Young red oak saplings in their first year of growth at GreenUP's Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery. Red oak leaves, stems, and acorns are a food source for various mammals such as deer and squirrels and bird species such as woodpeckers. You can give young trees a forever home by visiting the Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery when it opens for the season on May 18, 2024. (Photo: Hayley Goodchild / GreenUP)

Young red oak saplings in their first year of growth at GreenUP’s Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery. Red oak leaves, stems, and acorns are a food source for various mammals such as deer and squirrels and bird species such as woodpeckers. You can give young trees a forever home by visiting the Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery when it opens for the season on May 18, 2024. (Photo: Hayley Goodchild / GreenUP)

By: Vern Bastable

Trees don’t grow on trees you know.

Most people have become very accustomed to instant shopping. Find what you want online, push a couple of buttons and your package is on the porch the next day. No muss, no fuss and definitely no waiting. Need it quicker? Maybe same day delivery is available!

Trees are a different story. They take time, effort, and resources to be available for purchase at your local garden centre. Most trees you see for sale have been growing for many years and it has taken many helping hands to help them flourish.

The first step in the process is deciding to grow trees at all. Developing a business plan and acquiring the space, knowledge, and equipment required to start a nursery takes time.

Next, growers have to predict the future, which in itself is no small feat. What tree species will you, the consumer, want to buy in three to ten years’ time? Are serviceberries going to be the next hot item? What about hawthorns? (You heard it here first!) Should a nursery operator invest in slow-to-establish majestic oaks or fast-growing birch?

The Ecology Park Tree & Plant Nursery carries more than 200 species of native trees, shrubs, and perennial plants. The nursery staff led by director Vern Bastable (back right) are there to help you select the right plants for your space and help ensure they grow to be healthy and strong. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP).

The Ecology Park Tree & Plant Nursery carries more than 200 species of native trees, shrubs, and perennial plants. The nursery staff led by director Vern Bastable (back right) are there to help you select the right plants for your space and help ensure they grow to be healthy and strong. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP).

What trends are happening with pests and disease? Imagine that many years ago, as an ambitious grower you bet on beautiful ash trees, only to be confronted by the emerald ash borer, which has decimated the ash population and your sales dropped to zero.

Beyond the business planning and market research, then there is the actual growing part!

Locating and obtaining high quality seed is always a challenge for tree growers. That problem is closely followed by sorting, storing, documenting, and stratifying your seeds. Chronic seed shortages mean some species are hard to source. For example, GreenUP will not have Eastern Hemlock at Ecology Park this season due to seed shortages. (Thankfully, there are many wonderful species we will have. Stay tuned for our updated inventory list as opening weekend draws near!)

Once a tree germinates, a grower has many more things to consider, like how much food, light, and water the species needs, when to prune, when to fertilize, and what to do about pests and disease.

Climate change adds another layer of complexity. Drought and extreme heat cause great stress to trees. Seedlings are extra vulnerable to these stressors. A single weather event can cause cosmetic damage that results in consumers (who want only the best looking plants for their gardens) shopping elsewhere.

Happy customers with their new native plants during the annual spring opening event at GreenUP’s Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery in May 2022. In 2024, the event takes place from from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18th. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP). Todd/GreenUP)

Happy customers with their new native plants during the annual spring opening event at GreenUP’s Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery in May 2022. In 2024, the event takes place from from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18th. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP). Todd/GreenUP)

Once a tree is of marketable size, it needs to make its way to your local garden centre. Trees grown in the ground must be dug out before they can be sold. Trees are on a timeline and cannot live indefinitely in a pot! The weight of moving heavy potted trees contributes to their overall cost.

Trees can easily be damaged by temperature changes and wind damage during transportation and a potted tree still requires special care after getting to its retail destination.

Whew! That’s a lot, isn’t it? The good news is that trees are also resilient. They are happy to grow and provide our cities with beauty, shade, and habitat as long as long as we treat them right.

A tree is an investment in your community that has been made possible by a whole set of processes and decisions. GreenUP’s team at Ecology Park are just a few helping hands on the journey from seed to flourishing tree. We see our job as to help young trees find their permanent homes, and help you care for your tree with confidence, so it grows for many generations.

If you have questions about trees or tree care stop by Ecology Park and let’s chat and look over the many trees of our lovely park.

The Ecology Park Tree & Plant Nursery at 1899 Ashburnham Drive opens for the season on May 18, 2024. After opening day, the nursery will be open for plant sales and self-serve compost sales Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Photo: Jessica Todd/GreenUP).

The Ecology Park Tree & Plant Nursery at 1899 Ashburnham Drive opens for the season on May 18, 2024. After opening day, the nursery will be open for plant sales and self-serve compost sales Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Photo: Jessica Todd/GreenUP).

This year, the Ecology Park Native Plant & Tree Nursery will host our Annual Spring Opening Event on May 18th from 10am – 4pm, (*Please note no compost/wood chips for sale opening day). After opening day, our nursery will be open for plant sales and self-serve compost sales on Thursdays from 10am-6pm and Friday-Sunday from 10am-4pm. The Nursery is located at 1899 Ashburnham Drive in Peterborough. Parking is only in the south end of the Beavermead lot off Marsdale Drive.