Why Become a Tree City USA Anyway?

by Barbara Gardner

Holliston voters will have an opportunity at the May Annual Town Meeting to support Holliston becoming a Tree City USA.  This national program was created by the Arbor Day Foundation in l976, and 46.8% of the country lives in a Tree City USA community. There are 3,652 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that have been designated as Tree City USA communities.  The largest Tree City USA is New York City with 8,820,000 inhabitants, and the smallest town is Sibley, North Dakota, population 20.

To receive recognition as a Tree City USA, the community must meet four core standards. The first is to form a Tree Board or Department. Holliston has an appointed Tree Warden who is part of the Public Works Department.

The second standard is to establish a Tree ordinance which assigns clear authority over public trees and provides clear guidance for planting, maintaining and/or removing trees from streets, parks and other public spaces. The Select Board, in conjunction with the Planning Board, are currently working on a new tree ordinance for the town. This ordinance or by-law, as we call it, will be placed on the upcoming MayAnnual Town Meeting warrant for consideration by the voters in attendance.

The third standard to qualify as a Tree City USA community is to maintain a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita for the planting, care, and removal of trees. An adequate budget demonstrates an on-going investment into public trees. Happily, the Town of Holliston already meets and exceeds this standard.

The last requirement is to celebrate Arbor Day annually which the Holliston Garden Club has done for many years and issue an official proclamation to create pride, generate knowledge and focus on the importance of trees.

The Arbor Day Foundation also runs similar programs on hospital and health care grounds and campuses of Higher Education and Tree Line USA which fosters best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens.

The benefits to trees are endless. To name a few, cooler temperatures, cleaner air, higher property values and healthier residents. In addition to these benefits and so many more, this designation is attractive to businesses choosing a location and can help in applying for certain state grants. The Holliston Garden Club and the Friends of Trees organization is solidly behind this initiative and hope you will be too by attending and supporting Holliston becoming a Tree City USA at the May Annual Town Meeting.

Apply for Our Scholarship and Grant

We are pleased to announce that we are accepting applications for our scholarship and our educational grant now through April 14! Our $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior or college student who is a Holliston resident and planning to major in Horticulture, Botany, Landscape Design Forestry, Environmental Science, Land Management, or other garden-related field. It was founded by Dorothy (Dot) Stevens, a former Club president, who recognized the importance of preserving our natural world and whose dream it was to encourage young people to pursue careers in horticulture.

Educational grants are awarded annually to Holliston residents or organizations that seek to provide children with educational projects in horticulture or garden-related subjects. Funded grants over the years have supported the planting of tulip bulbs in the Placentino School courtyard, several High School greenhouse projects, window box planting projects with elementary special needs students, materials for the butterfly aviary, and the installation of a pollinator garden at Placentino Elemetary.

If you are interested in applying for an educational grant or scholarship, please visit our scholarships and grants page and send in your application by April 14.

A New Era in Gardening

by Jeanne Grandy
~Excerpt from the April 2021 Holliston Garden Club newsletter

It used to be that a young couple buying their first home would re-decorate the inside to their taste and needs, then pretty up the outside with pots of flowers until more creative yard work could be afforded. After too many months of Covid keeping people indoors, more established homeowners have been re-thinking the view from inside the house. Whether new or more established, whether walking in the neighborhood or just looking out the window, homeowners have come to realize the value of nature to restore us humans, physically and mentally. As importantly, we are realizing that our own properties can contribute not only to our well-being but to the beauty of the neighborhood and better health for all.

There is a growing awareness that each of us is part of the larger biosphere of all creatures that call this earth planet “home.” Scientists are telling us it is more than time to pay attention to our role – in even what feels like an insignificant way – playing a part in improving the health of all of us by planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers to attract and support wild life.

Holliston is in a region of the Northeast where trees are considered “old-growth” (about a 100 years) forests, the ”original” ones having been felled for building houses, fences, and shipbuilding; and cleared for farming.  Some of these trees are now being taken down for new housing; others, being removed after recent storm damage.  Still others need to be removed due to death and risk associated with the invasion of non-native insects.  As a Town and as property owners, scientists and environmentalists are making us aware that trees, shrubs, and flowers now have to support life by sequestering carbon, feeding pollinators, and managing water, a tall order but one we can do together.  For example, century-old Oaks and other natives help mitigate down-hill water run-off with their deep roots, so paying attention to how we care for them matters! Moreover, native trees  such as oaks, willows, cherries, and birches attract what are now considered “essential keystone wildlife species.”

Which trees to plant means doing some research as to soil and sun requirements, and awareness of its size at maturity. Good resources to check out include the following: the Native Plant Trust, the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder, and the Homegrown National Park website. Author and entomologist, Douglas W. Tallamy, is quoted as saying: “trees are the true heroes of the new ecology.”

For its part, the Holliston Garden Club is shifting its focus slightly this year from planting a tree for Arbor Day to educating ourselves and the community on the care, maintenance, and value of our trees in Holliston on public or private lands; and encouraging participation in the efforts to both beautify and improve health, for our environment and our community by planting natives. Check our website: www.hollistongardenclub.org for information about Club activities and Zoom events for your participation.

Festival of Trees

Every year the Massachusetts Horticultural Society puts on a Festival of Trees at the Garden at Elm Bank, and this year our club has decorated an ‘Enchanted Forest’ themed tree to be one of the many trees on display from now through the end of December.

Visitors to the Festival of Trees may purchase raffle tickets for the the tree (or trees!) of their choice, and the winners get to take their trees home at the end of the Festival. There are quite the variety of different trees, and many have gifts in addition to decorations. Our tree features a fairy at its base, with a bark fairy home door and woodland-inspired decorations.

The festival also features a large indoor model train exhibit, with model trains winding their way through a holiday snow village. Holiday lights and decorations add to the festivities, and visitors can enjoy hot chocolate and s’mores while gathering around firepits.

Tickets for the Festival of Trees are available on the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s website. Look for our tree there!

Tree Surveys

Over the years, the Holliston Garden Club has planted many trees and shrubs throughout our town of Holliston, MA. In recent years tree surveys were undertaken in an effort to identify the trees planted by the club throughout its history. After going through club records, over 70 trees were identified, including an American Sycamore called the ‘Moon Tree’, which was planted from a seed that traveled on the Apollo 14 Lunar Mission in 1971. To find out more about our trees and to see the results of the surveys, click on our tree survey site.

Leave the Leaves!

by Joan Butler
~previously printed in the February 2022 Holliston Garden Club Newsletter

I am very lucky to have a mature red oak, Quercus rubra, and an Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, in one corner of my property. The cedar produces beautiful berries that provide food for birds in winter, and for flocks of migrating birds, such as cedar waxwings and robins.

While I have planted a perennial garden beneath the cedar, the area under the oak has been left “messy”. Fallen leaves stay in place year-round. Many creatures require this type of undisturbed leafy environment for part of their life cycle. Wooly bear caterpillars overwinter here, as do many butterfly and moth pupae such as the pupae of the hummingbird moth. Bumblebee queens dig burrows here in autumn, staying safely underground until spring. And fireflies require this environment for every stage of their life cycle, except for the 6-8 weeks when they are in flight.

As I learn more about the ecological benefits of undisturbed “natural” areas in the home garden, I am transitioning other areas in my landscape into “habitat zones”. The concept does tend to conflict with our neat-and-tidy suburban ethos. But I have found that a number of our native plants serve as excellent groundcovers that bring order to “untidiness” while providing the benefit of added diversity.

Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia, is a clump forming perennial that spreads fairly quickly by stolons and will also set seed. The lobed leaves are heart-shaped and are often delicately patterned with red. Beautiful spring blooms of white flowers are profuse and are held upright like small bottlebrushes on wiry stems above the leaves. Foamflower will grow in dense shade, but flowers best with some sun. Semi-evergreen, hardy to Zone 4, 7-10” tall.

The heart-shaped foliage of wild ginger, Asarum canadense, adds wonderful texture to the garden. This vigorous, rhizomatous spreader simply covers the ground, even in dense shade. Inconspicuous brownish flowers are held close to the ground, beneath the leaves, where they are pollinated by ants and crawling beetles – and interesting adaption. Deciduous, hardy to Zone 3, 8” tall.

Woodland geranium, Geranium maculatum, grows from a woody rhizome and will self-sow, flinging its seeds 10-20 feet from the mother plant, which is of great benefit in woodland settings. Also known as spotted geranium, its attractive lobed leaves are held in loose clusters. It blooms for about a month in late spring-early summer, with flower colors ranging from white to lavender to dark pinkish-purple. The flowers are followed by seed pods that, when dry, resemble tiny delicate candelabra. Woodland geranium will not grow in dense shade, and flowers best in part sun. Deciduous, hardy to Zone 3, 12-18” tall.

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is an absolute delight. Its early spring blooms (white petals with gold anthers) are followed by rounded, greyish-green lobed leaves that last well into autumn and provide bold texture to the garden. Bloodroot spreads by rhizomes, and by seed. Seeds are often relocated by ants that store them for winter consumption, when they will dine on a fleshy appendage attached to each seed – an interesting relationship for seed dispersal. Deciduous, hardy to Zone 3, flower stalks: 4”, leaf height: 12-15”.

I also have had success with Allegheny Spurge, Pachysandra procumbens, with its delicately mottled evergreen leaves. It spreads easily by rhizomes and is quite tolerant of dry shade. White, scented flowers appear in late April, before the new leaves expand. It is well-behaved groundcover unlike the more commonly planted aggressive Japanese species. Evergreen, hardy to Zone 4-5, 8-12” tall.

If you have areas of your property that can transition into leafy habitat zones, have a go at it! The benefits are many. Reduces fall clean-up time! And the leaves that are left in place will return nutrients to the soil as they decompose – nutrients that are otherwise removed. Many insects, reptiles, birds and other creatures use undisturbed areas in ways we are only now exploring. We are beginning to learn about the importance (and joys!) of mimicking the natural world in our gardens.

Celebrate Holliston

This Saturday, Sep. 24, is Celebrate Holliston over at Goodwill Park, and the Holliston Garden Club will be there!

Throughout the day, our gardeners will be demonstrating how to make easy floral centerpieces and decorations, and visitors will be able to enter their name in a drawing to win one at the end of the day.

At our booth we will also be giving away Baptisia seeds to any interested junior gardeners, with instructions on how to plant them.

We will also have various information about trees and plants available and on display. Come visit and join in the fun! Hope to see you there!

Upcoming Fall Events

The Holliston Garden Club is starting back up for another fabulous year of programs, workshops, and gardening! Unfortunately we will not be doing our regular November Floral Design Program this year, but we do have several events this fall, starting with our booth at the Historical Society’s Harvest Fair on Sunday, September 18. From 10:00am – 4:00pm, we will have some great handicrafts for sale, including handmade baby hats, book trees, watercolor paintings, and notecards.

On Saturday, September 24, is Celebrate Holliston, held at Goodwill Park. The Garden Club is joining in on the fun with demos on floral design and horticulture, pumpkin decorating, and raffles. Stay tuned for the schedule!

Also, if you enjoy gardening or would like to learn more about it, we welcome enthusiasts of all levels to join our club. To learn more, stop by our booth at one of these events, or contact us for more information. As always, happy gardening!

Arbor Day Celebration

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first Arbor Day here in the US! Trees are vital to our ecosystem, and encouraging the planting of trees is more important than ever today. In honor of Arbor Day, there will be a display at the Holliston Public Library about trees set up through May 5th.

Stop by to learn more about trees, grab an informational brochure, and pick up a guide for a walk through Washington Street that highlights a few of our beautiful trees here in Holliston. The Washington Street Tree Walk may also be found online here, as well as a fun crossword puzzle and articles on native trees and sustainability. Happy Arbor Day!

How Do I Love Native Trees

by Barbara Gardener (Holliston Garden Club)

Ever since I’ve read two tree bestsellers during the pandemic – Richard Powers’s 2019 “Overstory” and German forester Peter Wholleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees”, trees have taken on a whole new and marvelously mysterious significance.  I notice and appreciate them in an entirely new, organic and exciting way – how old are they, how tall are they, how are they communicating with each other and the rest of the natural world in this very moment, how many organisms are feeding off their roots and do they breathe all day and all night?  These thoughts monopolize me as I walk under their cover and through the forest or landscape. This examination has led me to question why we’re always talking about the importance of just native plants but rarely discuss or promote the importance of native trees. 

A native tree is a species that was growing here before the arrival of Europeans and before the introduction of invasive species of trees like Norway maples or Buckthorns which have seriously dwindled the number of standing native trees.  Reintroducing native species of trees and shrubs helps to re-establish the original eco-system of the region and improves their chances for survival and, by extension, all the critters that depend on their unique and local properties.

Native trees are a perfect fit for our specialized environment – they are happier here than their non-native counterparts and consequently require less water and fertilizer and have built up natural defenses to counter pests and fungal infections.  All of these reasons translate into a lower cost of maintenance for the homeowner.

Long living trees like native oaks and maples are very effective at soaking up greenhouse gases.  They absorb airborne pollutants such as carbon dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.

Trees breathe by releasing moisture into the air and cool the air by spreading the sun’s rays.  Shade trees keep our lawns greener longer which in turn requires less water.  Reforestation of urban heat islands with native trees now covered in asphalt is one of the most important ways to mitigate the kind of excessive heat we have experienced here and throughout the country in June of this year.  Trees are natural regulators of heat and cold, shading and cooling our homes throughout the summer and, depending on placement, acting as a wind break, lowering heating costs in the winter.

Many species of wildlife do not recognize non-natives species and cannot use them for food or shelter.  Native trees and shrubs are especially important to all forms of native wildlife, including birds, mammals, and insects.  Just think about it – they are a resource for nesting, fruit and leaves for food, shelter from prey, height for safety and shade for comfort and protection.  Trees support the lives of hundreds of organisms in a complicated network that cannot be duplicated in commercially planted environments.

Carol Stocker, long time and respected garden columnist for the Boston Globe, admits, “A mature native tree is more valuable than anything I can plant….though native asters, sunflowers and goldenrod are good providers, trees are the true heroes….”..  She cautions all of us to do a better job preserving them – developers should think again before they clear cut century old stands of native trees for convenience’s sake, home gardeners should not cut down native trees to expand their lawns or plant non native species because they are pretty as opposed to the right choice for our local ecosystems or cut down a native shade tree because it’s encroaching on their flower beds.

Given their essential nature, isn’t it time we re-examined how we treat native trees?