Experts give advice to help Ironton truly bloom

Published 9:06 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

With the modest goal of working together with Ironton citizens to make ours the prettiest small town in the entire state, Ironton In Bloom volunteers will be publishing an occasional column like this one to bring you expert and timely information that we hope will inspire you to labor with us toward that goal.

Far from being experts ourselves, we plan to call on experts to give us the information we need and to pass what we think would be helpful on to you.

Given the responsibility of putting together a first column, I was interested in what knowledgeable visitors to our town have to say about us.

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As residential chairman of our organization, I had an opportunity to speak with the national America-In-Bloom judges when they visited here last July. “You don’t realize what a treasure you have here,” they informed me after touring our residential area.

They were impressed with the great number of large, historic homes and churches that have been so well-maintained over the years as well as the large attractive grounds surrounding them.

They remarked on the obvious pride exhibited in the care given even the smallest of yards. In their written comments they found much to praise, but also pointed out areas in which they felt we could improve: “Judges suggest that residents use mulch blades and set mowers on highest settings, cutting a different direction every week…Most of the mature tree canopy (we) observed shaded the power lines and not the homes. Homeowners are encouraged to plant trees that will provide energy usage reduction.”

Since this is the time of year we begin to think about the trimming and planting of trees, I thought this last comment might be a fine place to start. I called Ann Bonner; ISA certified arborist (tree expert) for the Ohio Division of Forestry in Athens and found her to be a veritable fount of information.

She says that U. S. Department of Agriculture information states that the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-sized air conditioners operating 20 hours a day!

Other statistics show that a tree planted on the west side of your home can reduce heating costs by 20-50 percent. Realtors believe that a mature tree adds from $1000 to $10,000 to a home’s appraised value and has a strong impact on a property’s salability.

Ann has been a visitor to Ironton and said she was impressed with the unusual amount of spacious tree lawn (room between sidewalk and curb) available in both our downtown and residential areas.

She agrees our dogwoods are beautiful, but very hard to get started and susceptible to disease. For tree lawns and yards, she recommends tall, straight, single-stem trees that won’t get in the way or require trimming such as pin oak, northern red oak, Linden, maple, or tulip trees.

She found little to praise about the Bradford Pear, a very common favorite in this area, because they grow so quickly. She says they need to be trimmed often and the regrowth is so dense it does not allow the wind to travel through resulting in splitting and frequent wind damage.

Regarding the best time for trimming, Ann cautions that for the health of the tree, do as little trimming as possible; and “just as we humans would prefer, operate on them while they are asleep (late fall or winter).”

I have only scratched the surface of my fascinating conversation with Ann. If you’d like to know more, bring your questions to Briggs Library, Thursday, March 5, from 6:00 to 8:00. She has agreed to hold a class there, free of charge, to answer all our questions. Put it on your calendar. I am sure you’ll be glad you did.

Judy Sanders, Ironton in Bloom