Arbor Day is a great chance to focus on trees, said Sari Carp, co-founder of local organization Sustainability Matters and a member of the Woodstock Tree Board.
Carp said trees are essential for converting carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen, but also for providing a canopy for birds and shade for humans.
“Trees are really, really vital,” she said.
Sustainability Matters is a volunteer-driven collaborative with a mission of conservation and community building. It operates under the nonprofit Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley while it works toward becoming a stand-alone 501(c)(3) organization, according to the CFNSV website, https://www.cfnsv.org/sustainabilitymatters.
At the website https://www.townofwoodstockva.gov/229/Tree-Board, the Tree Board describes its interest in developing, implementing and maintaining an urban forestry management program; developing standards and guidelines for planting, maintenance and preservation of public trees; and promoting education on proper tree-care practices.
“They just want more trees," she said of the Tree Board. "They’re planting more trees in public places. They’re also encouraging homeowners to plant trees.”
Carp wants to educate people on the idea of “right tree, right place,” which she’s noticed is a huge problem when it comes to how people plant trees.
She said homeowners might not realize just how big a tree will get over the decades. Trees can even grow bigger than the mature size listed on their tags, so she said people should account for a lot of growth when they decide on a location.
“Just make sure that the tree is in the right place,” she said. “Respect the tree’s needs.”
Carp sees Arbor Day as “an opportunity to think about trees and learn about trees.”
“Really, every day should be Arbor Day,” she said. “We should be celebrating trees every day.”
Arbor Day in the U.S. takes place every year on the last Friday of April and encourages people to plant new trees and care for the ones already here.
In Front Royal on Saturday, the Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards are planning a combination Arbor Day/Community Earth Day Celebration with a day of free events. At 9 a.m. there will be a tree planting at the Boat Landing Picnic Area on Luray Avenue., at 9:30 a.m. the 2nd annual “Green” Way Walk and Plogging Event, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Community Earth Day Celebration at Skyline High School. For more info, visit https://treesfrontroyal.org/arbor-day.
But Arbor Day can also be a time to consider other gardening efforts around your home.
As part of her work through Sustainability Matters, Carp also encourages local residents to plant pollinator gardens for insects like bees and butterflies as a way of improving healthy growth around the area. As an alternative, she suggested planting a vegetable or herb garden, which would have the dual purpose of looking pretty and providing food for the family.
“Do something for the pollinators or do something for you that you can eat,” she said.
Having a big impact doesn’t take a big garden, and she recommended that those new to gardening start small.
Those looking to start a pollinator garden might consider plants that will work together to maximize their potential.
“Use some plants to fertilize others,” she said.
Use plants that will add variations of color, heights and textures to the garden as well as those that will attract a number of different pollinators.
Spicebush blooms white or yellow in the spring and hosts the larvae of the eastern tiger swallowtail and spicebush swallowtail, according to the website www.wildflower.org.
Evergreens like blue juniper are great too, because they’ll keep the garden going through the winter.
Vegetables and herbs can also grow alongside other plants, contributing to the success of the whole garden.
For example, she said, “Everything in the onion family is really good at repelling pests.”
“They all work together,” she said. “A lot of the native plants, they’re not super fussy, and they’ll do well in bad soil.”
But there are also some plants to stay away from, and she cautions against planting butterfly bush, despite its popularity among gardeners trying to attract butterflies to the yard.
“They’re a bait and switch bush,” she said.
People like them because they attract butterflies, but Carp said that after butterflies lay their eggs there, caterpillars can’t get any nutrition from butterfly bushes.
“Caterpillars like kid food,” she explained. They’re genetically programmed for particular diets, but if all they have available to them when they hatch is a butterfly bush, they will starve to death.
As a compromise, Carp said people should plant milkweed around butterfly bushes. In the case of Monarch butterflies, milkweed is essential to the survival of caterpillars.
Other types of pollinators like different types of bushes, she said, so gardeners should keep in mind the variety of plants they use in their pollinator garden.
“You don’t want to plant just that,” she said. “Look for diversity in your garden.”
Carp said pollinator gardens are so special because they’ll have an impact on the whole yard.
“If you’re growing a pollinator patch, you’re never going to have to fertilize it,” she said. “If you’re growing a clover lawn, it’s fertilizing the ground itself.”
“People actually are trying to get rid of the clover,” she said, “and they should be trying to get rid of the lawn.”
Sustainability Matters will be hosting Fiesta in the Garden from 1 to 4 p.m., on May 5 at Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville, teaching participants how to grow a salsa garden and plant for pollinators. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for Barns/Sustainability members and $10 for children. For tickets or information, call the Barns at 540-955-2004 or visit SustainabilityMattersVA on Facebook.
For more information on Sustainability Matters and its upcoming events, visit them on Facebook or at the website https://www.cfnsv.org/sustainabilitymatters.
This story was updated to remove the April 27 event at New Market Area Library. Sari Carp and Sustainability Matters are no longer part of that event. Information was also added on the upcoming Fiesta in the Garden at the Barns of Rose Hill.