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  • Martin Ford

Smoothing Out The Hard Edges



Last month we introduced a list of 20 features that trees add to the health and function of a city and that enable people to benefit both physically and financially. The first on the list (but not by importance) is ‘Definition and Contrast’ which refers to how the structures we build and travel on are predominately hard surfaces and straight lines; trees are neither. Trees are living and responsive entities, as are humans, but the solid structures we design and build rarely show any of these features. The presence of trees on our streets and in our gardens remind us that we are more than our profession or function and that the world has ‘wonder’ to offer which we are aware of but, within a city life, we rarely have a chance to experience in an intimate and personal way. The living presence of a tree is both large in size when mature, and seasonal in its response to the changing climate.

As a tree normally grows from street level, we have direct contact, and so scale is set against the buildings around it. This background creates a contrast like no other and gives us the impression of the tree as an individual. The tree moves in the wind and seasonal changes of emerging and then falling leaves engage our sense of the streetscape. Dappled light passing though the canopy creates shadow while its silhouette outlines the tree on the ground and against the buildings. This has the effect of ‘softening’ the buildings’ impression on us. When a tree is healthy, the wide base of the trunk tells us that its roots are spreading through the soil below our feet. Our senses are aroused by this living being and we are aware of its age and its presence beyond the life we expect; again we are left with wonder.


If you recognize a beneficial feature of trees that we haven’t identified to add to those already on the list, please feel free to pass it on to us so we can include it in upcoming blogs!


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Urban Cottage Landscapes™ 39 Emslie St., Guelph, Ontario N1H 3K6 | Phone 519.760.9436

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