Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Greening of Watkinsville

About four years ago I started collecting trees. Having grown up working in the yard, I never expected to enjoy landscaping. However, as I have grown older and spent more hours indoors in an office, I have come to appreciate the relaxation of digging in the dirt, and to better understand the majesty and legacy of trees, with all of their attendant community benefits.

In recent years, I have planted lots of types on our property here in Watkinsville to compliment large existing Willow Oaks, Water Oaks, Pecans, and pines. I have planted the common and native trees -- Red maples, all types of oaks, tulip poplar, magnolias (southern and Japanese), Redbud, Japanese maples, cherries, crabapples, willows, and dogwoods -- and embarked on searches for the more exotic. These include trees named katsura, blue atlas cedar, Ginkgo, cedar of Lebanon, pseudolarix, lacebark pine, longleaf pine, Ironwood, cryptomeria, parrotia, dove tree, big leaf magnolia, buckeye, pistache, yellowwood, willow, cypress, dawn redwood.... you name it, I've probably planted some variety of it if it thrives in Georgia.

As my appreciation for trees has grown, I have also enjoyed watching Watkinsville gain recognition as a city that prides itself on its trees. Our tree ordinance, spearheaded by Samantha Purcell, has been a game changer in the city. We have also worked collaboratively to improve landscaping in the city, including the installation of hundreds of large trees and improving appearances in various public areas through public funding (streetscape) and encouraging and supporting private efforts. We learned tonight at City Council that we have been designated an official Tree City for the third year in a row. We will give away hundreds of trees at city hall next week for Arbor Day, and will plant 10 bald cypresses at Harris Shoals on Saturday. Today, I often get compliments on how good downtown Watkinsville looks -- that was not the case years ago.

Two trees that I haven't tried are the American Elm and the Chestnut. The vaselike Elm, devastated years ago by Dutch Elm disease, is making a comeback, and I may give it a try soon. A Northwest Georgia nursery is actively growing and marketing disease resistant varieties.

I may be an old man before I get to plant a chestnut, but there is new hope for this tree, which was once king of the American forest. All but wiped out by the Chestnut blight, scientists have found a way to create a blight resistant tree. This story in the AJC focuses on where Chestnuts once thrived, and efforts to reintroduce this magnificent tree. My alma mater is in the thick of it, as it seems to be on more and more conservation and land use issues these days. I can't wait for the day when I get to plant a chestnut here.

At any rate, as Arbor Day approaches, give some thought to where you might be able to add a tree in your landscape. There are some remarkable retail nurseries in the area and that can help you find the perfect tree for whatever space you have.


John said...

Dear Brian, can you recommend some nurseries in the Watkinsville area where we can buy some decent Nellie Stevens Hollies and October Glory Maples?

Brian said...

John -- October Glory maples should be pretty easy to find. Outdoor Specialty has some I think, and if not, Andrew can get them for you quickly. He may also have Nellie Stevens. Other favorites of mine in the area are Thomas Orchards (just off 441) -- they just reopened and I have not seen their inventory, Land Arts (in Monroe, but a 25 min drive from DT Watkinsville -- I know they have maples and their inventory is listed online), Thyme after Thyme in Winterville, and Cofer's in Athens. A few phone calls and you will know who has what and at what prices. Service is usually really good at all of these places, and know whether it is worth making the drive. Goodness Grows may not have those but is worth the drive in Lexington if you really want to see a beautiful facility.

If you are looking for large specimens (large B&B or 45 gal. +), you may want to work with a landscape company -- you can often buy a large specimen and get it installed for the same price you'd pay retail just to buy the tree -- and save yourself a lot of labor as well.

Brian said...

John -- also, if you don't have a truck, Outdoor Specialty will deliver trees (and mulch, pine straw, soil, etc.) for $25 anywhere near the city. This can come in handy, especially if you get a lot of stuff or want soil amendments as you prepare for spring.