Growing the Roncesvalles tree canopy

After two years of construction, new trees were planted on both sides of Roncesvalles. The trees on our main street were part of a new approach to planting boulevard trees in the city of Toronto. Every new tree on Roncesvalles was planted in conditions where it will thrive and flourish for generations to come. Together with the existing trees, a hundred new trees will form a beautiful shade canopy.

Tree Campaign and Plantings

local volunteers plant a young Red Oak on a property along Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto

Community tree planting volunteers dig in

On the west side, where most of the properties are privately owned by individuals or institutions, the City contributed free trees wherever conditions were suitable and an owner was willing to accept one. Our volunteers visited all property owners on the west side to see if they would take a city tree on their property, explain the program and help them choose a variety on our recommended list. The planting of 18 new trees began on west side properties on May 14, 2011.

On the east side, trees were planted in the specially prepared soil trenches at the end of May.

Planting Conditions

Typically, most trees planted along a main street only survive around 10 years because the roots do not have enough space to spread. Each new tree on Roncesvalles was planted in soil trenches – long pits of at least 15 cubic metres of good soil below the sidewalk. Happier tree roots spreading out under suspended sidewalk sections to prevent compaction will help trees live for generations.  In areas where there wasn’t enough room for trees because of underground infrastructure, such as gas lines and sewer mains, soil beds were planted with shrubbery and perennials.

Tree Watering

The Roncesvalles Village BIA is maintaining trees on the east side, where the new beds are equipped with watering stations.  On the west side, new boulevard trees are being watered by hand by property owners and community volunteers.

Tree Varieties

The canopy includes a wide range of mostly native trees selected for their suitability to main street conditions and the sandy soil conditions of Roncesvalles Village:  Red Oak, Bur Oak, Tuliptree, Accolade Elm, Purple Robe Black Locust, London Plane Tree, Ohio Buckeye, Autumn Blaze Freeman Maple, Ruby Red Horsechestnut and Japanese Zelkova.

Existing Trees

While most of the trees in concrete planter boxes were struggling to survive, a few could be saved with the help of the City’s Urban Forestry Arborists. Some trees had to be cut down because the road construction would have so damaged their complex mat of feeder roots that seemingly healthy trees would have suffered a slow decline. Mature trees do not easily survive serious root damage. The decision to remove healthy trees was not taken lightly. Every individual tree’s potential for survival was carefully considered.

Historical Tree

The old silver maple tree in front of St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church north of Fermanagh Ave. ,  estimated to be 80 to 100 years old, is believed to be the largest tree along a “main street” sidewalk in the city of Toronto. Special care was taken during the street reconstruction to protect its massive root system. Eco-Flex rubber sidewalk tiles were used instead of conventional pavers to protect the roots from pedestrian travel, to allow roots to grow without being impeded by concrete and for better circulation of air and water.


One of our most important goals was to ensure proper planting conditions for trees along Roncesvalles and to expand our tree canopy. We anticipate that the Roncesvalles canopy will be a model for other main streets and is an important contribution to the City’s overall goal to double the urban tree canopy in the City of Toronto.

Tree Grates and Guards

The tree grates and guards were to be installed in the fall once the soil beds around the trees had settled. The big problem around the tree planting schedule was that the bicycle posts were not installed before the trees were planted. Some cyclists who wanted to park their bikes near the shops locked them to the tender new trees. We devised a faux parking tag which we taped to the infracting bicycle locks. These green tags asked cyclists to park their bicycles on the other side of the street until the bike posts were arrived.

This problem cleared up as soon as the bicycle posts were installed. The message not to lock to trees was successfully conveyed.  Just as well, because we’re still waiting for the tree guards to arrive.

Meanwhile, we’ve posted the signs on the trees that name their variety and gently remind people not to lock anything to the trees.

1 thought on “Growing the Roncesvalles tree canopy

  1. Pingback: A perfect day on Roncesvalles « Roncesvalles Renewed

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