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NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan: Get to Know Her!

SumanaSumana Serchan is an urban forester with NYC Parks and Recreation. Sumana has a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources/Conservation from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (University of Vermont). She grew up in Kathmandu City, Nepal.

Can you tell us about your childhood in Kathmandu?  
Sumana Serchan: My best memories of my childhood are playing with my friends in my neighborhood in the courtyard. Also, when I was in grade 5, our English teacher asked us to bring our favorite book and read it to the class every Friday. I also remember how my friends and I would race to the communal tap to collect water during water shortages. During summer we would pick guavas and persimmon from trees in my neighbor’s garden.

As the youngest child, I had the opportunity to travel with my mother when she went on village excursions with her students. During long holidays, we went to Pokhara Valley where my grandfather has a farm with fruit trees and livestock. We climbed the trees to pick fruits, fed the buffaloes, chased dragonflies, played in haystacks, and swam in a nearby river.

Sumana Serchan and family; Sumana is second from right.

Please tell us about your immigration to the U.S.
SS: I was 19 when I immigrated to the U.S. with my siblings. Our parents came to the U.S. when I was 12 and we were reunited with our parents after seven years. I aspired to be a dental hygienist when I began community college in Vermont. But that changed when I started volunteering at a local park district under the supervision of Heather Fitzgerald, lecturer at the University of Vermont’s (UVM) Environmental Program. Heather’s profound knowledge of natural history inspired me to change gears to study natural resources.

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National Urban Forest Priorities: Your Thoughts, Please!

Screenshot 2015-01-21 14.21.00The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC) is seeking input on their 2016-2026 Urban Forestry Action Plan through an online survey. This is your chance to give our national urban forest leadership your opinions about what urban forest funding and program priorities should be going forward. When you go to the survey site, you will need to do a simple sign up to create an account, then you can comment.

Not yet familiar with NUCFAC? The 1990 U.S. Farm Bill created NUCFAC to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on matters relating to the protection, planting, and care of trees and forests in our nation’s cities and communities. NUCFAC brings together U&CF professionals to strategize the health and future preservation of America’s urban forests. Working together, the Council brings that a full spectrum of views into a consistent vision that is the foundation for a practical national policy on urban forestry.

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Join us for Forestry Awareness Day on February 2

Forestry Awareness Day (FAD) 2015 is coming up on February 2 in Albany. Please join us! Participation/Registration is free for NYSUFC members.

CFRO-logoFAD is sponsored by The Council of Forest Resource Organizations (CFRO), of which our NYS Urban Forestry Council is a member. (Among the other 14 organizations are The Nature Conservancy, SUNY ESF, New York Forest Owners Association, NY Farm Bureau, and the Empire State Forest Products Association).

FAD is a chance to educate our NYS legislators about key issues in Urban Forestry, Forestry Property Taxation, Wood Energy/Biomass Energy, Improving and Protecting Forest Health, and Sustainable Woodland Management and Conservation.

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Buffalo’s New Cherry Blossom Festival

Kwanzan cherry blossom
Kwanzan cherry blossoms

BUFFALO’S NEW CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Last May (2014), in collaboration with the Buffalo History Museum and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, volunteers organized the First Annual Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival, a celebration of cherry blossoms, music, activities, and Japanese culture.

Most activities took place in the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo History Museum, in the museum, or in Delaware Park. Activities included a tea ceremony, cherry blossom ball, music, films, poetry, food and sake tastings, picnics in the Garden, a tree planting, and a free family day including boat rides on Hoyt Lake. There were even pink lights illuminating the museum at night. 

The second festival is scheduled for May 2-9, 2015. Organizers have launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the next event, including 100 urban cherry tree plantings. The Olmsted Conservancy gardeners will present tree planting and care events. There will also be cherry trees for sale for homeowners and corporations*. A video about the event can be seen here.

cherry blossom buffalo larger
Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival logo by Michael Morgulis

Festival organizer Trudy Stern says, “Buffalo deserves a celebration after snow melt time. Buffalo has been famous for blizzards. We are creating a variation on our blizzardy notoriety by planting a vast number of cherry trees that will eventually create breathtaking beauty with their ‘blizzards’ of petals.”

The Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival follows Washington DC’s National Festival and is hoping to attract visitors who will be on their way to Niagara Falls. Those who enjoy the natural beauty of Niagara are bound to also enjoy Buffalo’s beautiful Japanese Garden within the Fredrick Law Olmsted parks system, the first of Olmsted’s renowned plans. 

*More tree planting info: this spring, Kwanzan and Yoshino cherry trees will be offered. For a donation of $500 people can have a tree planted on their own property by a landscaping professional. A share of a tree can be donated to the Japanese Garden of Buffalo and the Olmsted Conservancy (100.00 suggested). Conservancy staff will plant them in Delaware Park around the Japanese Garden. On Sunday May 3 the Cherry Blossom Festival and Conservancy staff will offer a tree planting and maintenance demonstration event in the Japanese garden. For more information, please write buffaloblossoms@gmail.com. Lastly, the WNY Nursery and Landscape Association has given a gift of a beautiful Japanese Maple to the Japanese Garden of Buffalo that will planted in March – thank you to them.

planting cherry tree

Top Seven Blog Posts of 2014

The blog and e-news incarnation of TAKING ROOT (TR) began in March of 2014. Blog entries get posted weekly, and with this one, we’re up to 45 posts. In total the TR blog has been viewed over 8000 times! Thank you to all who read the blog, write for it, share it with others, send in ideas, and those who have been game to be profiled. Here are the top seven most-viewed TR blog posts of 2014. 

David Moore: Get to Know Him! This entry set a new high bar! David shares about his work as a city forester for NYC Parks and prior position with NYRP, his connection to the North Country including his family’s woodlot in the Adirondacks, and his side career as a DJ and dance music producer.

 

... or as specimens.

ReLeaf 2014: Horticulture at Hofstra This 240-acre campus/arboretum with more than 12,000 trees representing 625 species and varieties really knocked our socks off. This post starts off with a great interview with Hofstra Arboretum Director Fred Soviero, who gave a superb tour during our conference.

old barn foundation Craig Cramer

Nina Bassuk: Behind the Scenes in the Bassuk-Trowbridge landscape: People are naturally curious about what the nine-acre landscape of the world’s foremost street tree expert and her equally accomplished landscape architect husband is like. Hints: thousands upon thousands of bulbs; dealing with deer; capitalizing on 19th century top soil for veggies, and embracing Petasites for the wet spots. Read about it here.

Cornus amomumNew, Free UHI Guide to Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention: It seems this fantastic new reference, prepared by Ethan Dropkin and Nina Bassuk, is something the urban forestry community is hankering for. Includes design specs for various stormwater retention practices and a very comprehensive plant guide. Read here.

CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki

Vinnie Drzewucki on Tackling Dendrophobia/The Public’s Fear of Trees: This blog post is based on a great talk CCE Nassau County Horticulture Educator Vinnie Drzewucki gave at ReLeaf 2014. It gives great ideas for helping allay peoples’ fears. Did you know more people die from encounters with jellyfish than from tree-related incidents? Btw, it’s pronounced “Sha-VOOT-ski.”

Norway spruce by Al WegenerThe Story of BROW: Planting Street Trees Beyond the Right-of-Way–and What it Means for New Yorkers: Urban forestry consultant and BROW proponent Al Wegener gives a most interesting history of BROW, its legality, and how it might be applied in our municipalities. Read about it here.

 

Nancy Wolf in her garden with grandson Noah John, 8 1/2, and granddaughter Veronica, 4 1/2.

Getting to Know Council Founder Nancy Wolf: Lots of folks wanted to know about more about the dynamic cofounder of our Council and its prime mover and shaker for many years. Nancy was also the founding editor of TAKING ROOT. Read here about her career, education, childhood, and many interests, including her farm in Virginia.

Ed Dore and a Glimpse into Upstate’s Community Tree Planting Movement

This is an article, adapted for TAKING ROOT, that I originally wrote for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal in 2013. It’s about the amazing metro-Buffalo-based community tree advocate Ed Dore and how a portion of the upstate community tree planting movement has evolved in the last 15 years. –Michelle Sutton, TR Editor

Ed Dore and a Glimpse into Upstate’s Community Tree Planting Movement

Ed Dore
Ed Dore

When you read here about ambitious and successful volunteer tree planting collaborations in upstate New York, Ed Dore wants you to say not, “Isn’t that great they do that?” but rather, “Hey, let’s do that here!”

Dore owns Dore Landscape Associates in Pendleton, founded in 1982, about half an hour east of Buffalo and one mile east of the Erie Canal. Though he eschews recognition, Ed Dore is highly regarded for his talent in helping volunteer communities of all kinds partner with one another to plant trees in public spaces.

He and his industry colleagues have been involved in community tree planting efforts in earnest since 1999, but Dore tracks the movement back to 1974 when the Western NY State Nursery and Landscape Association (WNYSNLA) planted its first Arbor Day tree. The inaugural tree was planted on Goat Island in the Niagara River, near Niagara Falls.

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Urban Forestry in the News

In a Queens Forest, Compiling a Picture of Urban Ecology,” New York Times, December 2, 2014. Urban Forest as canary in the coalmine for environmental health; using high-tech sensors to monitor microclimate. Includes quotes from NYC Chief of Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Resources Bram Gunther.

Screenshot 2014-12-19 22.11.12Roundtable: Climate Change Impacts on Urban Forestry,” City TREES magazine, pp. 28-34. Urban foresters from Philadelphia, PA to Surrey, BC to Billings, Montana share their knowledge and observations.

 

 

Leafy Luxury: Mansions with a Tree Premium,” Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2014. Just how much well-heeled homeowners are willing to pay for mature trees; some are transplanted from far away.

Matt Stephens headshot
Matt Stephens

In Leafy Profusion, Trees Spring Up in a Changing New York,” New York Times, December 1, 2014. Stunning then-and-now pics; quotes from Matthew Stephens, director of street tree planting for the NYC Parks Department.

The Importance of Urban Tree Cover,” WRVO reports on planting efforts in Syracuse.

How the Fastest Warming City in the Country is Cooling Off: In Louisville, It’s One Tree at a Time.” Politico Magazine, December 9, 2014. The urban heat island is wicked in Louisville, but the Mayor is on it.

EAB
The source of the Huge Headache

Millions of Ash Trees Are Dying, Creating Huge Headaches for Cities,” National Geographic, December 2, 2014. Case studies and insights from the Midwest re: EAB.

SMA Announces 2015 Urban Tree of the Year

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

… and it’s one that’s close to our hearts, in the sense that the Tree of the Year (TOY) is none other than the one featured in bloom in our blog’s banner up top, yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea). What serendipity!

Surrey, BC Urban Forester Emily Hamilton, who attended NY ReLeaf last summer at Hofstra before she relocated to Canada, wrote a column earlier this year in City Trees about yellowwood. Hamilton wrote:

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Essential and Updated: The Cornell Woody Plants Database

Like me, you may have a dog-eared, well-worn copy of the Urban Horticulture Institute’s (UHI) Recommended Urban Trees: Site Assessment and Tree Selection for Stress Tolerance. Another fantastic resource for urban foresters and UF volunteers that has just been updated is the Cornell Woody Plants Database.

Screenshot 2014-12-01 06.11.09

Nina Bassuk says, “What makes the site unique is its focus on matching woody plants to site conditions, a feature sometimes lacking on other plant selection sites and a consideration that is sometimes lost in the design and plant selection process.” With its extensive image collection and cultural information, the site is also very useful for woody plant ID and study.

Each entry includes ultimate size and shape, USDA Hardiness Zone, light requirement, salt tolerance, moisture tolerance range, insect and disease considerations, and key ornamental features. Impressively, each entry has Nina voicing a short audio lesson that reinforces ornamental and ID features. Nina says this is a work in progress, as she is re-recording some of the entries for better audio quality.

Screenshot 2014-12-01 06.24.02

There is a Course Plant Walk section, which you can use to find a series of plant walks through the beautiful Cornell campus based on different criteria like species (e.g., oaks, maples, and rosaceous and flowering trees) or tolerances (e.g., dry site and wet site trees); click on Maps to see the walk route.

The database was originally the outgrowth of the year-long joint Horticulture/Landscape Architecture (LA) course, “Creating the Urban Eden,” taught by UHI Director Nina Bassuk and Dept of LA Chair Peter Trowbridge.

The site had modest beginnings as an “online textbook” circa 2000. The first version consisted of a FileMaker Pro database running on the Cornell network from a Mac under a desk in the main offices of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Since then, the site has grown significantly more sophisticated with three major revisions that added additional features and functionality. The most recent upgrade was supported by a SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant in 2013.

Check out the Cornell Woody Plants Database!

A young 'Canada Red' Prunus virginiana
A young ‘Canada Red’ Prunus virginiana

Reflections from the SMA Conference in Charlotte

by Michelle Sutton, TAKING ROOT Editor

RELEAF 581Two posts ago, Mike Duran-Mitchell shared reflections from the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry Conference that took place Nov 5-6 in Charlotte, NC. Just prior to Partners were professional meetings and conferences like that of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). I edit SMA’s online magazine, City TREES, and have been lucky enough to be sent by the Society to its conferences for the past ten years.

Charlotte was a special conference for SMA, as this year it marked the organization’s 50th Anniversary. SMA was founded in 1964 by eight municipal arborists who met in Olmsted Falls, Ohio to discuss founding a professional society. They wanted to elevate the status of the profession and provide educational opportunities and camaraderie for its members.

There were 21 founding members; today, SMA has more than 1400 members from around the world. Most of the members are municipal arborists or urban foresters, but some are parks superintendents, DPW directors, landscape architects, and some are community volunteers. SMA is for everyone who cares about the urban forest!

Jeremy Barrick planting tree with kids
SMA Vice President Jeremy Barrick planted a tree with his kids to celebrate SMA’s 50th Anniversary.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, members planted trees in its honor and posted pics of the tree plantings on the Society’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. A celebration at the conference took place, with a photo roll of images from throughout the Society’s 50-year history, and with a beautiful sheet cake that attendees ate for dessert at the Tuesday night banquet. Noteworthy in the photo roll was the presence of increasing numbers of women at SMA events over the years!

Very popular among this year’s attendees was a pre-conference workshop at Bartlett Tree Laboratory in Charlotte. There, participants learned about research on the effects of different types of growing media on tree growth; elm cultivars and pruning of them; and rootball disturbance experiments.

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