December 20, 2016

Colour Canada green

Landscape industry can embrace a lesson from Istanbul

By Donald Ziraldo


Editor's note: Donald Ziraldo's career bridges landscape and wine; he left a successful nursery business to his brother Robert and stepped down as vice president of Landscape Ontario to found Inniskillin Wines, keystone of the Niagara region's wine industry. In 2006, Ziraldo directed his energy toward serving as chair of the budding Vineland Research and Innovations Centre, today a world leader in horticultural research and business development. 
 
I have just returned from Istanbul; now that is how to green a city. Wow. Even with all the problems Istanbul faces, there is greenery everywhere, even on the highway barriers. Once, my taxi was redirected through an industrial park, and the place looked like a nursery. You couldn't see the buildings for the trees!

While I hate to badmouth Canada, our highway plantings look wimpy by contrast.

Don' t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the significant strides we have made. Vineland Research and Innovations Centre's Green the Canadian Landscape program nurtured many of those improvements.

Vineland has been working to promote tree survival in highway and urban plantings since 2008. This important research has already helped boost survival rates for trees planted in challenging environments.

The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is a great example. The idea is to plant 117,000 trees along Ontario's Highway 401 over the next five years, commemorating Canada's fallen heroes. Survival expectation for these trees is greatly enhanced, because they were planted according to specs developed from Vineland research.

Vineland is also working with cities and the landscape sector to develop practices that improve landscape sector profits by reducing replacement costs for trees. In fact, Vineland is launching a website for industry use this spring, www.vinelandresearch.com/greeningcanadianlandscape,  that provides specific science-based recommendations for tree planting, and generates tree species recommendations.
 
The green industry should be leading discussions to highlight the benefits of  greening the planet. It seems to me there are many, such as carbon sequestration for starters. Additionally there are all the health benefits of trees and gardens, as well as the subtle emotional benefits — it is easy to see how Japanese gardens promote serenity, for example.
 
The opportunities are endless: highway buffers, urban gardening, the downtown Toronto park over the rail lands ... But I do not see much profile from the green industry in media dialogues on the topic.
 
I am passionate about  horticulture, and I also care about business success for the landscape industry. I believe contractors, nursery growers and others will succeed best if they embrace a greener world for everybody. As a business advocate, I urge landscape entrepreneurs to focus, to listen to customers and to give them what they ask for — and to be sure your products represent quality, quality and quality. Let's green our landscape, as we grow our prosperity.


Innovative highway landscaping I snapped from a speeding car in Istanbul, makes Toronto look like a desert. Ha ha!