Have you visited the newly renovated 17th Street Market? Located in the heart of Shockoe Bottom, the market has been a center of our community for over 275 years. As part of the refresh, 22 overcup, willow and Nuttall oaks were planted. As they grow, they will provide a shade canopy for the plaza’s busy public events.
Walking along the market, you may not know that there’s incredible green infrastructure at work just below the surface. The City of Richmond invested in progressive Silva Cell technology to allow the new oaks to flourish.
When trees are planted in typical 4×4 sidewalk wells they have a vastly restricted lifespan, and live on average just 7-13 years. Due to the weight of vehicles and pedestrians, urban soils compact over time making it difficult for tree roots to access adequate moisture and oxygen. Consequently, in these cases, a tree’s ability to thrive is limited.
Silva Cells (pictured right), are an open frame pavement suspension system that prevent over-compaction in the root zone. As a result, the new oaks sharing these soil beds will have the chance to reach their natural lifespan, possibly 100 years!
Landscape architect (and Capital Trees board member) Stacey Farinholt worked with Baskervill and the City to select the proper species for this flood prone Shockoe site, the lowest elevation in the city. The chosen oaks have three primary advantages. Firstly, bottomland oaks are native to floodplains and can handle occasional inundation. Secondly, grown in accordance with strict best practices, these oaks are clones, allowing for a predictable and uniform growth pattern. Finally, annual root pruning kept their rootballs tight and compact to help them transplant successfully and avoid shock.
Next time you stop by, we hope that you will appreciate the thought and care that went into bringing these special trees to Shockoe. Generations to come will enjoy their shade in this new phase of the 17th Street Market.
And the Silva Cell technology? It’s also at work beneath the sidewalk at Capital Trees’ inaugural project – the 14th Street Initiative.