18 August 2010

Trees In The City

Not quite as fun a title as it would have been with what my Ornithogalum caudatum was doing with my beard trimmer, but I still find it funny. (At least one person does!)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that I'm somehow involved in DC State Fair--most of my tweets have been about it for the past month! This post is, in part, my way of saying "I'm busy because I'm organizing DC's first-ever State Fair." I think Amelia (another organizer) said it best in her post that could have been titled "Why I’m Not Posting To This Blog Very Often These Days." Jenna (the final member of our organizing triad) has actually been posting quite regularly on her blog, which is an amazing feat with the amount of work we're putting into this endeavour!


My regular readers may have picked up that I'm overly involved in a variety of activities here in DC; I have my thumb in a whole lotta pies. But it isn't until one starts organizing something like DC State Fair that s/he truly becomes aware of the wealth of businesses, organizations, and people in the area who have so much to offer to the community. Casey Trees was one such organization that I knew about but hadn't really explored until organizing DC State Fair hooked me up with them.

I contacted Casey Trees (among many, many other organizations and businesses) to see whether they would be interested in being involved in DC State Fair somehow. DC State Fair isn't about agriculture only--we hope for it to be a showcase of all DC talent, in arts, crafts, gardening, baking, brewing, all those skills one needs to survive in the post-apocalyptic future. Part of that survival will be building and strengthening community, which is a huge goal of DC State Fair--and one of Casey Trees', through its community outreach, volunteering, and education programs (y'know, beyond their ultimate goal of planting an ever-greater number of trees to increase the urban tree canopy, which will reduce heat-island effect, improve water and air quality, and reduce energy use--and just make things prettier).

Although I have known of the nonprofit for years, I only recently had my first real experience with Casey Trees--I attended a maple tree identification course at the National Arboretum a few weeks ago. I have always been a fan of maples, and learning how to identify trees has been on my list of things to do for a while (albeit close to the bottom), so I thought "Hey, why not finally actually learn something?" In just two hours walking around the Arboretum with Casey Trees' volunteer coordinator Carol Herwig, I learned an amazing amount about maples and how they came to the DC area, where they grow best, and what specific concerns there are for maples in general and certain species in particular (in terms of care, pest problems, and the like). I really enjoyed learning about the seemingly endless species and varieties of maples. My favourite overall was Acer palmatum, Japanese maple, for the sheer variety of colour and fun shapes of its leaves. But my favourite specimen shown to us was an Acer platanoides "Crimson King," to the right. I just have a thing for purple foliage. And now that it was pointed out to me, I am noticing it all around town--it seems to be a popular variety to plant in the shade-tree game.

So after having such a good experience learning about maples, imagine my pleasure when Casey Trees agreed to be a Table Sponsor for DC State Fair (on my birthday, no less, while I was on my lunch break). They'll be discussing urban tree care and their programs at the DC State Fair canopy on 28 August at Columbia Heights Day, which is hosting us. So if you have tree questions or are interested in their programs or volunteering with them, y'all should fly down here (or metro, if you live nearby) and come to the Fair!

I did e-mail Casey Trees to get more information from them for this post, and whoa, do they have an amazing wealth of information about taking care of urban trees! Their website is loaded with awesome facts, programs, event listings, and interactive tree maps. Some of the information provided to me via e-mail was good information for any person caring for any tree, and some bits were more DC-area specific. For a general-care example, when tending to a tree in need, hire a certified arborist! (You can find one here.) While in Master Gardener training, I learned how to prune properly, but even having been trained in basic tree care, I wouldn't feel up to the job of ensuring future prettiness and health of a tree (let's just say I have a proven record of being better at killing plants than keeping them alive). I'd hate if what I did to a tree killed it or made it less pretty or less vigorous--and those without training can do a whole lot of damage to a perfectly healthy tree!

Casey Trees offers an amazing amount of information on its website (for example, a nice list of trees that do well in DC, with a shout out to trees native to the area [such as serviceberry, the only edible one on the list {I mean, there's hackberry, too, I guess}]), but their true wealth, I think, lies in their educational and volunteer opportunities. The organization does a lot of training and outreach (example: DC State Fair!) and plants a whole ton of trees every year with the help of volunteers. They also have other programs by which homeowners can request a tree planting or do it on their own with some advice from Casey Trees.

But I know the burning question in your mind: what fruit trees do well in DC?! As mentioned above, the locally native serviceberry is one Casey Trees plants regularly and has seen success with. And although their mission is less about food and more about urban reforestation with shade trees, I was told that homeowners have reported positive results with cherry, peach, pear, apple, fig, and pawpaw (a fun fruit, and also native to this region!). Citrus, on the other hand, not so good. (My dwarf lime in the window is sending out a lot of branches lately, however, so I'm hopeful that it's doing well.) Although it wasn't included in the list Casey Trees gave me of fruit trees that have reportedly done well in DC, mulberry is an obvious one--Amelia posted about it last year, and I see them everywhere in DC, now.

For those of us without outdoor space (or even a balcony), we can go out and get our hands dirty volunteering to plant (or myriad other opportunities) with Casey Trees. Who ever said one needed to own land to care about it and the community it supports?

1 comments:

You ARE busy! The arborist portion of the MG program was one of my favorites, surprised me!

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