Burlington Community Tree Nursery

Branch Out Burlington! (BOB!) was formed in 1996 with a mission to 'promote a vision of city grace by a variety of beautiful and healthy trees, and a citizenry actively involved with the preservation of their urban forest'. BOB! is a volunteer group with various outreach programs including education forums, an Awesome Tree Contest, tree walks, a Tree Keeper program, and the Burlington Community Tree Nursery. Branch Out Burlington! encourages citizens to take care of and appreciate Burlington's urban forest with year round, hands-on programs.

The Burlington Community Tree Nursery was founded in 1998 at the University of Vermont Horticultural Research Center to provide low cost trees to plant along Burlington's streets and greenspaces. BOB! buys around 100 bare-root saplings every year costing about $25 per tree. Volunteers plant them in the Burlington Community Tree Nursery, and provide ongoing care for them throughout the year. When the saplings grow to a suitable size (usually 2-3 years), they are transplanted to the green belt (green space along the sidewalks) and in parks throughout the city by personnel from the Department of Parks, Recreation & Waterfront, who water them and provide on-going care. BOB! also maintains a seedling nursery where young stock is started from locally-sourced seed or cuttings that contribute to the diversity of the nursery stock.

This unique partnership between BOB! and the Burlington Department of Parks, Recreation & Waterfront helps the city enrich, replenish and expand its urban forest at minimal cost. It costs about $100 to grow a sapling in the nursery until it is ready to live the rest of its life along the street. At this point of development, a tree of equal size may cost two to three times as much from a commercial nursery. The volunteer effort that is put into growing these trees saves the city over $20,000 annually, and encourages involvement from the public in growing their urban forest. In addition, a greater variety of trees are available as bare root saplings than can be purchased locally. This allows the city arborist to increase diversity in the city's urban forest, and ensure they are adjusted to our climate. The City Arborist and BOB! nursery manager work closely together to select suitable trees that meet Burlington's needs.

Early in May, BOB! hosts a gala event with music, dancing and lots of fun, to plant the new trees in the nursery, attracting over 75 volunteers. While in the nursery, BOB! and other volunteers regularly tend the trees, including irrigating, fertilizing and weeding them. Students from several local universities, middle and high schools often help in the nursery too. The Burlington Parks Department then transplants those trees into various public locations.

Project Contact: Margaret Skinner
Project Contact Email: mskinner@uvm.edu
Year Project Started: 1998
Project Lifespan: 1998-present
Regional Planning Commision: None
Agricultural Land, Forest Land, Funding, Land Management, Outreach, partnerships
Other Keywords: Community
Project Accomplishments:

This project is continuing to successfully raise community awareness towards their urban forest. Every year BOB! involves over 100 volunteers to plant and raise these saplings. This enhances the ongoing care for the trees along Burlington's streets which extends their life expectancy.

Project Partners:

Burlington City arborist
Carlton Plants
High Caliper Growing Systems
City of Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront
University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory
University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
University of Vermont Horticultural Research Center
VT Urban and Community Forestry Program
Volunteers from around the area
Generous gifts from citizens of Burlington and Beyond

Critical to Success:

Sustaining a volunteer group is extremely critical to this project. This project involved different groups of volunteers, from the local universities to various community members. Without the continuous support from the community, Burlington would not be able to plant inexpensive trees throughout the public areas.


This biggest challenge the Community Tree Nursery face is the harsh Burlington weather conditions. These trees are small and young and some do not make it through the years with the Burlington weather conditions. The saplings must grow to a certain size before they can be transplanted to the street due to these harsh weather conditions. The trees that have grown at the Community Tree Nursery are better adjusted to the climate and are more likely to survive when moved to the streets but there is still that risk.

Project Picture: Volunteers planting trees at the in the Burlington Community Tree Nursery