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How to Grow an Urban Arboretum

The John Bartram Arboretum at Kendal at Oberlin’s second annual Arbor Day celebration was a day of education, with Alan Siewert, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Regional Urban Forester.

Barbara Thomas, CEO of Kendal at Oberlin, opened the event with remarks in which she stated, “The arboretum is one of the most important, if not the most promising, developments at Kendal that I have experienced in my 25 year association with Kendal.”

The morning talk, titled “Healthy Trees: Five Steps to a Thriving Urban Forest” had Alan Siewert first focusing on the benefits of a healthy urban forest.  Trees provide public health, social, environmental and economic benefits.


  • Trees produce oxygen and enhance respiratory health.
  • An urban canopy contributes to meeting clean air requirement.
  • Access to trees, green spaces and parks promote physical activity, reduces stress and improves the quality of life.


  • Trees sequester carbon (CO2), reducing the concentration of greenhouse gasses, and act as natural air-conditioners.
  • Urban forests promote beneficial water quality and reduce storm water management costs.
  • Trees provide important habitats for birds, insects and animal species.


  • Communities and business districts with healthy tree cover attract new residents, industry and commercial activity.

Alan then explained the difference between a natural forest and an urban forest citing Siewert’s First Theorem of Urban Forestry: Trees are not native to the urban environmentHe continued by explaining that trees in natural forests grow tall and straight and in the urban forest trees are planted in the open, usually growing many branches.  There is a living soil ecosystem in the natural forest that provides food for the trees, but this type of growing medium is rarely found in an urban setting.  Alan shares that the answer to growing healthy trees in an urban setting is the “recipe”, a combination of compost and mulch.

Siewert’s Five Keys to a Thriving Urban Forest

  1. Proper Tree Selection
  2. Proper Site Preparation
  3. Proper Tree Planting
  4. Proper Care After Planting
  5. Long Term Maintenance

The afternoon brought a walk through the arboretum, with Alan noting the challenges and making recommendations.  This extremely informative and enlightening day ended with Alan saying “Plan, plan, plan”. “Planning ahead to make the best use of the limited resources you have is the road to success.”

This day provided insight as to how enormous the undertaking of the arboretum project is and will continue to be…and dedicated Kendal residents are planning, planning planning!  Every day is Arbor Day at Kendal.