Walt HarrisonBy Walt Harrison
Riding or walking around Atlanta you may have noticed trees planted along our streets and roadways in town. According to Mid-Georgia Nursery’s Bill Inabinet, the life expectancy of a street tree in a typical urban environment is about 15 years.
This is due to a number of factors: mechanical damage (getting hit by cars, trucks and shopping carts), pollution, and probably most important, a limited growing area and poor soil conditions in the root zone.
You can see the damage such as scars on the trunk and broken branches, but also the trees rarely look as vigorous as trees in parks and other tree-friendly environments.
Through the years, I’ve kept my eye on several huge and beautiful Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees along Boulevard very near Freedom Parkway (a tough urban environment for trees) thriving in a sidewalk planting. These trees have since been cut down, but it was interesting to note they continued to survive with little or no care whatsoever.
You may have thought Bald Cypress only grew in swamps, and that is the environment they truly prefer naturally, but they have evolved over generations to thrive in very adverse conditions.
However, there is now one environmental factor that is threatening our beautiful cypress forests throughout the lower south. Huge forests of cypress trees are being clear cut and literally ground up to provide mulch for our shrubs and flower beds. Ironic, isn’t it?  Gardeners are unknowingly and directly contributing to the destruction of our beautiful forests. This is a secret that the big box stores and garden center chains are not sharing.
As gardeners and consumers in general, it is important to know the environmental impact of the products we use. This is not an easy task but we need to do the research in order to gain an understanding of where the products come from, what resources are used and what processes are needed to produce these products. Cypress mulch is a perfect example. Now that we know, let’s spread the word and let the retailers know this is not okay.
Walt Harrison has been planting trees for 30 years and is the owner and founder Habersham Gardens Garden Center & Landscape Services. habershamgardens.com

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