By Sally Voth
As a thank you for the city's cooperation as his own business has grown, Carl Thomas recently donated 20 trees to Winchester's Jim Barnett Park.
Thomas is the owner of Blue Ridge Landscaping and Design.
"This is our 20th year in business," he said. "We wanted to donate something to the city who has been really good to us over the years. [We] started calling it 20 trees for 20 years."
The city is calling it Plant a Tree, Watch it Grow. The new program was brainstormed this fall in response to the loss of about 200 trees in the park and on city streets in last summer's derecho, parks and recreation director Brad Veach said.
"It's encouraging individuals, businesses, civic organizations to consider planting some trees on city property," he said.
Blue Ridge planted a variety of trees, including skyline honey locusts, a new dogwood variety, zelkovas, autumnal cherries, and October glory maples on Nov. 8, Thomas said.
"We went around the park and tried to find some varieties that they didn't already have," he said.
Several of his employees' children have played T-ball at the park, and it was noted there were no shade trees by the fields, according to Thomas.
Blue Ridge does landscape planting and maintenance, and started off mainly doing residential work, but has since done more commercial and federal contract work, including at the Kennedy Center, Handley High School, Winchester National Cemetery and Quantico National Cemetery, he said.
"I started gardening when I was 10," Thomas said. "My father gave me a small space in our family garden, and I started growing lettuce."
This led him to Virginia Tech, where he obtained a horticulture degree, and later to starting his own company "with just one truck, one trailer and one tractor."
City arborist Jen Jenkins will help those interested in participating in the program select appropriate trees, Veach said. Parks and recreation or the public works department would also work with the donors, he said.
Two other businesses have committed to donating 15 more trees: Skyview Tree Experts and Greenleaf Tree Service, according to Veach.
He said each tree will cost $150, and donors are welcome to help plant them. Donations are tax deductible, Veach said.
For more information, call Jenkins at 662-2857.