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Growing a tradition

As my husband and I try to do each year about this time, we've planted a tree for Arbor Day.

This year's is a pink dogwood, one of my favorite trees and one that I've missed since living away from Georgia for eight years.

I'm suffering from some "Garden Elbow," (which is related to tennis elbow only less glamorous), but everything else about the planting was fun.

I have high hopes this tree will make it in the corner of the yard, in dappled shade provided by tall pines. The last two trees I planted in that spot did not survive, but this tree will get extra TLC.

Our little dog chewed to a nub the first sapling to occupy that spot. She even went through the extra trouble of squeezing around the protective wire cage we placed around the tree.

It was hard to find a replacement for that petite Sassafras tree, so I resorted to ordering one on-line. It arrived "dry root," which means it looked like a flimsier version of the long-dead stick I keep on the back deck to throw for the big dog.

I lovingly planted it (the dry root tree -- not the stick), and it sent up a couple of tiny mitten-shaped leaves last spring. I'm not sure why it didn't live through the summer, but this time I couldn't blame the dogs -- the tree just withered away.

We had bad luck with both Sassafras, but most of our efforts to plant trees are successful, and we've left our past yards prettier and shadier than we found them.

Arbor Day, which is coming up Feb. 18 in our area, is a reminder of how important trees are to the environment and the beauty of the landscape.

It's interesting that Arbor Day started in the flat plain state of Nebraska through the efforts of a writer who had a passion for trees and flowers.

Sterling Morton was among the pioneers moving into the Nebraska Territory in 1854, and he wanted to beautify the landscape to remind him of home.

As editor of Nebraska's first newspaper, he soon began spreading information on agricultural topics to all the pioneers who missed their trees. Historians estimate that on the first unofficial Arbor Day, April 10, 1872, settlers planted one million trees.

My children participated in a number of Arbor Day plantings, ranging from big trees the whole school turned out to admire, to tiny seedlings in paper cups. When the school didn't provide a celebration, we planted trees at home.

The children were so proud of those live trees, and would carefully tend them and watch them grow until we would move from that house and yard.

A neighbor once admired a Scotch Pine the children planted. He remarked that it was a smart move on our part; we would save money in a couple of years when it grew large enough to be cut for a Christmas tree. I think he missed the point.



Web posted on Thursday, February 10, 2005











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