January 15, 2017
In the fall of 2015, Landscape Ontario (LO) and Ontario Parks Association (OPA) co-hosted a facilitated workshop to explore the obstacles to successful urban landscape plantings, with the goal of arriving at sustainable and longer term solutions. Participants in the workshop included wholesale nursery growers that are regular suppliers to the municipalities and urban foresters and parks’ managers representing medium to larger municipalities from southern Ontario.

The Finding Sustainable Solutions Workshop was the core component of the larger project “Increasing sales to municipalities by promoting the benefits of Ontario-grown nursery stock.” The project was to explore the barriers and challenges associated with tree purchasing and planting policies with the goal of setting realistic, achievable and sustainable solutions.

The nurseries and municipalities understand their mutual challenges related to urban tree planting success. The tree procurement process, which often relies on the low-bid tendering-system, is just one factor that contributes to less than ideal long-term tree planting success.

The urban landscape is subject to a variety of environmental stresses that contribute to the generally poor performance of newly planted trees in the urban environment. However, how to mitigate the effects of more precise impacts such as soil compaction, air pollutants, road salts and moisture stress is not as well understood, and municipalities lack critical scientific data. This was further emphasized by the results of a literature review* on the impact of environmental stresses on the survivability of the urban landscape, which was also commissioned as a part of the project. Not surprisingly, the challenges and knowledge gaps as identified by workshop participants were also highlighted in the literature review.

While the workshop process provides an ideal opportunity to identify these challenges, it is beyond the scope of a single day event to effect longer-term and sustainable solutions. Both groups agree to ongoing communication. To facilitate this, there is a need for joint research and education and information sharing. The project’s final undertaking is to launch a cooperative pilot project initiative. This pilot project will provide a forum for stakeholders to cooperate in the design and execution of small research projects and is intended to fill knowledge gaps, facilitate the collective sharing of information and provide an effective channel for ongoing communication between the two sectors.

* The impact of environmental stresses on the survivability of the urban landscape: A review of the literature and recommendations was completed by Vista Science and Technology and can be accessed through the Landscape Ontario website.