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American Society of Landscape Architects


July 2006 Issue

Why Suburbs Will Never Have Tall Trees
Modern construction methods doom suburban trees before they’re even planted.

By Kenneth Kidd

Why Suburbs Will Never Have Tall Trees © Wes Thompson/Corbis

Drive through the outer suburbs of Toronto, and chances are you’ll find a familiar scene, one replicated across the continent.

Behind the signs announcing a new subdivision, monstrous tractors and earth-moving equipment will be chugging across the landscape, preparing what might have been a farmer’s field for a sea of houses.

Off to one side, there’ll be a giant pile of earth—all of the topsoil that had been scraped away and set aside so the machines could grade the site for drainage, sewers, and roads.

Then the houses duly go up, some of that topsoil gets put back for the lawns, and in come the happy new home owners dreaming of a green and leafy suburb to be.

There’s just one snag: It may be decades before the place will begin to support the kind of trees the home owners want.

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