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Soil and trees handpicked for Disney resort
2013-11-20
By Wing Tan

The soil of all green areas in the future Shanghai Disney Resort will consist of nutrient-rich soil tailor-made for a wide variety of trees and plants, including thousands of trees collected from across China to adorn the resort, due to open its gates to the public at the end of 2015.

After entering the resort, visitors will be welcomed by hundreds of magnolias — Shanghai’s city flower — at the main entrance, and hundreds of ginkgo trees will line the boulevards in front of the two Disney-themed hotels.

In total, over 10,000 trees will grace the resort area, which covers 3.9 square kilometers, said Zhou Kun, a senior engineer with the Shanghai Shendi Garden Investment & Construction Co.

All roads and waterways, including the resort’s central lake, will be flanked by trees, ensuring a beautiful green environment while also providing guests with shade and shelter from sun and rain. Apart from the resort’s many themed attractions and entertainment facilities, the Shanghai Disney Resort team is making trees and plants key components of the resort.

“Each tree is part of the storytelling and experience in the Shanghai Disney Resort,” said Joe Parinella, director of landscape architecture for Shanghai Disney Resort. He said they would first design a story for each theme park area and then select trees to match the stories.

The Disney group has laid out strict criteria for the trees: They must be a uniform 23-25 centimeters wide; the trunk should be straight with no more than a 5 percent incline; there must be a crown of four beautifully shaped branches and, of course, the trees must be free of disease and pests.

A team of Chinese and Disney experts scour the suburbs of Shanghai and the far reaches south of the Yangtze River Delta looking for appropriate trees for the Shanghai Disney Resort construction site within the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone. “At least 80 percent of the trees were selected individually, one by one,” Zhou said. Others were provided by outside nurseries.

Zhou supervises five teams, with six tree-hunters each from China and the United States. The teams have spent over two years collecting trees, and normally, they select only 15 qualified trees for every 100 they inspect.

Starting in 2011, trees earmarked for the Disney Resort were first planted in three temporary gardens nearby the build site, in Pudong New Area’s Chuansha Township.

In one of the gardens, about 4,000 tall trees — all of similar and with similar crowns — are planted in large, round tubs with thin plastic tubes plugged into the soil to carry nutrients to the roots.

Overhead sprinklers water the trees automatically. The area is controlled by computer and monitored by surveillance cameras.

The manufacturing of high-quality planting soil is another key element in creating a unique natural and safe environment, said Lu Chunhui, an engineer with Shendi Garden.

An estimated 1 million cubic meters of the special soil will replace existing soil and will be used throughout green areas to a depth of one and a half meters.

The perfect patented soil was formulated in a joint effort by Shendi and Disney experts who conducted more than 2,000 experiments, using various soils and growing materials from around China.

First soil production line

The team invented the country’s first planting soil production line, combining sand, local soil, organic fertilizer from Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, and peat from the northeastern province of Jilin — all in exact proportions controlled by computer.

The plant can produce around 30,000 cubic meters a month and, in good weather, output can reach 50,000 cubic meters, said Lu.

The soil production plant covers around 6,400 square meters. Experts monitor the production line and continually stir the materials as they are processed through mixing machines to ensure high quality output.

More than 1,200 tons of raw sand areis arriving every day. As many as 800 tons of peat arrive daily from northeast China. Mixed with local soil and other materials, they are used to create 150 cubic meters an hour of patented-formula soil especially for Shanghai Disney Resort.

Twice a month, production samples are tested at the Garden Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences to ensure all standards are met or exceeded.

“The tailor-made soil offers the best growing environment for the roots of plants,” Lu told Shanghai Daily.

The new, life-giving soil will support 20,000 young trees and millions of shrubs in the 3.9-square-kilometer resort site.

The planting soil, a key component of the resort’s overall horticulture program, will meet or exceed a wide range of key domestic and international soil quality requirements including density, PH level, and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

In traditional Chinese gardening, soil content is often among the last factors considered, and there are only six basic detection indicators. It is common practice to regularly change some of the soil around trees and plants, replacing it with fresh, nutrient-rich soil.

But for the resort project, the Disney Imagineering team insisted that all soil on site be replaced and that the key soil indicators be increased from 6 to 31.

“Because the Chuansha area is near the sea, the soil is more viscous, or sticky, the water permeability is too weak, and the PH level is too high — not a naturally healthy environment for plants to grow,” Lu said.

So all the soil had to be replaced.

Another production line at the plant will be put into operation in 2014, when 1 million cubic meters of soil will be needed for the gardens in the resort, Zhou said.

Strict criteria for Disney trees:

* They must be a uniform 23-25 centimeters wide.

* The trunk should be straight with no more than a 5 percent incline.

* There must be a crown of four beautifully shaped branches.

* The trees must be free of disease and pests.

Magnolia

Q: How many trees will the Shanghai Disney Resort have when it opens in 2015?

A: Over 10,000 trees will adorn the resort, which covers 3.9 square kilometers, in its first phase, targteted to open at the end of 2015.

Q: Which trees will be planted at the entrance of the resort?

A: After entering the resort, visitors will be welcomed by hundreds of Magnolia, which is Shanghai’s city flower, at the main entrance. Hundreds of ginkgoes will line the boulevards in front of the two Disney-themed hotels.

Soils

Q: How much soil will replace the existing soil across the resort?

A: An estimated 1 million cubic meters of the special soil will replace existing soil and will be used throughout green areas to a depth of one and a half meters.

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