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By Tim Clancy, for Let’s Talk Plants! March 2024.

Oaks and Art

There is an adage that goes something like “the best to time plant a tree is twenty years ago, and the second-best time is now.” The origin of that piece of wisdom is disputed. Regardless of who first said it is sound advice.

“Blessed is he who plants trees under whose shade he will not sit is another" is another oft quoted dictum encouraging tree planting even at the later stages of life.

In the early 1990s a tree planting project took place in the city of Encinitas along the 101 in the community of Leucadia. We planted 101 trees in one day with the help of volunteers. Several of us were foremen whose job was to make sure the trees were properly planted for the greatest chance of success.

As of 2024, thirty-three of the original 101 trees are still standing doing all the things amenity trees are good at. There are many benefits associated with trees and these trees have provided those benefits over the years. I will say I have never seen pollution soot collection as one of the benefits. These trees get covered in soot on a regular basis. So much so, I wonder about the effect on photosynthesis.

Subsequent to the 101 for 101 tree planting project, the city has planted more trees to fill in the gaps where trees died. These newly planted trees seemed to have thrived in coastal California.

Highway 101, Encinitas, CA oak slated for removal.

Alas, with the much-needed modernization of the 101 in Leucadia, some of the original “101 for 101” trees are slated for removal along with some of the recently planted trees. While I am not pleased about the prospect of removing trees planted 30+ years ago, I do understand that back then the concept of a newly configured 101 was not on our radar. What I do not understand is how the approval to plant trees was granted only to remove them in the next few years. I am referring to trees planted in the last five years. This seems like a classic bureaucratic scenario where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

Sadly, these newer trees on Highway 101 were planted with proper approvals granted only now to be removed a few years later.

This brings to mind another case where the city was very proud to have planted some forty or fifty trees along one of the more rural streets. Imagine the disappointment when the fire chief told the Urban Forest Advisory Committee that the trees were in the brush-free area and would need to be removed. Yup, it really happened.

All of this to say “right tree right place” refers to many differing situations some of which we may be aware of and some of which we may not.

On Kelton Road, in San Diego, some 30 years ago, a project planted twelve coast live oaks for neighborhood beautification that is still going strong.

Around the same time as the “101 for 101” project took place, another tree planting was organized for a vacant plot of land on Kelton Road owned by the city of San Diego. This project planted twelve coast live oaks as a beautification project for the neighborhood.

Beside the trees some works of art were also installed. They are thick pieces of iron around 2’ by 3’ and they have designs on them created by the children of nearby Emerald Hills Elementary.

Art created by the children of nearby Emerald Hills Elementary.

The day I went I had a chance to meet a local citizen who was sitting on one of the benches enjoying the ocean view in the company of some magnificent oak trees. He told us he often walks over from his place just to sit and relax amongst the trees. One of the things that makes them magnificent is the fact that almost no pruning has been done on them. They are full and thriving in their hilltop location and there are no plans to remove them anytime soon if ever.


Tim Clancy & Associates LLC

P.O. Box 1180 – Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA  92007

International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist No. WE-0806A

International Society of Arboriculture - Tree Risk Assessment Qualified


If you enjoyed reading this article, consider joining (or renewing your membership with) the San Diego Horticultural Society.



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