Reforestation Project Gains Momentum

The following is an excerpt from a letter FoGWP recently received from Henry Hughes, Director of Education at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens:

I saw the seedlings in George Ward Park Monday. They look great! I would guess that we have close to 100% survival and they  largely were THRIVING. This shows the good sense of fall planting and mulching. Your signs have done the job of keeping the mowing equipment out. The City seems to have kept its promise. More leaves in those areas this fall will help to define the areas better. Thank you for putting all of the organizations on the signs, including the Little and Red Mountain Garden Clubs and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Thank you also for taking so much time to stake each seedling carefully and for including the accurate ID of each one on the stakes.

You all also have done a great job bringing in branches that will help to hold this fall’s leaves in place and that will begin to restore the topsoil. Acorns then will have a chance of germinating on their own without our having to collect seed and plant seedlings. At some point we will have a rich man’s problem of too many seedlings, I guarantee.
Keep those branches coming and let’s make a big push this fall to get the City to bring in more leaves – lots of them. The area doesn’t need a fence at all, something that we eventually came to the realization of. So a bunch of money saved there.

We also should plan to remove the exotics: mimosa, privet, etc., as you say. I can flag those at some point. They can become part of the mulching effort. The planting focus this fall should be to reinforce the areas that have been planted already, especially UNDER the big trees and mulch, mulch, mulch everywhere beneath them – and thick. Also we can begin to think about interpretive signage to help to educate the public about the importance of this pilot project that can be used everywhere in the city, indeed in the country.

The 150 seedlings here at the gardens, grown from seed collected both in 2008 and 2009, look great. Katie King, our Rotary Club of Shades Valley Summer Intern has just finished sizing them up to 1-gallon containers. They should be perfect for planting by October. It looks like a great seed production year too, so I will plan a major seed collection about the time that we plant, perhaps even including the day of. It typically takes me 4 to 6 trips to the park over the course of a month to six weeks to get what we need because different species and individual trees drop seed at different time. But the seed volume at least on post and blackjack oaks, the two principal species prevalent in the park and impossible to buy, is high. This will ensure a solid planting effort in 2011 and 2012.

Please let me know when a good time will be for the Little and Red Mountain Garden Clubs and the Friends of George Ward Park and the Glen Iris Neighborhood Association to meet to plan out the fall planting activities. The Garden Club of America will be holding a regional meeting at the Gardens this fall and I will be speaking about the project. It is great that we have a successful project to show. By the way, the two clubs entered a number of the seedlings in a friendly competition in Atlanta at the GCA Zone VIII meeting and came back with a number of blue ribbons, including the coveted Clarissa Willemsen Horticultural Propagation Award “for a horticultural entry distinguished by its prime condition, flawless grooming and difficulty of propagation.” I think that the project is getting some positive attention around the South.”

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