their own beautification initiatives.” Stewardship might not just be a mentality, but a contagious one at that.

 


 

FREE NYC CITYRACKS BIKE RACKS HELP SAVE TREES

It’s official. New York City has become a bike-riding town. The number of commuters biking to work has nearly tripled since 2002, according to a NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) study.

This is fantastic news…unless you are a tree mistaken for a bike rack.

Locking your bike to a tree –or even leaning it against a tree—eats away at the bark, increasing potential for disease. Your Curb Allure tree guards also suffer since bikes scratch powder coating. This is how crazy things can get:

NYC CityRacks Bikeracks help protect trees because unlike this picture, bikes are not wrapped around a tree

 

Does this scene look familiar to you? Luckily, there’s an easy fix: CityRacks bike racks provided by the DOT to accommodate any type of bicycle or locking system.

Even better, CityRacks bike racks are free. To obtain one, fill out this downloadable form to request installation of a bike rack in your area. If approved, your location will be added to a list for manufacturing and installation. Your rack will become the city’s property, meaning NYC will take responsibility for all maintenance. New York will not, however, take care of our bicycles. These racks are designed for temporary bike parking not full-time housing. Real estate is scarce enough in this town!

The only trick remains getting your location approved. Given how crowded our sidewalks can get, the DOT created a list of highly specific requirements. To be sure you meet these criteria, here is a list of key rules:

In general, CityRacks bike racks are placed

  • on City-owned property
  • on wide concrete sidewalks (the minimum sidewalk width is 12 feet)
  • away from the natural flow of pedestrians, always 10 feet away from crosswalks
  • usually 1.5–2 feet away from the curb line
  • a minimum of 5 feet from street signs, mailboxes, benches or telephones
  • 15 feet away from fire hydrants, and 15 feet from bus stop shelters and newsstands
  • CityRacks can not be installed on pavers, cobblestone, brick, stone, slate, or custom or patterned concrete.

You’ll also need to be patient. Due to growing demand, the DOT estimates a wait time of six months before it can even review your request. For those who want bike racks for spring 2016, now is the ideal time to start. In the meantime, keep peddling, New Yorkers!

How to Start a Block Association

Even those of us smitten with “big city living” crave something smaller every now and then. A sense of community is good for society, good for the environment, and good for the soul. But how do you capture that small-town spirit in allegedly anonymous cities like New York?

Luckily that anonymity is a myth. New York City is actually a mass of small towns –aka “neighborhoods”— each possessing its own character, legacy and network of people. Before long, most New Yorkers know their local dry cleaner, deli workers and coffee barista. And if you want to plant even deeper roots, there are plenty of ways to build closer neighborhood ties. As is the case with many things in our beloved city, you might have to work a little harder to do so.

How’s this for an idea? Start a Block Association.

curballure block xmas photo[9]

West 83rd Street Block Association’s Holiday Party

“When you have a neighborhood association, you are creating your own little village; creating a little encapsulated world inside a much larger organism that is a city,” explains Gail Dubov, who heads the West 83rd St, which is believed to be the oldest neighborhood association in New York City. Fifty years ago, a group of dog walkers started the organization in response to the infamous Kitty Genovese murder in Queens in which neighbors failed to respond to her cries for help. Today, Dubov describes spending evenings sitting outside with various neighbors catching up on the news. The group still meets every other month hosting guest speakers such as Borough President Gale Brewer. “I feel like West 83rd is a village,” she says.

On West 75th Street, the block association (www.w75ba.org) holds a “Coffee Club” each fall where members set up a table with coffee and additional information. The idea is that anyone from the block can stop by to get to know one another. In addition, the Block Association holds Sunday block promotions, holiday parties and block parties. Upper West Siders can check out this year’s Block Blast on Sunday, September 19th between West End Avenue and Riverside. The goal is to unite residents and businesses into a culture of caring,” says West 75th Street Block Association president Dee Rieber. “We are the ones people can call when they’ve got an issue.”

These groups can also really make things happen. The West 83rd Street Association recently participated in a pilot program for compositing. In years past, they’ve held auctions offering each other services –i.e. a ride to the airport, two hours of babysitting etc.— and used the proceeds for neighborhood improvements. They’ve contributed to playgrounds, police departments and biking initiatives.

Getting Started

Know what makes your neighborhood tick. Citizens Committee for New York City (http://www.citizensnyc.org/) recommends researching and defining the issues impacting your neighborhood. Are there multiple issues that bring residents together or a single concern, such as

Dancing at West 75th Street Block Blast

Dancing at West 75th Street Block Blast

building a community garden? Talk to your neighbors to find out or even pass out a survey. “It’s always best to find something that everyone can rally around,” says Dubov.

Then look into what can be done. As the Citizens Committee for New York City points out: “If your goal is to plant a community garden, for instance, you’ll want to know who owns the available space, how you can get access to it, who in the neighborhood will help with the garden and what resources exist to help you.” Also set a clear definition of who will be included in your association. Is it a single block or an entire neighborhood? How you answer makes a huge difference.

With parameters clearly defined, pull together a core group. This can consist of friends, co-op board members or anyone with a vested interest in the community. Meet with your core people to define goals and divvy up the work. You’ll be amazed to discover your neighbors’ hidden talents.

Blcok Meeting 5-30

Block Association Meeting on West 75th Street

Finally, get the rest of the community involved through a general meeting. Invite neighbors to attend by passing out flyers. You can even canvas the neighborhood by going door-to-door and introducing yourself. Prepare a few lines of introduction so that your message is clear and consistent.

Once you’ve gotten the word out, plan a general meeting. The Citizens Committee recommends holding the event in a public space, such as a church or community center. Not only is this easy for residents to find, but it also gets these institutions involved from the outset. The meeting itself should be well organized with a clear agenda and plenty of opportunities for people to get involved. And serving coffee and dessert can’t hurt either!

For more information about “Getting Started”, check out this wonderful tip sheet from the Citizens Committee for New York City.

Raising Funds

Most block associations fund themselves via annual membership fees. While some file for tax exemption –a 501(c) status enables members to deduct fees from their taxes—others simply declare themselves a nonprofit without special tax status. The key is to make the membership fees affordable. “We ask members for a $20 membership contribution annually,” says Rieber. “How many lattes is that? It’s a small price to pay.”

FleaMarket

Flea Market on West 83rd

For those willing to put in the extra time, there is also various funds available for block associations. Love Your Block initiative provides block associations and other community organization with grants up to $1000 to improve their neighborhood. (Link: http://www.nycservice.org/initiatives/index.php?bitinitiative_id=5)

Keeping It Going

Building a long-lasting organization goes way beyond fund raising or the initial meeting. Leaders must sustain activity over a long period of time. “Don’t think that you can do something once and get results,” warns Rieber. “It’s about the continuing presence and being there.”

And, in case, any critics ask you “why?”, the West 83rd Street group has come up with the perfect response-slash-tagline: “Because we live here. That’s why.”

 

One “Patch of Land”; Four Different Names

Street trees have a lot in common with the city dwellers who tread beneath them. In exchange for a life of cultural stimulation and community interaction, they’ve chosen to occupy more –ahem! — modest spaces. (Think about your 500 square foot apartment versus a 5,000 sq ft house in the suburbs) Like urban denizens, real estate is at a premium for city trees, making their patch of land all the more sacred. That’s precisely why a city tree’s “patch of land” (aka the square of ground carved out from sidewalks for trees) has so many names. Here is what cities call their “patches of land:”

NEW YORK CITY

Tree guards Custom Panels in Queens New York

Queens, New York

Here in New York City, “tree pit” was the term used for a tree’s home. However, as of late, the Department of Parks & Recreation changed the name to “tree beds” (as pictured left). “Ultimately we were interested in finding a term that was more closely tied to tree stewardship, and would encourage New Yorkers to care for trees throughout the City,” said NYC Parks Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens. “The thought of weeding, watering, planting, etc. in a tree bed versus a tree pit, has a distinct effect on how enjoyable tree stewardship can be perceived.”

 

 

WASHINGTON DC

Photo by Amy Kover

What city’s image is more closely linked to trees than Washington DC?

Home of the storied cherry blossoms, DC refers to its tree bed as “tree boxes.” And while the most famous cherry blossoms dwell in the National Mall, others –like the tree pictured right—grace the streets of residential and business districts. To help people create the most sustainable “tree boxes,” Casey Trees, a DC-based organization, provides a super informative Tree Space Design handbook to highlight the best practice for street tree care in the DC area.

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

The City of San Francisco uses the term “tree basin.” In the photo above, a few city residents of the Potrero Hill neighborhood proudly display their new tree, which they received and planted with the help of Friends of the Urban Forest (www.fuf.net). Friends of the Urban Forest provides an amazing array of programs for tree planting, care and community outreach. They even help with tree replacement for empty tree basins like this one below.

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

In addition, City of San Francisco provides this useful guide for sidewalks & basin care.

PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia, which adheres to the tried-and-true term “tree pit,” has adapted some of the most innovative practices around. To help remove excess storm water from the street, Philadelphia Parks & Recreations joined forces with Philadelphia Water Department to create tree pits that are level with the ground.

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation displaying a tree pit in need of tree guard protection

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Next, they installed tree guards to warn people that they are about to tread on a tree’s home.(Quite a lovely guard, if we do say so ourselves!)

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

BOSTON

Boston is another “tree pit” city. As you can see below, Beantown sports some lovely tree pits, particularly in the early spring. Surely, snow-bound Bostonians dream of the return of these gorgeous daffodils.

Courtesy of the Boston Parks & Recreation Department

Courtesy of the Boston Parks & Recreation Department

No matter what people call them, these patches of land unilaterally serve as beautiful city oases in which green things can take root, grow and spread fresh air and joy to the people below. Take note, a tree bed by any other name is truly just as sweet.

 

Why Do We Need A Tree Guard Permit in NYC?

For those of us who love to garden outside, going inside to file a permit with our local government to install tree guards –fencing that actually make our streets beautiful—seems a bit silly. Trust us. This is paperwork well worth the effort in gaining your tree guard permit for NYC. Not only will tree guard permits help protect you from lawsuits, they also prevent trees from dying prematurely. Here in New York, we’ve witnessed repeatedly how tree guard permits improve the lives of you, your neighbors and your trees.

Avoid Lawsuits

Nothing ruins that warm neighborly feeling like an ugly lawsuit. Yet, that’s exactly what may happen if a pedestrian trips over your tree box fencing. A tree guard permit for NYC will reduce a tree guard owner’s liability in these types of situations. Better yet, obtaining a tree guard permit to install your tree bed guard can prevent this unfortunate situation from occurring all together. Here are a few New York City Parks & Recreation Department requirements for installing tree pit guards that ensure pedestrian safety.

 

To keep folks from nose-diving into the geraniums, guards must be over 18 inches in New York City, and preferably made out of metal. Low borders made of wood, concrete, or blocks (pictured above) are difficult to spot for visually impaired pedestrians. They are also obstructed by even the lowest of snow banks, creating a tripping hazard for the most cautious walkers….

To keep folks from nose-diving into the geraniums, tree guards must be over 18 inches in New York City, and preferably made out of metal. Low borders made of wood, concrete, or blocks (pictured above) are difficult to spot for visually impaired pedestrians. They are also obstructed by even the lowest of snow banks, creating a tripping hazard for the most cautious walkers….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or a similar problem arises with this flat guard whose subterranean pit creates a hole that could easily catch someone’s foot.

or a similar problem arises with this flat guard whose subterranean pit creates a hole that could easily catch someone’s foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple trees grow bulky roots that cause grated fencing to buckle, forming perilous bumps on the sidewalk.  As a result, some cities do not allow planting certain species of trees, including Norway Maples. New York City has banned grates altogether since they are neither safe for pedestrians nor trees (see above).

Maple trees grow bulky roots that cause grated fencing to buckle, forming perilous bumps on the sidewalk. As a result, some cities do not allow planting certain species of trees, including Norway Maples. New York City has banned grates altogether since they are neither safe for pedestrians nor trees (see above).

Would you want your preschooler practicing her balancing skills on one of these razor edges? We didn’t think so. New York City no longer issues tree guard permits to guard designs with excessively sharp edges or sit spikes.

Would you want your preschooler practicing her balancing skills on one of these razor edges? We didn’t think so. New York City no longer issues tree guard permits to tree fence designs with excessively sharp edges or sit spikes.

Talk about cutting it close! This guard was damaged because it sits way too near the street –a layout that can also injure people stepping out of cars. New York City Parks Department recommends that tree fencing remains at least 12 inch away from the front of the curb. The City also prefers three-side guards to avoid this problem.

Talk about cutting it close! This tree guard was damaged because it sits way too near the street –a layout that can also injure people stepping out of cars. New York City Parks Department recommends that tree fencing remains at least 12 inch away from the front of the curb. The City also prefers three-side guards to avoid this problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Dead Trees

Not all tree pit guards are good for trees. Some styles of tree fencing deny street trees of water, drainage, soil or room to grow. A tree guard permit helps rule out designs most detrimental to the health of trees, so that yours thrive for years to come.

Tree trunks grow wider as they age (Sound familiar?).  That’s another reason New York City no longer allows grates.  As you can see above, grate fencing will girdle (or choke) a tree over time.

Tree trunks grow wider as they age (Sound familiar?). That’s another reason New York City no longer allows grates. As you can see above, grate fencing will girdle (or choke) a tree over time.

New York City no longer allows solid-walled guards, which can rot trunks, compact soil and limit trees’ water supply. That’s especially problematic for young trees that need lots and lots of water to grow. Notice how spindly the tree above looks?

New York City no longer allows solid-walled guards, which can rot trunks, compact soil and limit trees’ water supply. That’s especially problematic for young trees that need lots and lots of water to grow. Notice how spindly the tree above looks?

Sunken tree pits collect wet leaves, damp soil and garbage that may damage the trunk and lead to health problems. Also notice how small this tree pit is.  Just imagine how cramped this tree will be in a few years.

Sunken tree pits collect wet leaves, damp soil and garbage that may damage the trunk and lead to health problems. Also notice how small this tree pit is. Just imagine how cramped this tree will be in a few years.

Up until the 20th century, these tall fences served as a fashionable means of preventing horses from damaging trunks.  We no longer have such problems. The old ‘Horse Guard’ tends to strangle slanting trees. And urban trees usually lean to seek sunlight through tall buildings or bend to the currents of wind tunnels.

Up until the 20th century, these tall tree fences served as a fashionable means of preventing horses from damaging tree trunks. We no longer have such problems. The old ‘Horse Guard’ tends to strangle slanting trees. And urban trees usually lean to seek sunlight through tall buildings or bend to the currents of wind tunnels.

 

 

 

 

 

Tree trunks also do not grow in perfect circles, like this circular ‘horse guard’ assumes. To avoid this issue, New York City limits guards to 24 inches in height, and requires as much space as possible between a guard and tree trunk.

Tree trunks also do not grow in perfect circles, like this circular ‘horse guard’ assumes. To avoid this issue, New York City limits tree guards to 24 inches in height, and requires as much space as possible between a guard and tree trunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, submitting a tree guard permit in New York City is very simple. Just fill out one page (click here) and send the form along with a photo of the tree guard you plan to install to Central Forestry (Attention:  PERMITS) via email at treeplanting.permits@parks.nyc.gov or fax to (718) 760-6640 or (718) 760-6940. We suggest you submit as soon as possible, since the application can take up to 3 weeks to process. In NYC, there is no fee for the permit.

Better yet, NYC Parks Department provides this easy-to-follow set of guidelines for the dos and don’ts of street tree care. Download them here.

And, now that you’re done, get back outside and garden!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improving Your Neighborhood, One Mailbox at a Time

Keeping your street beautiful may seem merely like a cosmetic concern, yet statistics show that the cleaner, more well-maintained, and –yes— leafier a neighborhood, the more benefits enjoyed by all.

According to “Broken-Window Theory,” well-kept streets help deter crime. Now, there’s a new study  conducted by Kees Keize at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, that proves this theory  true. A few interesting tidbits:

  • Researchers left a cash-filled envelope sticking out of a mailbox with the money in plain view of pedestrians. One mailbox was covered with graffiti, while the others were clean. A quarter of the people walking by stole from the graffiti-covered mailbox whereas only 13% took the envelope from the clean one.
  • On a wall where people leave their bikes, researchers posted a “No Graffiti” sign and then left flyers on each of the bicycles.  Next they added graffiti to the wall despite their own warnings. Of the 80 bicycles monitored, 69% littered the wall with graffiti, as opposed to just 33% on the wall without.

Inspired, we decided to go beyond tree guards and join the U.S. Postal Service’s Adopt-A-Mailbox program in which citizens take responsibility for painting and maintaining a nearby mailbox. Here’s how it worked for us in New York City:

Our sad looking neighborhood mailbox.

Step 1.  Become A Post Box Care Captain. Contact your local post office to find out about the program. In New York City, you can call Cherry Liu at the US Postal Service (email: Cherry.C.Liu@usps.gov), who will provide the application form to fill out and return. Within one week of submission, Ms. Liu called us back with our approval and information about where to obtain the materials.

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

Step 2. Pick Up Materials. In New York City, we went to 380 W 33rd St. to Room 4061 (Entrance pictured above), where I received a can of blue paint for my mailbox and green paint for my relay  box (these ones serve as holding areas for mail so letter carriers do not have to carry all of their routes at once). I discovered that to care for both relay and mailboxes, you must adopt two of each. In addition, you are required to specify your adoption territory (i.e.:  East 75th to East 77th between Park and 5th Avenues). Not only is maintaining boxes very close to your house much easier, but you care more since you’ve got to look at those boxes every day.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Step 3. Keep It Tidy. To avoid dripping paint all over the sidewalk (very counterproductive given that we’re combating graffiti!), put down a drop cloth or just use cardboard boxes to protect the sidewalk as well as nearby cars. Cover the key hole with tape to ensure no paint gets inside.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program and starts sanding local mailbox

Step 4. Smooth Things Out.  Sand any rusted spots if necessary.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program by painting a local mailboxMailbox Roller

Step 5. Start Painting, Already! To get this part right, we suggest painting over the graffiti with a brush and then again with a roller. This way, you get nice even strokes.

Mailbox Wet Paint Step 6. Don’t Forget The Wet Paint Sign.  Ack! No one wants to ruin your work of art nor do they want green paint on their shorts.

Tada!

Step 7. Enjoy Results. Repeat.  Look at the glorious fruits of our labor!

The idea behind “Adopt-A-Mailbox” is that people take better care of their surroundings when they have a sense of ownership. They’re 100% right. When we finished sprucing up our mailbox, we were practically glowing with satisfaction. We think we may have spotted the trees nodding with approval too.

 

 

The Maple Leaf Forever Tree and Us

Every morning, trees tell us about the coming day, as their branches catch a gust of wind or cast a shadow off the rising sun. They mark each new season too, offering hopeful buds in Spring and gold-tinged leaves in Autumn. And they link us to generations past and future. Thirty years from now, our grandchildren could enjoy the shade of our favorite oak tree.

Trees connect us to our surroundings and to one another.

This concept serves as a driving force behind our work at Curb Allure.  Today on our fourth anniversary, we cannot think of a better way to celebrate than to share the story of Toronto (hometown of founder Kim Johnson) and its very special Maple Leaf Forever tree.

John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. (Toronto Public Library): Maple Leaf Forever lives on

John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. (Toronto Public Library)

This giant maple on Laing Street was said to inspire Alexander Muir to write “Maple Leaf Forever” , the beloved unofficial national anthem and poem of Canada. According to the Toronto Public Library, Muir came up with the song when he was strolling by the tree in front of his house in 1867 and a maple leaf fell on his shoulder.    For nearly 150 years, the Maple Leaf Forever tree stood as a testimony to Canada’s pride in both its national identity and profound natural beauty. Then, last July, a fierce storm knocked over the giant tree, devastating Canadians throughout the world.

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star): Maple Leaf Forever lives on : Protect it

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Determined to keep the Maple Leaf Forever alive, last month, the City of Toronto milled logs from the fallen tree and distributed them to 150 local artists, as reported in the Toronto Star. Many of the projects will be displayed publically throughout the city, including 30 wig stands to be donated to cancer patients.  While certainly the most noteworthy, the Maple Leaf Forever is just one of many fallen trees that Toronto has repurposed through an ongoing project. Here is their directory of Urban Wood Products and Services: www.toronto.ca/urbanwooddirectory.

Michael Finkelstein made these beautiful nesting bowls out of Maple Leaf Forever wood. http://michaelfinkelsteinwoodturner.com/inthenews.html

Michael Finkelstein made these beautiful nesting bowls out of Maple Leaf Forever wood.
http://michaelfinkelsteinwoodturner.com/inthenews.html

Art isn’t the only way the Maple Leaf Forever lives on. In 2000, engineer Bill Wrigley took maple keys from the original tree and planted them in his backyard, according to the Toronto Star. One sapling survived. Seven years later, Wrigley received permission to move the sapling to the Maple Leaf Forever Park, right near its “Mama Tree.” And, today, visitors can find comfort in seeing the historic tree’s “Baby”.

Curb Allure is deeply honored that the City of Toronto has asked to use one of our tree guards –with two different custom-designed panels—to protect the offspring of the Maple Leaf Forever tree. Keep an eye out for images of this special guard, which we will happily share following the dedication ceremony in late May.

Thanks to the ingenuity and passion of these Torontonians, the legacy of the Maple Leaf Forever continues.  Living trees require similar dedication from their community. If we want our neighborhood trees to welcome the next generation, it is up to us to protect them. And, as the Maple Leaf Forever and The City of Toronto have taught us, trees are well worth the trouble.

######

 

Tree Guard Hall of Shame: Which Tree Pits Are the Pits?

As you stroll around your neighborhood during these warm summer days, you’ll probably spot an array of tree guard styles. Some are wrought iron, some are wood; Many have elaborate designs, while others are as simple as a box.  Variety is a great thing but, before you consider investing in anything to protect street trees, be aware: Not all tree guards are created equal. In fact, many of the guards used throughout cities actually harm the trees they are designed to protect. Here’s some examples of which tree pits are the pits.

1. Bed of Bricks: Using cobblestones to raise the tree pit above ground limits the amount of rainwater entering the pit, especially when they are cemented together. (Also note that this guard was obviously hit and clearly didn’t have breakaway brackets. See how the entire frame is tilted?)

Tree Guard Hall of Shame

2. Looks Beautiful, But…again, don’t raise the blocks. Those blocks are also a tripping hazard.

3. Thirsty Tree. Wooden planters do not just limit water supply, but prevent water from entering theTree Guard Hall of Shame sides of the pit at all. Also, raising the soil above ground (as is the case here with a wooden planter or above via cobblestones) suffocates the tree.

 

 

 

4. Help! I’m Trapped in Cement! To grow big and strong, these trees need lots of water and oxygen. That’s why city parks departments are making tree pits larger. Never trap your tree in a tiny space like in this picture below.

Tree Guard Hall of Shame

5. Don’t Give Me Any Lip. Up until recently, this type of guard was allowed in New York City. Not anymore. Just like with the cobblestone border or wooden planter, the solid border on the base of this custom-made tree guard (i.e. the lip) raises soil above ground, denying the tree of oxygen and water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Not A Garbage Can. To borrow liberally from Abraham Lincoln, I hold the problem here to be self evident. Don’t build around a tree trunk that can be mistaken for a trash can! Rotting garbage smells and will damage the bark.

Tree Guard Hall of Shame

7. Ack! I’m Choking! Grates and cages like this in San Francisco girdle (or choke) the tree. In addition, the debris that gets trapped inside the cage rots the bark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Cool Sign, But…Do you have to pin this to the tree’s trunk? Not a good idea. Pins and tape damage the trees bark.

Consider laminating your sign and attaching a wooden stake, and sticking it into ground in your tree pit (like the sign below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By avoiding these tree guard no-nos, you can be sure that your street trees will be safe no matter where you get your guards. Thanks again for looking out for our trees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary to Curb Allure: Growing Tree Gardens Since 2010

My mother Elizabeth Bagley, the inspiration for Curb Allure

Three years ago today –April 24th— we launched Curb Allure with a vision of making our city streets more livable and beautiful.  I am proud to report that, since then, we have created a product worthy of attracting the praise and attention of the New York Parks Department, TreesNY, and fellow urban dendrophilians (that means tree lovers!) like you.

Our road to this point has hardly been glamorous. In our quest to create the best tree guard possible, we spent countless hours learning the characteristics of dog urine.  We’ve obtained patents and trademarks, revamped product design for maximum performance, and built an infrastructure for manufacturing, marketing and personnel.

Like the trees themselves, Curb Allure would never have come to fruition had we not dedicated so much time and energy to planting this strong foundation.  Nor would we exist without the love and inspiration of one special person, my mother Elizabeth Bagley (nee Horsman).

When my husband and I decided to raise our family in New York City, my mother was horrified. “Where will you plant your garden?” she asked.  As an avid gardener, my Mom could not imagine bringing children into a world that did not include a backyard full of foliage.  To her, trees and flowers were essential to building a community and sense of well-being.

I came up with the best alternative a Manhattan apartment dweller could: I volunteered to fix the decrepit brick tree guard that dangerously lurked outside our building.   It was then that I encountered the obstacles of urban landscaping and gardening firsthand.  While caring for our street tree, I could not find any effective solutions to protecting my tree pit – dog waste was killing the flowers in the street tree garden.

Around this time, in 2009, my mother passed away. Prior to her death, she gave me a check with clear instructions to “do something that makes you happy.” Armed with our mutual passion, I used that check as seed money to launch Curb Allure, a company that would help protect street trees and beautify the urban landscape.

Curb Allure was born on my mother’s birthday, April 24, 2010.

Trees are all about legacy.  One generation plants their roots to provide fresh air, shade, and beauty for those who follow.  My mother taught me that trees and flowers are not just pretty, but an integral part of a community.  Curb Allure embodies that value, and I cannot imagine a better way to honor Mom’s memory.  I think she would be pleased.