This is the time of year I proclaim and encourage everyone to plant trees. Our state Legislature designated Florida's Arbor Day as the third Friday in January, falling on Jan. 18 this year. For those who have not read any of my articles over the years, this is the only holiday that looks forward to the future and you are planting hope. National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April.
Once upon a time, (in 1854), there was a vast empty plain in the middle of the United States called "The Nebraska Territory." Into this wide expanse of openness moved Julius Sterling Morton and his wife from Detroit. They set about planting their beloved trees, orchards, shrubs and flowers. He became the editor of Nebraska's first newspaper, enthusiastically promoting trees and agriculture. Nebraska joined the Union on March 1, 1867, as our 37th state. In 1872, he went before the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, proposing the idea that everyone plant a tree, stressing trees were needed as windbreakers, to keep the soil in place, for fuel, building materials and shade. The lack of trees was an obstacle to the settlement of Nebraska's rich farmland. April 10, 1872, became a tree planting day. His newspaper kept it before its readers. More than a million trees were planted that day, and Nebraska was a shadeless state no more.
In 1874, Nebraska's governor proclaimed it a legal holiday officially starting in 1875. In 1885, Morton's birthday, April 22, was designated as Arbor Day, a legal holiday, nationally. That day is now designated as Earth Day. President Nixon, in 1970, proclaimed Arbor Day as the last Friday in April. J Sterling Morton later became the Secretary of Agriculture for the United States of America. President Teddy Roosevelt dedicated Arbor Day to the youth of our nation and called our youth, "Stewards of the Land," and it was observed in the schools for many years.
For Arbor Day this year the Fort Myers/Lee County Garden Council is donating $68 to the "Pennies for Pines," a Florida Federated Garden Club drive to help reforestation in Florida's most damaged national and state forests. It is a nationwide drive, with Florida raising funds to purchase and plant their trees specifically in Osceola National and John Bethea State Forest, which have had over 11,000 acres destroyed by the Okefenokee fires in 2010 and 2011. The U.S. Forest Service is trying to reforest 250 to 500 acres per year to replace trees destroyed in these fires. We are collecting monies in increments of $68, as often as you like, that is presented to the U.S. Forest Service periodically in a lump sum, to allow them to order and plant trees in the fall of 2012 and winter of 2013. Trees planted will be those native to the forest and areas, including the endangered longleaf pine. Seedlings are planted as replacement trees native to that particular area, but not necessarily of the pine variety.
There is an Arbor Day Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit conservation and educational organization. It offers 10 new seedlings for every $10 six month memberships, ($15 for a year). You also receive a free subscription to its bimonthly newsletter, plus a free "The Tree Book," a guide to planting and caring for trees. Years ago I sent several times for these 10 free trees. They are shipped and arrive at the right time for planting, with planting instructions, bare rooted in a baggy. Some survived, not because of my expertise, but their hardiness. I was happy enough and recommended it to my friends and readers.
BUT, I just googled Arbor Day Foundation, and there is movement about, calling this a scam. Some subscribers have been disappointed receivers that lacked the ability to keep these 6-inch to 12-inch seedlings growing. There is a guarantee to grow or they will be replaced free of charge. There are many happy people to counteract the doubters. If you're interested, go to arborday.org, and for $10, receive your choice of 10 live oak - or 10 bald cypress-or five crape myrtle seedlings. Their message is a good one - "we inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees."
The foundation. in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, encourages communities across the nation to become TREE CITYs USA, creating a framework for action, education, a positive public image and citizen pride. In 2012, there were 165 Tree Cities in Florida Cape Coral and Fort Myers have been Tree Cities for 20 years, Punta Gorda 18 years, and Fort Myers Beach for 7 years.
Anyone traveling to Nebraska City, Neb., will find the 260 acres Arbor Day Farm that has a rich history as the original estate of the J. Sterling Morton Farm in the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. The Arbor Day Farm is an amusement/theme park in basically an apple orchard. Open year round, the greatest time to visit is in the fall for the Applejack Festival in September, where you get everything from pies to wine from its winery. It has miles of hiking trails, the Lied Greenhouse where thousands of tree seedlings get their start and you receive a free tree seedling, and its 50-foot treehouse is just a ladder to a platform in the tree.
For homeowners, Arbor Day is a great opportunity to survey your property and see if you need a little more shade. Inspect the trees you have for broken branches, diseases or insect damage. Think about how new trees would improve things. Survey your neighborhood and see if a tree might improve an area. Get permission first before planting an area not your own, or have neighbors pitch in, too.
Plant hope for the future and show your faith.
Are you breathing? Thank a tree. Trees make oxygen. Trees eat our CO2. Be kind to trees.
Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast, Federated Garden Council Arbor Day chairman and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.