In the late 1700s, a wealthy landowner and botanist imported a ginkgo biloba from China to plant at his palatial West Philly estate. They grew in popularity across the city and hundreds of years later the Philadelphia streets are lined with white flowering trees every spring. There’s only one problem – the people who did the landscaping didn’t realize they were planting female trees. And a flowering female Ginkgo tree projects a strong odor that is often described as bleach, vomit, or worse.
When we moved into our home 10 years ago it was a flowering female ginkgo that leaned over onto our deck, making springtime lounging an odorous affair. So I wasn’t too disappointed when a strong blizzard knocked the tree over in 2010.
Fortunately Philadelphia has wonderful programs that offer free trees and planting assistance to urban dwellers. Tree Philly offers free yard and street trees year-round for city residents. We received our baby tree from a neighborhood program that even planted it for us. But keeping that thing alive and well was going to be tricky.
Bad parallel parking jobs knocked it to and fro. Occasional drunk people would rip out the stakes and try to topple it over. The tree leaned strongly to the left in its early years until it grew strong enough roots to stand up straight.
I spoke with a local expert at The Davey Tree Expert Company who offered advice for tending an urban tree.
Five years later we have a thriving, healthy, leafy maple tree in front of our home.