Shade Tree Committee oversees tree planting

Photo by Daniel Jackovino Planting a tree on Arbor Day are, from left, Glen Ridge Shade Tree Committee members Robert Baum and Julie Zichelli; homeowner Venera Gashi; shade tree committee president Elizabeth Baker; and DPW workers Joe Benenado, Chris Johnson and Adam Dentato.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The London plane tree was lowered into the ground, an Arbor Day symbol for many more that are being planted across the borough.

It had been anticipated that 55 trees, including more than two dozen elms and lindens, would be planted along Hillside Avenue this past Friday, April 28, Arbor Day. But as it occurred, the 35 arrivals had already been planted by Thursday, April 27, and the remaining 19 were due to arrive at the end of this week.

Still, commemorating Arbor Day, as it were, a single two-year-old London plane was lowered into the grassy median, without fanfare, along the sidewalk at 99 Forest Ave. This was done by borough Department of Public Works employees.

Glen Ridge Shade Tree Commission members were on hand. One said the London plane was a member of the sycamore family and the location for this single tree was determined because the site was favorable and the homeowner requested it.

Venera Gashi, the homeowner owner, came out to investigate and was a little dismayed that the previous tree, which disappeared a few days earlier, had to be replaced.
“It had just started to sprout,” she said.

But when two Glen Ridge Department of Public Works trucks pulled up, one with the new tree, she approved.

“This one’s bigger and it’s beautiful,” she said, adding that she had borough friends who wanted trees, too.
Shade Tree Commission member Robert Baum told her the previous tree somehow had its central growth-point cut back. Gashi, who was very happy for a new tree, said the previous one had been at the curb for two years.
“We were happy to see it sprout,” she said. “I was shocked to see it gone.”
Baum said London plane trees are “very sturdy” and “long-lived.”

“We want no fruit trees,” he said, because of the fruit they drop.
Shade Tree Commission President Elizabeth Baker arrived and later expressed disappointment that not every tree had yet arrived. She and Baum observed the uncovered root hole that had been dug before the DPW arrived that morning and had been covered with a board for safety. They commented on the amount of clay in the soil.

“I haven’t seen this much before,” Baum said, “Is this typical?”
Baker assured him it was and that her own garden soil was mostly clay. Baum said his garden was situated on the site of a former label manufacturer and a small portion of the company parking lot was discovered several feet beneath the surface. But both committee members appreciated the fact that Glen Ridge prohibits utility wires along its streets, allowing trees to grow unencumbered.

“Most towns can’t plant London planes because of obstructions,” Baker said. “They’re fast growers.”
In 1912, she said, Glen Ridge passed an ordinance allowing utility poles only behind houses, not out front. A state law subsequently gave PSE&G the right of way on public lands. Watching the DPW workers finishing their work, Baker commented that having them plant trees was a huge savings for the borough. But she noted another shade tree savings.

“We’ve been getting free trees from the county,” she said. “That’s three sets of 50 trees each. But we feel these have to be planted on county roads.”
She said the trees planted some 100 years ago were dying out. As for the new trees, like the one at 99 Forest Ave., the shade tree committee will care for them. Watering bags, which the DPW workers secured around the trunk base, were to be refilled just weekly.

“Residents either let the trees dry out or over-water them,” she said.
She also said that residents often contact the commission with concerns that the bark of their London plane was falling off. But as a member of the sycamore family, she assured them they naturally shed their bark.

Baker mentioned another distinguishing feature of plane trees: seed balls. She said, at the end of a branch, the London plane develops two seed balls; the Asian plane develops three and the sycamore,
just one.

She confirmed what Baum said, that the previous tree at 99 Forest Ave. was being replaced because the growth-point had been severed and the tree would not develop properly. She said people sometimes make the mistake of cutting the growth-point because they think trimming a tree is the same thing as shaping a hedge. It is not and residents with questions may contact the Glen Ridge Shade Tree Commission, via email at: