Wrapping up World Landscape Architecture Month with some love for the trees

By: Dayton Rush
28 April 2017

Since 1872, Arbor Day has been about one thing: planting trees. J. Sterling Morton started the first Arbor Day in Nebraska City, NE. On that day, one million trees were planted in Nebraska. Today, Arbor Day is a nationally-recognized holiday, celebrated in over 30 countries, with the same mission: plant trees.

There are many parallels between Arbor Day’s and CTA’s missions. Just like planting trees, at CTA, we Pioneer Environments: creating unique, value-rich, durable spaces in which all comers can live work, and grow. As the first trees planted on Arbor Day matured, they allowed people to move into America’s Great Plains by providing food, heat, and protection from the elements. Today’s Arbor Day trees are just as important in pioneering built environments and aiding in reducing heating loads,  absorbing CO2, providing habitat, and beautifying our environment.

Every year, regional CTA offices participate in Arbor Day celebrations — most notably in Billings, MT, however, where the city’s festivities won the 2016 National Celebration Award from the Arbor Day Foundation. Team members from CTA Billings spend the day hosting an education booth teaching 500 local fourth graders about the benefits of rain barrels and how they can collect rainwater at their own homes. CTA has also helped with organization, graphic design, and landscape design for new tree plantings. This year’s Billings Arbor Day celebration will be held May 4 in Veterans Park.

In celebration of Arbor Day, and the close of another World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM), members of CTA’s landscape architecture team have shared some of their favorite trees, accompanied by sketches from Heidi Ratcliff of Cushing Terrell Seattle (B&W) and Katie Clay from CTA Boise (color).

Wes Baumgartner, PLA | Bozeman, MT
“My favorite tree is the baobab — the iconic ‘upside-down’ giant of the African savannah brings back great memories from time spent in the bush. If I’m choosing something from my own yard, it might be the hot wings maples that line our driveway.  In the summer, the bright red samaras on the tree are a welcome contrast to the dominant green.”

Illustration by Heidi Ratcliff
Illustration by Katie Clay

Meghan McMahon, PLA | Missoula, MT
“So many favorites! But in the end, Quercus palustris wins. Also known as the pin oak, Quercus palustris is a tough, large, native tree that transplants well and lives a very long time. It felt as though they were everywhere in upstate New York, and I have fond memories growing up underneath them from my childhood home, to my elementary school, to my college days at Cornell. Those same trees will likely be there when I’m gone — that’s pretty cool.”

Stephanie Donovan, LAIT | Billings, MT
“It is too hard to pick just one.  The first would have to be Catalpa seciosa, the cigar tree. Who can forget a name like cigar tree? Catalpas are my favorite because the large, lime-green leaves stand out amongst other tree foliage, and the long, skinny seed pods playfully hang from the branches. Kids love playing with the “cigars” — even big kids like me. My other favorite is Platanus occidentalis, the sycamore tree, home to the coolest bark known to humankind. It sports camouflage-patterned bark in tan, white, and gray. This large beast of a tree typically grows in lowlands and flood plains. My favorite specimens live in the South Oval on the campus of The Ohio State University.”

Illustration by Heidi Ratcliff
Illustration by Katie Clay

Kendrick Ostergaard, LAIT | Bozeman, MT
“I would say my favorites are either the Japanese maple or Korean maple. I’m inspired by the leaf shape and color they have in the summer and fall.”

Dayton Rush, PLA | Billings, MT
“My favorite tree would have to be the mighty black cottonwood. It is the tallest-growing tree in the region — and when you grow up in eastern Montana, these trees are the closest thing you have to skyscrapers. My favorite part is in early October, when the prairie sets ablaze and the black cottonwoods’ brilliant gold color beautifully contrasts the black bark. But use caution! You would not want one of these in your yard; they are far too large and messy. They should be enjoyed responsibly on the banks of the Missouri River.”

Illustration by Heidi Ratcliff
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