Have you noticed? We are not respectful of our trees. I believe this is because they don’t advertise well. When a storm moves through town, we are busy watching TV while our street trees are taking it on the chin.
Indeed, trees receive a lot of negative press whenever there is an ice or wind storm. Fallen trees and large limbs are a risk, so why not just cut them all down? You KNOW that someone is thinking that. Uggh.
According to the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association, the gardening experience grows so much more than plants. In a recent CHTA newsletter, Karen York states that gardening grows “self-esteem, optimism, camaraderie, creativity, satisfaction, peace, a sense of purpose and control, and general well-being. Underlying all is that important sixth sense, the active mind.”
York quotes the late horticulturalist Henry Kock from the University of Guelph, who called the ‘sixth sense’ “intellectual stimulation, which is so vital to our mental health in both the short and long term.” In Henry’s world, nothing loomed larger or more impactful on the sixth sense than trees.
Our urban trees, I submit, should be valued like any other urban infrastructure. Stormwater sewers, clean water, fire hydrants, fire departments, police services and schools, to name a few, would be in good company with trees. Living in a city without trees would be paramount to living in a concrete desert. I say, let’s put them on the table when we talk about infrastructure.
Value of Trees
If you are still not convinced of the value of trees, consider the monetary cost of not having them. According to a recent press release from Davey Tree, there are at least four ways that trees “mean money”:
1. Trees increase property values. A tree increases a homes value by more than $7,000. That may not sound like much if your fully detached abode is worth a couple million, but this is an American number so you would be within your rights to add some value to it.
2. Trees reduce energy bills. Strategically placed trees can save up to 56 per cent on annual air-conditioning costs. Good to know as we push up against the summer weather. Someone be sure to tell the provincial government about this one. Planted on the west side of your home, evergreen trees can reduce the cooling impact of westerly winds during winter, saving heating costs.
3. Trees Sell homes. The presence of street trees reduces time on the market by an average of 1.7 days. OK, in this market of high turnover house sales, you may not be impressed. But I think you get the point.
4. Trees give back. Over a span of 50 years, one tree produces $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion (all $ American). Total value: $162,000. Not a bad net worth for a 50-year-old. And the benefits just continue to accrue as the tree ages.
Michelle Sawka, project manager of the Green Infrastructure Ontario coalition, says, “We have to convince people that nature is an asset and that it provides services. We need to integrate the natural environment into our cities and manage it the same way as we manage our roads and pipes.” Sawka is talking about trees.
And finally in other news: Gardening has made it onto the ParticipACTION 150 play list. It is #51 on the list. Remember the benefits of horticulture that Karen York talked about at the top of this story? Self-esteem, optimism, peace… I wonder if you can get the same results from doing sit-ups and squats?
Mark Cullen is lawn & garden expert for Home Hardware, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new bestseller, “The New Canadian Garden,” published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook.