“Arbor Day is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future.” — J. Sterling Morton
My first foray into tree planting didn’t go so well. As a 10-year-old boy, I received a Russian olive seedling from my dad with instructions to plant it on a hillside next to the house. For those of you not familiar with a Russian olive, it’s a shrubby tree with pretty gray-green foliage that sparkles in the sunlight when the wind blows.
It’s indeed striking, but it’s also considered a nuisance because it spreads easily and can’t be killed by drought or neglect. Only I didn’t neglect mine. I managed to kill it with kindness — probably by overwatering or maybe by overzealous fertilizing. I don’t remember now.
Since then, my success rate has gone straight up. Of course, I think it’s a success whenever anyone plants a tree — even if it ends up as food for sowbugs, like my sorry Russian olive tree. It’s the thought that counts.
J. Sterling Morton felt that way, too. Morton is the founder of Arbor Day. Celebrated nationally the last Friday in April, Arbor Day is all about replenishing what we’ve used up for lumber, paper, furniture, and fence posts.
“Each generation takes the earth as trustees,” Morton said. “We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” The banner, below, is hanging in the lobby at the Arbor Day Foundation’s Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. If you’re ever in need of some tree inspiration, that’s the place to go.
It’s been said that when we plant a tree we’re really doing it for our grandchildren’s generation. That’s true in terms of making sure there are still some ancient giants for them to admire. But there’s no shortage of trees that will start pleasing from the get-go. So don’t believe the altruistic bit — you can enjoy the beauty, shade, and ambience just as much as the next generation.
See the chestnut tree, that I’m standing next to? Guess how long it’s been in the ground. Four years. I raised it from seed, and I gave an 18-inch whip to a friend, who coaxed this lush growth out of it by making sure it got plenty of water and sunlight. He also protected it from deer with a tall fence the first few years.
Here’s another chestnut, that I raised from seed. This one’s been in the ground for two years and is protected by a short fence that keeps away rabbits but not deer — that’s probably why it’s so far behind the other tree, even though they have the same genetics. I imagine my friend’s tall chestnut got a little more lovin’, too.
Which brings me to my last point. If you’re going to plant a tree, make sure to give it a leg up on life. Pick the right species for the right spot — one that will fit your needs for years to come — and make sure it gets some attention. Here’s a new Lowe’s video, Choosing the Right Trees and Shrubs, to get you started.
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