Tallinn will have to order its shade trees from abroad

A leafy Tallinn street (Tehnika, in this case).
A leafy Tallinn street (Tehnika, in this case). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tallinn wants to introduce more greenery and places where people can find shade from the sun in the capital. The city government wants to plant hundreds of large trees for the purpose, while the latter are not available in Estonia in such quantities.

This summer, the city introduced a plan to plant 300 trees with a trunk diameter of 20-25 centimeters in the capital. The average urban tree has a trunk diameter of 6 centimeters at the time of planting, which makes the city's plan unusual to say the least, said Madis Jürima, owner of the Karukäpa tree nursery.

Tallinn's landscape architect Kristiina Kupper said that the Estonian capital is the only city to dictate the diameter of trees to be planted as vandals have broken smaller trees in the past. There are other reasons to prefer large trees.

"Hot summers bring periods of drought, which can create problems. There is a direct link between public health and heat islands, and it is something we will need to address. It is also a good initiative as part of the Green Capital Year. We have been made a promise of political support for larger trees," Kupper said.

Smaller trees the local community has planted on Kopli tänav should be replaced with larger ones, capable of providing shade. But Madis Jürima said that there are no trees of this size available in Estonia.

"They will not be found in Estonia in the mentioned quantity of around 300 trees. The same goes for our immediate neighbors I'm afraid. I believe that the nearest countries capable of filling such an order are Poland and Germany, the Netherlands – Central Europe," the nursery owner said.

The city government is aware of the issue, and Kupper said that many trees will be imported. From Poland for example.

"We first try to find the goods we need in Estonia. But if there is a shortage, we need to look beyond. The nurseries there have greater volumes and replant trees so they come with a substantial earth ball to make sure the tree takes once it has been planted," Kupper explained.

Jürima said that it is impossible to grow so many trees in advance in Estonia, mainly because cities do not know their plans long enough in advance.

"We cannot grow a whole lot of everything just in case. Orders might not come, and the trees might end up as firewood. It would be great if we knew longer in advance – I'm not talking about 20 years when even five would be a great help."

But importing large trees from Europe is anything but cheap. Kupper said that the budget has €1.4 million for trees this year. But Madis Jürima is not convinced the project is worth the money.

"I believe it was Heiki Hanso who said that we could buy ten smaller trees in Estonia for the cost of a single large one from abroad, and we're not talking about small saplings, but rather trees with a trunk diameter of 6 centimeters here. Ten for the price of one," Jürima said.

The city's landscape architect said that people's well-being matters. "Since we are talking about shade trees that can help pedestrians keep cool when walking, it is worth the investment," Kupper said.

The trees will be planted in several boroughs, including the city center (Kesklinn) where the search is still on for suitable locations, Kupper said. Trees from several different species will be planted.

"Right now, we are talking about spruces, willows, whitebeams. Ordinary trees. There will also be apple trees next to the zoo bus stop."

Kupper said that while the city aims to plant large trees, it will plant smaller ones where and if necessary. Major planting work will be carried out between late September and early October.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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