Up by Roots – A must read for any ‘Urban Planner’ or landscape architect

Ok, this book is definitely not for everyone and you may be wondering what this post is doing here. But with my passion for architecture and garden design, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pass this along anyway…. Of course, I’m a big fan of incorporating lots of greenery into public spaces. But when I look around at how we are treated with trees in a city I sometimes want to cry out loud STOP.

Chinese traditions

Sometimes I look at trees in the cityscape and I am reminded of that time-honored Chinese tradition where they started binding and deforming the feet of little children as a status symbol. You don’t have to be a doctor to know that these were not healthy practices and by now we know better.
So I assume that a lot of well-intentioned “wrong” planting is mostly due to lack of knowledge in that area. But there is hope. In my opinion, this book should be in every garden designer or landscape architect’s closet But it could also benefit a green department at a city or town. I came across it after taking all the master classes of Dr. Gilman the tree rockstar. So let it inspire you.


Up by Roots by James Urban.

Of course here in Belgium we also have our tree gurus and I like to be inspired by Wim Peeters, Martin Hermy or Bart Backaert, … and I would like to give many people an Award for their years of contribution in the field of landscape design but I found this reference book very special.

Healthy soil and other essential requirements are crucial to the success of trees, but are often missing from the design concepts of contemporary urban landscapes. Up By Roots, written by James Urban, FASLA and published by the International Society for Arboriculture in 2008, is a manual for landscape architects, architects, urban foresters and planners who design, specify, install and manage trees in the built environment.

Part One discusses fundamental soil science and tree biology and their relationship to healthy trees. Part two explains the process of planning and implementing landscape designs to ensure healthy trees that can improve the quality of places where people live, work and play.

Who is James Urban?

James Urban, FASLA is known for its skills in urban arboriculture and soils, including the conservation and installation of trees in the urban environment and the specification and installation of specialized planting soils for rooftop gardens, urban landscape planting and stormwater managed.

His favorite subjects are soil and urban tree planting and he was responsible for introducing many innovations and current standards related to urban tree planting and soil specifications in America. His most recent book, Up by Roots, was published by the International Society of Arboriculture.
The awards he received would lead us too far but he is a much-loved guest lecturer on urban soils and tree planting at Harvard University and numerous other universities in the United States and a frequent guest at conferences in the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil, Australia and Southeast Asia.

He played an important role in the development of structural cells (Silva cells), structural plant soils, micro-root pathways and macro-soil trenching techniques. He is credited with reintroducing the skills needed to successfully plant trees in difficult urban soils to landscape architecture courses.

Please note James Urban does not work in our climate zone but let it inspire you anyway.

James is also the creator of Silva Cells. A modular system to give underground roots a chance to do their thing.

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