The Trouble With the Trees at Klyde Warren Park

Howard Garrett says it's not good to plant a tree so low that it's emerging form the ground as straight as a telephone pole.  Photo by Howard Garrett.
Howard Garrett says it’s not good to plant a tree so low that it’s emerging form the ground as straight as a telephone pole. Photo by Howard Garrett.

So far, at least, Klyde Warren Park has got to be considered a big success. The lunch lines at the food trucks there nearly any day of the week and the huge crowds of families that descend upon the place when the sun is shining on weekends attest to that fact.

But every time I’m there, I can’t help but think of how little shade there is and how miserable a place it seems like it will be when the full-on summer heat arrives. They need the trees they’ve planted to grow as quickly as possible, to provide much more relief from the sun’s onslaught. That should just be a matter of time, right?

Arborist Howard Garrett, who calls himself The Dirt Doctor and has his own organic gardening radio show that airs on 660 AM, says the oak trees in the park are already in trouble. According to him, they are pin oaks (or possibly a type of scarlet oak), a species that does not grow well in our climate. These trees are already “chlorotic” (suffering from a nutrient deficiency) because they were planted too deep in the soil.

“When trees are coming out of the ground as straight as telephone poles, they’re too deep,” he says. Instead the flare from the roots at the bottom of the trees should be visible. Lastly, he’s also concerned that the species is way too big to grow in Klyde Warren’s artificial environment.

“Any kind of big tree that you plant in that kind of situation are doomed to failure,” he says. He insists that all the oaks will need to be replaced with more appropriate options.

But Joanna Singleton, a spokeswoman for the park, says there’s no imminent threat to the trees, and that some of Garrett’s assertions are incorrect. Except for one.

First off, the oak trees planted at Klyde Warren are not pin oaks. They are Panache red oaks, an “improved type” of shumard red oak, a variety native to Texas. She says the park’s trees have even been genetically tested to determine that no invasive strain of pin oak has wormed its way in. The container in which they are growing has been designed to carefully limit their growth to a manageable size.

Where Garrett is correct, she admits, is in noting that some of the trees were planted too far down into the ground, but the park’s contractors are already taking steps to correct the problem.

“Right now all the trees that were planted are expected to do well, with remediation,” she says.

So there you have it. I’d really like to have ended this post with some well-placed pun, but I gave up after I found myself considering “I report. You decid-uous.”


  • Pegaso

    This is by far the nerdiest thing I’ve read all day. Thanks for the laugh.

  • Kk.

    I’ve been saying all along that the lack of shade, was going to clear the park come summer. Of all the reasons that the faux ice rink idea is stupid, #1 is they should use that money and space to create some man made shade of some kind. How long will it take for ANY kind of tree to be big enough to create shade? I don’t know anyone that wants to sit in Dallas at high noon under the blazing sun to eat lunch. Even in a bikini, without water to take a dip in you wouldn’t last long, much less wearing downtown work attire. Then there’s the reflection from a certain swanky condo building near by…… We haven’t seen what that’s going to be like in the summer in the park. They may be replacing those trees with cacti once the summer reflecting really gets going.

    • Bobtex

      So, by this logic, we should close White Rock Lake Park and the Dallas Arboretum and all of our neighborhood parks because Texas gets too darn hot in the summertime?

  • Jackson

    The tree shown in the accompanying photo is a textbook example of what is known as a buried tree, with absolutely no visible “root flair.” This is a terrible way to plant a tree, and I’m surprised a reputable contractor would plant these trees that way in the first place. It also begs the question of whether the landscape architect of Klyde’s was even on-site the day the trees went in, because he/she would surely have stopped such shabby work.

  • Neal K

    So, Howard Garrett, you want more flare? How much flare is enough for you?

  • Help

    The park and all the improvements in the Arts District are fabu for sure. But the tree planting was unbelievably bad for any contractor, much less a reputable one. How will it get fixed and when? And something has to be done for shade. No tree grows that fast. Keep pushing D.

  • Hidden Horticulturist

    The Red Oak trees planted at Klyde Warren Park are not Pin Oaks as surmised by Howard Garrett. If these were in fact Pin Oaks they would exhibit a pyramidal shaped tree head instead of their rounded tree head. These Oaks are experiencing their off color due to being planted in a soil media of almost entirely expanded shale that holds minimal nutrients. These young trees are just nutritionally starved. The big question years ahead will be if these trees develop a secure root sytem in the shallow soils to support the tree canopies and avoid blowing over.

  • Stephen Whitley

    what about the roots? just exactly how deep is the soil in this park anyway? yes, I need a hobby

  • Edward

    It’s a bit of a stretch to compare White Rock Lake Park or the Arboretum to this park. For one thing, both of those parks have TONS of shade, with very large trees everywhere.
    In fact–if I’m not mistaken–the Arboretum is actually some kind of park that focuses on trees and plants!