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‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

In what has become an annual tradition, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Zac Rood, lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

Students tagging oaks in front of Mann Library

Tagging an oak on the Ag Quad

Tagging a red oak.

Tagging a Kentucky coffeetree

Tagging Katsura tree outside Mann Library

Urban Eden students plant trees along Cayuga Lake Inlet

‘Urban Eden’ students planting crabapples along Cayuga Lake Inlet. (Photo: Carol Eichler)

‘Urban Eden’ students planting crabapples along Cayuga Lake Inlet. (Photo: Carol Eichler)

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (PLHORT/LA 4910) planted 15 disease-resistant crabapple trees along the Cayuga Lake Inlet November 9.

The Ithaca Garden Club donated the trees as part of an on-going, seven-year effort to re-establish a deteriorated grove the club donated to the City of Ithaca in 1970. The club planted its first of more than 300 crabapples along the inlet in 1922 – the year of its founding – and have donated several hundred thousand dollars to landscaping projects in the area during its long history.

The City of Ithaca’s Shade Tree Advisory Committee will fence and care for the trees under guidance of Jeanne Grace MS ’10.

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick stopped by to check on the tree planting, along with ‘Urban Eden’ instructor Nina Bassuk (left) and Ithaca Garden Club members Beverly Hillman and Beatrice Szekely. (Photo: Carol Eichler)

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick stopped by to check on the tree planting progress, joining ‘Urban Eden’ instructor Nina Bassuk (left) and Ithaca Garden Club members Beverly Hillman and Beatrice Szekely. (Photo: Carol Eichler)

Planting participants. . (Photo: Carol Eichler)

Planting participants. . (Photo: Carol Eichler)

‘Urban Eden’ students plant campus landscapes

Urban Eden students plant along Garden Avenue outside Teagle Hall.

Urban Eden students plant along Garden Avenue outside Teagle Hall.

Every year since 2001, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) have taken on real world projects, designing and installing gardens on campus each spring.

This year’s projects include a strip along Garden Avenue west of Teagle and Comstock Halls, areas behind Warren Hall, and a planting at the entrance to Plant Science Building just west of the new Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory.

For that project, the low-growing plants were specifically selected so as not to shade the Conservatory or to attract pests that might move from the planting inside, says Nina Bassuk, Horticulture Section professor who teaches the course along Landscape Architecture professor Peter Trowbridge.

The plants include a mix of evergreen and deciduous woody plant species with a variety of foliage colors that provide year-round interest and discourage browsing by deer. “We’ve used a lot of new cultivars so that we can introduce them to future classes as part of our teaching program,” says Bassuk, who is also the director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

The students also tried a new planting technique using smaller plugs that are easier to handle and plant but will quickly fill the space.

New planting outside the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory at the entrance of the Plant Science Building.

New planting outside the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory at the entrance of the Plant Science Building.

 

 

 

 

‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Urban Eden teaching assistants Huan Liu and Miles Schwartz Sax tag a sugar maple outside of Roberts Hall.

Urban Eden teaching assistants Huan Liu and Miles Schwartz Sax tag a sugar maple outside of Roberts Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

In what has become an annual tradition, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Peter Trowbridge, professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

Urban Eden tree taggers spread out across the Ag Quad tagging trees ...

Urban Eden tree taggers spread out across the Ag Quad tagging trees …

... until it was time to go prune and mulch landscapes installed by previous Urban Eden classes.

… until it was time to go prune and mulch landscapes installed by previous Urban Eden classes.

Urban Eden students plant Warren Hall perimeter

Urban Eden students replanting the Deans Garden.

Urban Eden students replanting the Deans Garden.

This spring, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) planted the entire perimeter of Warren Hall – from the front door around the building to the Centennial Garden – with a selection plants matched to the variety of growing conditions found in different locations.

“It was by far the largest class planting project we’ve ever taken on,” says Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who co-teaches the course with Peter Trowbridge, landscape architecture professor. Bassuk is also director of Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute.

In all, students planted and mulched more than 1,900 trees, shrubs, ferns, ornamental grasses and other plants. They planted around existing specimen plants, such as the mature Japanese maple in the Deans Garden, that were protected during the Warren Hall renovation.

Students in the two-semester course also got hands-on experience last fall when they planted the runoff-filtering bioswale along Tower Road.

Deans Garden from above.

Deans Garden from above.

A quick tour of the Warren plantings, starting at the front door …

Warren Hall plantings

Warren Hall plantings

Warren Hall plantings

Warren Hall plantings

Warren Hall plantings

Warren Hall plantings

Warren Hall plantings

IMG_4946

 

 

‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Nina Bassuk and Urban Eden students tag a Littleleaf Linden in front of Warren Hall.

Nina Bassuk and Urban Eden students tag a Littleleaf Linden in front of Warren Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Peter Trowbridge, professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

More Urban Eden tree-taggers:

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

 

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

Urban Eden students plant Tower Road bioswale

Click on images for larger views.

Tower Rd bioswale planting

Tower Road bioswale planting

Thursday, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) planted more than 1,000 feet of beds along Tower Road from Plant Science Building to Stocking Hall with nearly 1,000 woody shrubs.

The bioswale is designed to channel water runoff from Tower Road into the beds so that the water can infiltrate and recharge groundwater instead of going directly into storm drains and discharged ultimately into Cayuga Lake.

The shrubs were selected based on their ability to tolerate both saturated soil and intermittent dry conditions, as well as tolerance to road salt. That selection was guided by research conducted by former Graduate Field of Horticulture student Ethan Dropkin (MPS ’14).

“These are tough plants that can tolerate challenging conditions,” says Nina Bassuk, director of the Urban Horticulture Institute in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “A lot of snow will pile up on them over the winter, and may damage some of them. But they are the kind of shrubs that you can cut back in spring and they’ll bounce right back.”

Dropkin’s publication, Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions) is available online at the Urban Horticulture Institute website.

Bassuk instructs students before planting.

Bassuk instructs students before planting.

Curb cuts channel runoff into into bioswale.

Curb cuts channel runoff into into bioswale.

The shrubs used are tolerant to road salt and intermittent flooding and dry soil conditions.

The shrubs used are tolerant to road salt and intermittent flooding and dry soil conditions.

 

Urban Eden class.

Urban Eden class.

 

 

Grassing the Urban Eden class installs Tower Rd. sod

Grassing the Urban Eden students intalling sod By Celine Jennison ‘14. Cross-posted from CALS Notes.

Have you ever wondered why the grass along Tower Road looked so miserable even though it runs alongside the Plant Sciences building?

A group of students from the “Grassing the Urban Eden” class (HORT 4931) recently re-sodded the side of the road, from Garden Avenue towards Day Hall, to transform the grim strips along the sidewalk into a long green carpet in just an hour.

This was done as part of an experiment led by two professors from the Department of Horticulture, Nina Bassuk and Frank Rossi. Frustrated with how the unhealthy grass suffered from soils laden with de-icing salts and compacted by foot traffic and winter maintenance vehicles, the two professors joined forces with the Cornell Grounds Department and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station to test solutions to this problem.

Bassuk brought her expertise with soil. She had previously invented CU Structural Soil to promote tree health in urban environments where roots suffer from compaction, inadequate water, nutrient and oxygen levels. Her soil has a 8:2 stone to soil ratio and hydrogel, a binding agent and water holding gel to prevent stones and soil from separating during the mixing and installation process.

Rossi lent his knowledge about grass. He recommended 90 percent tall fescue – “the most idiot-proof grass you can get” – and 10 percent Kentucky bluegrass, a common cool-season species used in sod production. Fescue can withstand traffic, salt and drought, but is a “bunch-type” grass; the addition of bluegrass helps knit together a sturdy sod.

The experiment on Tower Road involves installing sod from CALS alumni Laurie and Steve Griffen ‘84 of Saratoga Sod, on top of CU Structural Soil to see how well the grass performs at different depths: 6, 8 and 10 inches deep. Wireless in-ground sensors will later be added to monitor temperatures, moisture and salinity.

As a plant science major who walks along Tower Road every morning, I look forward to monitoring the grass performance and seeing for myself whether this technique is one solution to greening cities and making passers-by happier.

‘Urban Eden’ students finish Caldwell Hall landscape

Urban Eden students and others after finishing Caldwell Hall landascape

Staff of the Cornell University Grounds Department, Campus Landscape Architect David Cutter, instructor Nina Bassuk and students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) pose after putting finishing touches on the landscape they installed this spring outside Caldwell Hall on the Ag Quad. (View time-lapse video of installation.) This spring the class also installed plantings outside Bradfield Hall and in the Statler Hall circle.

Cornell has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation every year since 2009. Requirements for recognition include effectively managing campus trees in coordination with the surrounding community, engaging students in service-learning forestry projects, and providing outreach on the value of trees and urban forests through programs such as Arbor Day celebrations.

Below, Grounds Department Director Peter Salino (red jacket) assists with planting of Ponderosa Pine outside Caldwell Hall.

Soils for the Urban Eden: New course, Spring 2013

urban eden soils courseSoils for the Urban Eden
Hort/CSS 4930
More info: amp4@cornell.edu

  • 2 credits
  • Meets first 7 weeks of the semester
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Lecture: 1:25-2:15
    Lab: 2:30-4:25
  • Prerequisites:
    Hort/LA 4910 and 4920 or
    CSS 2600
  • Instructors: Marty Petrovic, Jonathan Russell-Anelli, Nina Bassuk, other guest lecturers

Topics:

  • Understanding urban soils:  What are urban soils? How do they differ for conventional soils? Properties of urban soils. Variation in urban soil properties.
  • Challenges of growing plants in the urban environment: poor soil health.
  • Managing soils for high use urban areas.
  • Managing contaminated urban soils.
  • Constructed soils for urban plantings and container plants.
  • Sustainable urban storm water systems including green roofs, constructed biofilters and rain gardens.
  • Soil remediation and soil modification.
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