We know Oakville residents love trees – we’ve seen the desire to protect and preserve our tree canopy and add to it shine almost every day – from the staggering efforts by so many to protect the Great Bronte White Oak, to the almost 2000 volunteers that joined us last year to plant and tend trees in parks and woodlands. Over the next months we will be telling, collecting and sharing tree stories. If you’ve got a tree story please send us an email and share it with us! Here’s our first story, from Oakvillegreen’s newest staff member and Oakville resident, Mara…
When my parents moved into their new home about 25 years ago, there were 14 fruit trees on the property. The home’s previous owner had been an avid gardener and had even added bucket-loads of topsoil to the entire yard above the existing clay to provide more nutrients for his plants.
However, due to weather and caterpillar damage, by the time my brothers and I came along several of the fruit trees had died and had to be cut down. So my parents decided that they would replace some of those trees by planting a tree for each of my brothers and I when we were born. For me, it was a sweet cherry, and from the time I could walk, it has been my tree to take care of, play in and observe.
Some of my earliest memories involve that tree, as well as the other trees and shrubs in our yard: Measuring myself against my tree and marveling at how fast it outgrew me…picking (and eating) baskets full of cherries in June, and throwing them at my brothers in the neighbouring tree…harvesting raspberries from our raspberry bushes and making jam to distribute to the neighbours…squeezing myself between the branches of the cedars during hide-and-seek…reading a book high up in the branches of the apple tree where no one could disturb me…
I strongly believe that these early experiences with trees are a big part of why I have always considered the outdoors my home, decided to study wildlife biology and conservation in university, and grew into a nature-loving, environmentally conscious adult.
Sure, there are plenty of logical, black-and-white reasons to plant trees: fighting climate change, reducing air and water pollution, minimizing flooding and run-off, lowering energy costs, increasing property values, supporting native wildlife, improving our physical and mental health…the list goes on. But I think trees often offer us more than we bargained for: a deep connection with the natural world.
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way: I realized just how common this connection is while reading the stories of past clients of LEAF’s backyard tree planting program. Something that stood out to me right away was how many people named their trees! Reading about Freida the Freeman, Gentle Jim, and The White Pillars demonstrated to me our emotional connection with trees and our recognition of trees as individuals and as living things. Trees clearly hold a special place in our hearts.
But was has become of my sweet cherry? Unfortunately, the tree has suffered over the years from insect damage, so it hasn’t produced fruit in a few years. Also, it was so small when it was planted that no one thought that it might one day grow up into the telephone wires that were directly overhead! It has had to be heavily pruned to prevent it from interfering with the wires, and I fear that this has also caused it to suffer. But while I’m sad that my tree may be nearing the end of its life, my experience also makes me really excited about LEAF’s backyard tree planting program!
If a program like LEAF’s had existed when I was born, my tree might be a lot healthier today. LEAF only plants native trees (unlike my sweet cherry), which tend to be hardier and more resistant to local insects and pathogens. Also, LEAF arborists conduct on-site consultations with homeowners to suggest species that are suited to the yard conditions, and their spacing requirements ensure that trees have lots of room to grow and will never be planted underneath wires. By planting the right tree in the right place, LEAF makes sure the trees they plant are happy and healthy for years to come!
It’s important to remember that even healthy trees eventually reach the end of their lifespan and die. That’s why it’s important to continue planting new trees to replace them if we want to keep our cities green. But here’s some great news: the LEAF backyard tree planting program has taken root in Oakville! You can sign up now to have your tree planted at www.yourleaf.org so you can start making your own tree memories!
For more info, see our Backyard Tree Planting Program page.
-Mara, Residential Tree Planting and Stewardship Coordinator