An oak and two maples ready to be planted on the back hill this week
It was originally the concept of a midwestern journalist concerned about planting windbreaks on the plains in the 1870s. New England doesn't need windbreaks; we're in a woodland forest system and thick stands of trees are our natural environment. When I weed, I pull maple and oak seedlings out of my garden beds, and we have to mow frequently in the spring to keep the baby trees from overtaking the lawn. If we didn't mow or weed for a few seasons, our lot would be a forest again.
In fact that is what happened all across New England in the last century. Early farmers and settlers cleared the rocky hillsides in the 1700s and 1800s to create farms, build houses and fences, and burn fuel. Deforestation was so complete that a traveler riding from Boston to Philadelphia in 1875 would have seen clear across the hilltops with barely a tree in sight the whole way. Except for northern Maine, 80% of the forest was cut down between 1830 and 1885. Eighty percent!
My house is a good example; in 2004 a developer converted the open pastures and treed woodlot of an old dairy farm into a 70 home community, and we moved in. The good news is that our town has pretty advanced zoning regulations, and it requires every new home built here to have two trees planted in each new yard.
The bad news is they do not specify what kinds of trees, or even that they should be varied. The builder put two Crimson King Norway maples in front of every single house... that's 140 dark maroon huge invasive monster trees lining both sides of our streets every 40 feet all the way up and all the way down each road. (Look for a post that I will be doing on these trees in the near future.)
But still, they're trees. And I have planted more in my little half acre. And I will plant more. Because I cannot imagine a time when 80% of our green leafy state was open and bare. Because the benefits for wildlife, humans and the planet are well documented. Because they are beautiful, each with its own unique character, and I enjoy them.
Because it's my message to the future.
A civilization flourishes
when people plant trees
under whose shade
they will not sit.
Arbor Day, 2010