Tallinn to be the European City of the Trees 2015
Ivo Karlep, 27 May 2015
Tallinn merited the title of the European tree capital because the jury was impressed of the requirement to plant new trees to replace any that have been cut down.
Tallinn’s Deputy Mayor Arvo Sarapuu hopes that Tallinners will be proud of this recognition by foreign experts. “The fact that our capital is filled with greenery and that we invest a great deal in its maintenance is well known, but it is noteworthy that this is also recognised by specialists from the rest of Europe. In this regard, we are increasingly convinced that we possess all the preconditions to be chosen as the European Green Capital in 2018,” said Deputy Mayor Arvo Sarapuu.
The title of the tree capital was awarded to Tallinn by the European Arboricultural Council. “In making its decision, the council considered our history and the fact that the role of trees in an urban environment and in our history is appreciated in Tallinn,” said Sarapuu. “Tallinn makes sure that people know how important trees are as the lungs of a city. We also use trained arborists to care for Tallinn’s trees and modern maintenance methods to design them, and this has also been noticed by others.”
Tallinn’s oldest tree
Environment Department made special note of the old linden near St. Nicholas’ Church, which was planted around 1680. Today, it is called the Kelch Linden after the former pastor of St. Nicholas’ Church. This is Tallinn’s oldest tree, which may also be considered to be the most worthy representative of our arboreal history.
“We can see the entire history of our tree maintenance through this tree,” said City Landscape Architect Kristiina Kupper. “This tree has been filled and at the end of last year, a new type of maintenance pruning was carried out, which is used for especially valuable and old trees, so as not to make straight cuts, as one man did to get a view of the sea from the window of his home in Kakumägi.”
In mid-June, the general meeting of the European Arboricultural Council will take place in Tallinn. By that time, a beautiful forged fence should surround the Kelch Linden, which would provide the old and worthy tree with a protected area that is 14 metres in diameter.
The cushion helps growth
Tallinn is the ninth city to named European City of the Trees. “I believe we received the title because the city has enacted regulations that protect trees and require new trees to be planted to replace those that have been cut down,” Kupper said, commenting on the event.
“For instance, if it not possible to preserve the trees on a building site, then if so-called “third and fourth class” trees are cut down, new trees must be planted in the vicinity. If the trees will not fit on the plot, they must be planted on public space. In Tallinn’s case, it is also important that trees are planted in public spaces and they are given the opportunity to grow into large trees with the help of a special planting cushion. We know that a tree will not grow very well if planted in asphalt; therefore, a favourable growing surface is created around the roots of the tree. Another important thing is that, before any detailed planning or project plans are drawn up, there is an obligation to compile an inventory of the trees and ascertain the value class of the trees. If the tree is in the first value class, it must be preserved in the course of the detailing planning. Trees cannot simply be cut down.”
The value class of the trees is determined before the detailed planning or project plans are drawn up in order to preserve as many valuable trees as possible, for example, when choosing the locations of buildings or roadbeds.
First-rate maintenance personnel
Tallinn’s tree maintenance personnel take into account that the roots and crown of the tree must be in balance. “If we make a mistake, and cut off too many branches on one side, the crown becomes imbalanced,” Kupper explained. “The tree’s first 20 years are very important for its maintenance. Usually people think that they will plant a tree and when it grows up, they will care for it. This is wrong, because the maintenance cutting that is not done at the right time can often not be corrected without damaging the tree’s state of health,” Kupper explained.
For instance, a double treetop may develop, which later spreads out and then it is too late to correct it. Therefore, great attention must be paid to the development of the tree crown during the first 20 years. “Trees must be constantly maintained, cut and trimmed,” Kupper emphasised and stated that things are constantly improving in this regard.
“Tallinn is an old city”, said the landscape architect. “We have many old and worthy trees. Fifty-two trees in the city are under protection. We value them and now we are compiling an inventory of our trees. This all provides good reason to give Tallinn the title of tree capital. During this year, when we will be carrying this title, we will try to draw even more attention to everything connected to trees.”
Tell your own tree story
Of the activities during the year of being the tree capital, Kristiina Kupper thinks that mention should be made of the campaign to collect interesting stories about trees. “Speaking among ourselves, we all arrived at a similar thought – like the city of Turku during their year as tree capital, we thought we would ask people to send us stories about their beloved trees. At first, we wanted to publish the comments about old trees made by Heldur Sander, a good old tree specialist. He has surveyed all of Tallinn’s noteworthy old trees several times”, said Kupper.
“However, many of us also have our own favourite tree, which, for instance, children have planted trees on Child Protection Day and even written poems to honour trees,” Kupper explained. She believes that all these stories are worth recording. “We think that people should be able to post information about the trees that are important to them on the European City of the Trees website. We call upon everyone to share pictures and stories with others about their beloved trees!”