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.