In the Garden – May


Chances are that you are reading this on Arbor Day (Friday, April 28), the American national day for honoring and planting trees. As you read this, Point Roberts Garden Club members are gifting a tree to each pupil in our primary school, after having visited them last week to give them a small lesson on the importance of trees to our environment and on how to care for them.

This day of observance and action seems especially important right now with a number of lots here having been clear cut. The Point Roberts of my memory was a more heavily forested peninsula than it is now. Over the extended history of Point Roberts there have been a number of times that trees have fallen to agricultural clearing, forest fires, blowdowns, and probably more that the Historical Society could fill in. The Garden Club recognizes that trees are important contributors to the beauty of Point Roberts and to the health of our climate and wanted to impart to its youngsters an interest in trees and some skills in nurturing them.

So, what did Garden Club members assemble to give to the pupils? We wanted a focus on native trees that are adapted to our climate and likely to thrive under the children’s attention. Most members dug up seedlings that were growing in the “wrong places.” Western red-cedar, Alaska yellow cedar, Douglas fir, and spruce were native “relocation” donations to the Arbor Day activities. Children will be taught to give these potential giants a planting place where they have room – lots of room – to grow unimpeded and not threaten any man-made structures as they reach toward the sky.

I donated an Arbutus menziesii (known by some as Pacific madrona) purchased from the Whatcom Conservation District. This can be a tricky tree to grow, so I wish the family that adopts it success. Arbutus need a sunny well-ventilated and -drained place so that they will grow undisturbed by human traffic and can drop their profuse leaf, bark and fruit litter where it won’t be minded. By time it reaches a foot tall and has been in place for about three years; it will thrive on neglect. As it matures, it will be a stunning tree.

Another member donated a Garry oaks. This is a tree whose range has become increasingly small and threatened. I’m not sure if Garry oaks ever grew wild in Point Roberts, but they still grow wild on the southern end of Vancouver Island and in isolated stands in the lower Fraser Valley. I even remember my father taking me to see a stand of them in the south Langley area in British Columbia. Garry oaks grow slowly but steadily into stately trees and, in my experience, need no attention after their first year or two of summer water. Like the other trees I’ve mentioned, these are not small landscape trees and do best away from houses. They deserve a place on large lots that give them space to grow.

I wonder what other trees club members donated, and whether any of the Pacific crabapple that were part of our Whatcom Conservation District group order made it into the batch given to the children. Certainly, these are smaller trees and ones much appreciated by birds.

If you are thinking of trees for your own, possibly smaller lot there are lots of other options. Deciduous trees are thought to be better at carbon sequestration than evergreens, so they are ideal options. Our native dogwood, its cultivar “Eddie’s White Wonder,” and Japanese Kouza dogwood are great relatively small ornamental trees, as are Japanese maples and native vine maples. Fruit trees? Even better because their blossoms sustain native pollinators and you get to eat the products of their pollination. There are currently many dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties that make harvesting fruit easier. Just give all trees light, space, and air.

And on the topic of fruit trees, I would like to thank Tor and Heidi Baxter for donating semi-dwarf fruit trees to the Park and Recreation District. Maintenance person Bill Knowles has planted these behind our Library and promised to care for them. The gift was the result of a consultation that Park and Recreation chair Mitch Friedman solicited from the Garden Club about how to beautify the grounds upon which the community center stands. It’s just the Garden Club doing its little bit to make Point Roberts a better place.

And thinking of that, the club has partnered with Kora’s Corner Country Store to lead a couple of Saturday open workshops in May. Stop on by to join the fun and maybe get your hands dirty.

The Point Roberts Garden Club meets the last Tuesday of each month. However, summer meetings are usually held in members’ gardens rather than at the community center.


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