TreeKeepers 102: Planting Our First Tree

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kashnow

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kashnow

Everyone grab a shovel… after TreeKeepers 102: Science of Trees concluded, we marched down the hill from the greenhouse, on a mission to finish our planting before the wedding reception that was taking place later in the afternoon.

There were different colored flags staking out which trees went where. I chose a White Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus) and made my way towards an orange flag. I started to dig, encountering a lot of rocks and tree roots (am I hurting the trees that are already established?  We just spent 3 hours learning, among other things, about how important the root system is – is severing roots to plant another tree really helping in the grand scheme of things?)… It was slow going.

“I’ll help whenever you’re ready to take a break.”  My classmate Amy had noticed me all by myself at the bottom of the hill and offered a hand, so after a few more minutes of digging I handed her the shovel. I was happy to have my hands free so I could take some pictures of the planting activity, and I’m no stranger to tree planting so I didn’t feel bad about missing out on the experience.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kashnow

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kashnow

A few years back, I spent most of the spring planting trees to earn my “Chesapeake Steward” designation in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s VOICES program (a fantastic program that offers a series of lectures taught by professors and industry experts on watershed management and the history and health of the Chesapeake Bay, in exchange for $25 and 40 hours of volunteer service. Sold!)  But don’t  think I completely shirked my TreeKeeper responsibilities to take pictures – I did fetch several gallons of mulch once our new friend was safely in the ground.

The unique thing about this planting experience compared to others I have done where it’s an assembly line of dig/drop/dirt/mulch/stake/NEXT! is that this was purely about the learning experience. I wandered away from my tree, took some shots of the nearby group, and when I came back there was a new woman digging with Amy standing by.

Then her family joined her – they were visiting the Arboretum, not even part of the class – and they also joined in the planting. Each time I circled back to my tree (yes, it’s mine now) there was a new person holding the shovel. I think there were about 9 people altogether that helped to put that tree in the ground. So maybe it’s not mine – it’s ours. Which is kind of the point of the TreeKeepers program – to enable the citizens of Baltimore to play a role in defending the health of the trees, a shared resource that we all depend on more than we ever stop to think about.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kashnow

Image courtesy of Suzanne Kashnow

We parted ways at the end of class tasked a goal for the spring planting season: complete at least two designated TreeKeeper tree plantings within Baltimore City to apply our skills. TreeKeeper classes will reconvene in late May or June with the 200-level courses, and a reprise of 101 and 102 for those that missed it. Check out Baltimore Tree Trust to learn more!

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