Keeping the 'City in a Garden' Green

  • Wacky Weather Can Adversely Effect TreesThe Davey Tree Expert Company

    Wacky Weather Can Adversely Effect TreesThe Davey Tree Expert Company

Updated 3/5/2019 7:24 AM

Keeping the 'City in a Garden' Green

Chicago's motto, "Urbs in Horto," or "City in a Garden," is aptly named due to the impressive collections of parks and green spaces. However, with Chicago's record-breaking cold weather this season and its 80° temperature swings, these green spaces many be vulnerable.


While you may not think the warmer weather calls for complaint, it's a different story for your plants.

"The unusual weather is tricking some trees and shrubs into thinking it's spring," explains Matt Schaefer, district manager for The Care of Trees, A Davey Company. "The recent temperature fluctuations and lack of snow cover may cause problems for our gardens in the coming years."

Unseasonable weather makes trees more susceptible to disease, increasing the likelihood they will fall or break. There are several types of defects that can increase the risk of failure. These include:

• Dead wood: Dead trees and large, dead branches can fall at any time.

• Cracks: Deep splits through the bark extend into the wood of the tree. Internal or external cavities.

• Decay: In advanced stages, soft wood or cavities where wood is missing can create hazardous conditions.

• Weak branch unions: Two or more branches grown too closely together, increases their chances of splitting.

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• Root problems: Without a strong root system, trees are more likely to be uprooted or blown over in stormy weather. Look out for nearby construction that may sever large roots or compact the soil too much to allow for healthy root growth.

"Affected plants may appear normal and resume growth in the spring," explains Schaefer. "However, they are more susceptible to pests and diseases. And weakened plants may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise."

Schaefer suggests native trees that can withstand the Chicago weather:

• Bur Oak: This large Midwest native tree is a great shade tree for spacious yards and other areas where it has lots of space to grow.

• Kentucky Coffeetree: This large Midwest native is perfect for urban homes and spaces because it's tolerant of pollution and thrives in a wide range of soils.


• Ironwood: This tough, native tree is resistant to many diseases and insects. Growing to be about 30 feet tall, this tree is classic, understated and unfussy.

• American Hornbeam: This native Chicago tree is perfect in shady landscapes and woodland gardens. Plus, it offers color and interest all year long.

• Sargent Crabapple: In spring, this dwarf crabapple delights with pink buds that soon transform into fragrant, white flowers.

• Redbud: A true beauty and a Chicago native, this small tree offers purplish-pink flowers in spring.

When choosing a spot for your tree, plant it on the, west or northwest side of your home to grow shade that protects from the summer sun and reduces air-conditioning costs. Avoid planting too close to your house, and power lines, as shade trees have large roots that can damage your home's foundation.

Schaefer suggests regular tree maintenance because not all tree risks are visible or obvious. Advanced analysis, sometimes through the use of specialized tools or techniques, may be necessary. Arborists will evaluate the tree, soil conditions, wind exposure, defects, overall health and other factors to determine a tree's hazard potential.

Concerned about your trees? Contact your local arborist at 847.382.4120 or

With nearly 9,500 employees throughout North America, The Davey Tree Expert Company provides solutions for residential, utility, commercial and government clients. Rooted in research, the company's vision is to achieve balance among people, progress and the environment. Tree experts since 1880, Davey provides diversified tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental services. Celebrating 40 years of employee ownership, Davey is one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S. and is headquartered in Kent, Ohio. Want to join us? Discover your Davey career, and apply today.

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