Arbor Day rekindles trees’ role in our daily lives

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DRACUT — Growing up in Texas, many of Susan Mitchell’s fondest childhood memories came courtesy of a group of steady, solid friends — trees.

Mitchell, a Dracut resident and professional gardener who designs and maintains gardens for commercial and residential clients, including Brox Farm, shared her love of trees with a crowd of more than 200 that descended on Veterans Memorial Park on April 29 for the Dracut Garden Club’s fourth annual Arbor Day celebration and tree planting.

She vividly recalls a giant, “glorious” American sycamore that proudly stood in her family’s front yard.

“I loved the peeling bark and the round, woodlike fruits that my mother would spray-paint and use as Christmas ornaments,” Mitchell said.

The American sycamore can grow to 120 feet tall, with a spread of 100 feet and a lifespan of 500 years, she told the crowd. Although she thinks that her family’s tree was only about 40 to 50 years old.

Moving to a different Texas home as a teenager introduced Mitchell to another exciting, and delicious species of trees — the pecan tree.

“There was one large pecan tree in the middle of our small suburban back yard that was a great climbing tree,” she recalled. “I spent many afternoons sitting in that tree thinking sad teenage thoughts; it was very comforting.”

The autumns of her teenage years were spent filling bag after bag with fresh, crunchy pecans, work that returned a very satisfying dividend.

“My mom made a wicked good pecan pie,” Mitchell smiled.

She ended her remarks by reading two poems, Street Tree , and Tree’s Place, from Kristine O’Connell George’s book, Old Elm Speaks.

Garden Club members were all smiles as the day’s events started because there was not a cloud in the sky, a welcomed change from the rain and snow that dogged the festivities of the past two years.

The Dracut American Legion honor guard kicked off the ceremonies with a display of the colors, followed by the Englesby Intermediate School’s performance of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

State Rep. Colleen Garry, a Dracut Democrat, was particularly looking forward to the Arbor Day celebration, having been “locked into the chamber,” at the Statehouse for most of the week debating the budget, while wishing she was outside enjoying the spring weather.

“The beauty of living in New England is seeing the changes in the trees,” Garry said. “The shade in the summer, foliage in the fall, the bare trees of winter and then the rebirth in the spring.”

She then asked those in attendance to ponder what the world would be like without trees. There would be no wood to build homes, no paper, or campfires. We would be without many of the fruits and nuts we enjoy, and there would be no tree houses or tree swings.

Garry recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem, Trees , and presented the Garden Club with a proclamation from the House of Representatives lauding their efforts to beautify the community and promote environmental awareness.

The celebration then moved to the back of the park, where a magnolia tree, the most popular flowering tree in the United States, had been planted courtesy of the Garden Club.

The latest of four magnolias planted in the park by the club. It will grow to a maturity of 25 to 30 feet with a 35-foot branch span.

Club members hope to eventually ring the entire park with trees.

Have a story idea? E-mail Jennifer Amy Myers at jmyers@thevalleydispatch.com .