Find a back issue

The Trouble With the Trees at Klyde Warren Park

Howard Garrett says it's not good to plant a tree so low that it's emerging form the ground as straight as a telephone pole.  Photo by Howard Garrett.
Howard Garrett says it’s not good to plant a tree so low that it’s emerging form the ground as straight as a telephone pole. Photo by Howard Garrett.

So far, at least, Klyde Warren Park has got to be considered a big success. The lunch lines at the food trucks there nearly any day of the week and the huge crowds of families that descend upon the place when the sun is shining on weekends attest to that fact.

But every time I’m there, I can’t help but think of how little shade there is and how miserable a place it seems like it will be when the full-on summer heat arrives. They need the trees they’ve planted to grow as quickly as possible, to provide much more relief from the sun’s onslaught. That should just be a matter of time, right?

Arborist Howard Garrett, who calls himself The Dirt Doctor and has his own organic gardening radio show that airs on 660 AM, says the oak trees in the park are already in trouble. According to him, they are pin oaks (or possibly a type of scarlet oak), a species that does not grow well in our climate. These trees are already “chlorotic” (suffering from a nutrient deficiency) because they were planted too deep in the soil.

“When trees are coming out of the ground as straight as telephone poles, they’re too deep,” he says. Instead the flare from the roots at the bottom of the trees should be visible. Lastly, he’s also concerned that the species is way too big to grow in Klyde Warren’s artificial environment.

“Any kind of big tree that you plant in that kind of situation are doomed to failure,” he says. He insists that all the oaks will need to be replaced with more appropriate options.

But Joanna Singleton, a spokeswoman for the park, says there’s no imminent threat to the trees, and that some of Garrett’s assertions are incorrect. Except for one.

First off, the oak trees planted at Klyde Warren are not pin oaks. They are Panache red oaks, an “improved type” of shumard red oak, a variety native to Texas. She says the park’s trees have even been genetically tested to determine that no invasive strain of pin oak has wormed its way in. The container in which they are growing has been designed to carefully limit their growth to a manageable size.

Where Garrett is correct, she admits, is in noting that some of the trees were planted too far down into the ground, but the park’s contractors are already taking steps to correct the problem.

“Right now all the trees that were planted are expected to do well, with remediation,” she says.

So there you have it. I’d really like to have ended this post with some well-placed pun, but I gave up after I found myself considering “I report. You decid-uous.”