Create a connection to trees

April 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

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How to plant a tree:

(extracted from How to Plant a Tree by Daniel Butler)

When you buy a larger landscape tree that has been balled and burlapped it means that growth has started. Growth that has started is kept intact by the burlap. The best time to plant trees is in the fall, ideally or in spring. Here are tips on how to plant a burlapped sapling.

1. Keep the root-ball watered.

2. Measure the root-ball and dig a sloping hole three times as wide and a little deeper than the height of the root-ball. Water the hole well.

3. Carefully lower the root-ball into the hole, burlap and all, so that the bottom of the trunk sits just above the soil surface. Gently tease out roots from the ball to encourage them to grow outward. Water in well.

4. Replace the soil until the hole is halfway filled, and then tamp it lightly by gently stamping on the earth. Ensure the tree is standing upright, then water it slowly, saturating the soil. Fill in the rest with soil.

5. The soil should be kept moist for the first year after planting. If you spot wilting leaves, water immediately. Mulching above the roots with compost helps to retain moisture, but keep the mulch away from the trunk to prevent rotting.

6. Support the tree either with two opposing stakes or with one diagonal stake. Use flexible tree ties to prevent the trunk from rubbing against the stake.

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Everyone has a tree story. It may be the quixotic childhood fantasy fulfilled, climbing so high your mom had to coach you back to earth. Or discovering the bliss of some arboreal labyrinth, memorizing its pungent aroma of pine or leafy extract. Child’s play is compatible with these natural structures and our memories are inextricably linked to them.

We may no longer climb or bend trees, but we can recall every crisp detail of how it felt to be under their influence. Hopefully we still can have a moment or experience every once in a while, connecting to trees.

Allergies aside, we must admit that trees are magnificent in the whole scheme of things. Swelling buds announce nature’s annual metamorphosis as we head toward Arbor Day on April 25. The holiday sprouted out of a need to plant trees to improve soil structure and hence agricultural integrity.

In his book How to Plant a Tree, Daniel Butler documents the holiday’s roots: “In 1872 Nebraskan J. Sterling Morton set up a national tree planting festival, Arbor Day, which was targeted particularly at schoolchildren. The idea was an immediate success. By 1885, it was declared a legal holiday in Nebraska and other states quickly followed suit. The original aim was principally to improve agriculture by providing shelter and preventing soil erosion on the Great Plains. Over time, Arbor Day has become an environmental and conservation movement.”

Today, this occasion, which is scheduled on the last Friday of April, is recognized as a day dedicated to preserving and appreciating trees. If you have been thinking of planting a tree now is a good time to do so. It may be to mark a moment of significance (a birthday, retirement or a new home) or just part of your horticultural agenda. Planting a tree is akin to putting down roots. It is a visual reminder of time’s passage too.

A while back I revisited my childhood home, where my parents planted their first gardens while rearing their three children. Usually when you go back, things seem much smaller. But in this case the opposite was true. The place had the most magnificent trees, all of them planted by my father who’d bought the house on a blank lot, one of many in a subdivision built in the early 1960s. While clearing land for a new home — the one they presently live in — my father and older brother spent months removing trees. Thirty years, later he’s probably replaced them in triplicate.

As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far and I am now as passionate about trees as my father. They surround our home and even grow out of pots that live between house and patio and if there is ever a loss, the void is filled by a tree. When you live on a fairly flat lot, it adds dimension and brings in all sorts of wildlife.

When people ask me to recommend a tree for their yard, I tell them to do their research on things like soil preferences and how big you want said tree to grow and how fast. If you want to see the tree in your lifetime, you’re limiting your choices. I say go for posterity and plant for future generations. A marvelous tree that graces our front yard is the Seven Sons (Heptacodium miconioides), propagated in Bejing, China and cultivated at the Arnold Arboretum and recommended to us by Allen Haskell. It is glorious in all the seasons and the growth is fast and the branching graceful. We could not have chosen a better tree.

If I had a few extra acres I would plant a Pagoda Tree, also know as the Chinese Scholar tree. This specimen always holds me spellbound for it’s shape and grandeur. First in Edgartown and then again at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. These are likewise Chinese imports. My husband credits the merchant sailing captains for many of Edgartown’s interesting trees, having brought specimens back from overseas. Capt. Thomas Milton brought the Pagoda Tree seedling from China (where it’s known as a Flame Tree) to the Vineyard in the 1830s, planting it next to his home, now part of the Harborside Inn. It’s the oldest on the continent and towers above several inns and homes.

A more realistic choice brings me back to earth. I’m mulling over planting a Mulberry tree in place of a willow sapling that never really thrived in our moist back yard. Red Mulberry is the only native to the U.S. The White Mulberry is the more exotic species that are home to silk worms. The red counterpart has a long fruiting period with fruit that is delicious, although it is not sold commercially. Moreover this tree is a bird magnet and therefore a good tree to have.

Planting trees enhances life — at an emotional and physical level. Trees produce, oxygen, store carbon, purify the air, absorb sound, cools us in the heat, reduce wind and erosion and helps decrease energy costs and often add to a property’s value.

With more than 700 tree species in North America alone, it’s time we were on a first name basis with some of the major players. The Arbor Day Foundation has a booklet that helps people identify trees in a simple, step-by-step process — explaining what to look for in the shape of the leaves, differences in the leaf stems and twig structures and specific characteristics of fruits, flowers, buds and bark.

For a small donation to the nonprofit tree-planting organization you can get a copy of “What Tree is That?” To obtain a tree identification guide in full color, send your name and address and $5 for each guide to What Tree is That?, Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE 68410. You can also order the book online at


Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. ~Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies.

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