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After losing 75 trees to storms, UC Davis plants for future

Lost trees will be replaced by climate-ready alternatives

The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden encompasses the entire campus. It is known for its variety of well-cared-for trees, as shown in this photo from 2020. New plantings to replace fallen ones will be chosen based on adaptability to climate change.

The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden encompasses the entire campus. It is known for its variety of well-cared-for trees, as shown in this photo from 2020. New plantings to replace fallen ones will be chosen based on adaptability to climate change.

Kathy Morrison

Four weeks since wicked winds brutally whipped our urban forest, we’re still cleaning up. Work crews are still tackling fallen trees and limbs. The sound of chainsaws drowns out traffic and birdsong.

Many parks and landmarks lost numerous trees. That includes the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

By its own count, the arboretum – which encompasses the whole UC Davis campus – lost 75 mature trees on New Year’s Eve and during the subsequent storms.

“Considering our campus urban forest tree population is close to 20,000, the losses might have been much worse,” wrote Katie Hetrick, the arboretum’s communications manager, on its website.

It wasn’t just downed trees, but limbs and other debris. The result was quite a mess.

“The cleanup effort undertaken by all of the teams in the Arboretum and Public Garden – Grounds and Landscape Services, Putah Creek Riparian Reserve and the Arboretum – is massive, includes outside contractors, and will take months to recover from,” Hetrick wrote.

Helping to prevent worse losses was the arboretum’s continuous tree stewardship. Because they’re part of an arboretum, all trees (as well as shrubs, perennials and other plants) are carefully tracked and monitored from the day they’re planted. Problems are tackled before they have a chance to create havoc.

Because of that constant care, the arboretum’s trees are especially healthy. That’s what makes this recent devastation particularly shocking. One possible reason: A shift in wind direction. Local trees have decades of resistance to southern winds; these gusts hit from the east.

The recovery will include replanting, but not necessarily the same trees.

“While the weather-related havoc wrought across campus is disheartening, it is also important to understand that our campus is not just reacting, we planned for this uncertain future and are already taking action,” Hetrick said.

New trees will not only add beauty and shade, but more climate resiliency. UC Davis’ Campus Tree Renewal Program plans to create a legacy of trees that will last 100 years or more.

As part of this effort, students trialed about 45 tree species in test sites on campus. The top performers earned permanent spots for their species in UC Davis’ future.

That group includes a lot of familiar oaks – valley oaks, live oaks and cork oaks – plus drought-resistant Texas red oak. The success of the Texas red oak prompted students to test more Texas natives.

As crews continue the clean-up, the arboretum is now raising funds to support its tree-planting efforts. (See the links on the arboretum website.)

Hetrick noted, “We are devastated by the loss, but our current efforts to transition our landscapes to be climate-ready offer hope.”

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For week of Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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