Gardening is hard work but well worth it

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bright yellow forsythia and daffodils are brightening lawns all over town.

They are welcome slashes of color on these dreary March days. As delicate pinks and whites start showing along tree lawns, that “planting urge” starts rising among us amateur gardeners as surely as spring sap rises in a sugar maple.

Even though I have planted and lost three dogwood trees in the last five years, and have sworn to give up on trying to grow these particular trees, the hope that always seems to come with spring has convinced me to give it one more try.

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Since the trees that didn’t survive were purchased at a nursery, my latest reasoning is that a tree grown locally might stand a better chance of survival.

Therefore, my plan is to go out in the country in the next few weeks to my sister’s wooded acres and bring back a native white dogwood for one last try.

Ann Bonner, arborist for the Ohio Division of Forestry, informs me that for best results I should mimic its natural growing conditions as much as possible: choose a small seedling close to the edge of the woods so that it won’t be shocked moving to my sunny planting location. She says that a dogwood should always be surrounded with a large “donut” of compost or mulch since, in its natural habitat, its roots are kept cool by a thick layer of dead leaves and decaying plant matter. She even suggests planting a group of lower-growing shrubs such as azaleas under it “to keep its feet cool.”

The dogwood is just too exquisite to give up on, even when we know about the diseases and difficulties involved in its survival.

Caretakers at Woodland Cemetery have recently set out scores of dogwoods, as well as several weeping cherries, along the cemetery’s paved thruways. These will be stunning if they all survive.

Effectively maintaining our trees involves both forethought and effort. I recall a former Ironton mayor lamenting a city father’s choice of some trees downtown that annually litter the sidewalk with their squishy, messy fruit. Leaf removal is an enormous task in the fall, for city workers as well as individual home owners. It becomes a serious and often expensive problem for senior citizens who are unable to do the job themselves.

So why do we continue to crave living among trees? When I’m out walking, bike-riding, or driving a newcomer around town, I invariably head down Sixth Street. I find real pleasure in the exceptionally large shade trees residents carefully maintain there and wonder how our town would look if all our streets were as ‘tree rich’?

Knowledge and foresight can prevent a lot of the problems presented by living in close proximity to trees. Mower-shredded leaves can be used for mulch or compost, eliminating the need for bagging and carrying them off to the dump.

Planting Southern Magnolia or other evergreens or semi-evergreens eliminates leaf-raking altogether.

If one chooses trees that have very small leaves such as Mimosa, bald cypress, or the thornless honey locust, the leaves are so small and light they scatter themselves with little or no accumulation, eliminating any need for raking and bagging.

Take a look at the Ford residence on the corner of South Tenth and Scott Streets to see a row of these honey locusts.

They make up what is, in my opinion, the prettiest tree lawn in town. I hope city planners will consider these when building the small “pocket parks” that are now in the planning stage.

Intelligent planting and maintenance of trees is something we can all have a hand in — an important step in making our town more attractive.

Judy Sanders is an Ironton resident and the chairperson of the Ironton In Bloom residential committee.