The street trees on Mt Wilson are a wonderful feature contributing to the unique character of the mountain. The first trees planted are those on The Avenue, with elms on one side and originally Spanish or sweet chestnuts on the southern side. These chestnuts later died and were replaced with alternate beech and lindens (or limes if you prefer). These were followed by plantings of horse chestnuts, beech and plane trees. The Avenue was planted by the earliest settlers who were probably inspired by the wonderful avenues of trees in England but no doubt they were also aware that planting such trees is a very long term project. Today we see the benefit of their foresight and generosity. The cherry trees in Queens Avenue were probably the next to be planted, but there is no evidence as to when this happened.
Since the beginning of the Progress Association, in the early years of the 20th century, it has been responsible for the street trees; the selection, the planting and the maintenance. The Progress Association acts on behalf of the Blue Mountains City Council; and it is much better to have local knowledge, experience and skills preserving our unique trees. The ideal street tree is one that is a large tree at maturity with maximum vertical growth and preferably one that is deciduous to give cool shade in summer and let in the winter sunlight. Those original Avenue trees are good examples. The flowering cherries, while spectacular in spring, have growth that is rather too spreading. It is also useful if the trees can be ‘trunked up’, that is, tolerating their lower branches being trimmed off which not only encourages the vertical growth but also allows for vehicular and pedestrian access. In practise this means trunk only to a height of three to four metres.
Beeches and lindens are the perfect street tree: their growth is vertical and they are lovely in both their summer and autumn foliage. Trees such as the oak, while a very handsome tree, are really too big to be a street tree as the mature growth is horizontal as well as vertical; and the tulip tree does tend to be brittle in windy places. Allowing light through to the ground is increasingly important when there are so many beautiful gardens which also have their share of (potentially) large trees so preference is given to deciduous trees. (Bushes and shrubs are not appropriate street plantings.) The green beeches in Galwey Lane, planted about 30 years ago, are now more than saplings or youthful trees and they will become more beautiful and further enhance the street-scape. You may wonder why the beeches, which continue this avenue in Davies Lane, have been planted inside the fence of Wynstay. This was done because if the land adjoining a half-chain road is formally subdivided then the road should allow for an increase in width to one chain. It is doubtful if our laneways would ever now be widened but this is the reason for the placement of these trees. These smaller beeches were planted in 1999 in memory of Bill Smart.
It is very important that street trees are carefully chosen for every location. Not all the mountain roads are bordered by the basalt soil, so the trees next to the Cathedral Reserve are Liquidambars which do well in the poorer soil, growing slowly and colouring very well in autumn, similarly the smaller maples alongside the school and its cottage. It is hoped that the recent planting of Nyssas next to the Marcus Clark Reserve will cope with the exceptionally wet conditions there. Recent avenues include the mixed copper and green beeches in Hillcrest Lane. The older copper beeches outside Wynstay and Campanella provide a beautiful colour contrast with the golden elms on the other side of the road. These golden elms reinforce the importance of appropriate planting as some of you will have noticed that those ones under the power lines have been harshly pruned, destroying the lovely natural vase shape of the mature elm tree.
The Progress Association has responsibility for all the street trees, that is, those that are outside a property fence, as these are considered part of the road. There is a responsibility to both pedestrians and to vehicular traffic. We want people to be able to walk under the street trees, to enjoy their beauty and to be safely off the road. It is also important that not only cars but also larger and commercial vehicles, especially the fire trucks and those of Integral energy, can use the roads without being damaged by the street trees. For example at Ferny Corner trucks now have to use the centre of the road, and it is a real problem if vehicles are going in both directions. The new fire truck has rear-vision mirrors which cost $1000 each! Similarly, the tree ferns on the side of sections of the road between Mt. Wilson and Mt. Irvine will need to be sympathetically removed, and re-planted elsewhere if possible.
Unfortunately there are few places left that are appropriate for street trees, but all the street trees, both younger and those nearing senescence will remain the loving responsibility of us all through the Progress Association.