Monday, November 25, 2013

Big E Trees Get a New Home

Removal of the Trees in front of the N.E. Grange
When we are exposed to things on a daily basis, it is remarkable what can be overlooked. It might be historical significance, value or the individuality and uniqueness of an item. In this case, I am referring to trees.

This week, Eastern States Exposition’s Landscaping department began the process of redesigning the planters in front of the New England Grange. This project included the removal of several trees that surrounded the iconic building.

They are beautiful trees – there is no denying that. Each has vibrant mahogany bark and magnificent flowers during the spring. Despite their eye catching appearance, I only knew them as the trees in front of the Grange.

Come to find out, they are Paperbark Maples and Stewartia. Both are slow-growing, specimen quality varieties which were planted on ESE grounds during the ‘80s. The branch shape, bark color and trunk caliper (trunk diameter) of the trees, all attributed to their specimen grade.  

While tree removal was necessary to showcase the front of the Grange better, Scott Paton, of the Landscaping department, did not want to see the trees destroyed. “Since they take so long to grow, I couldn’t imagine just chopping them down,” Scott said.

To fulfill his mission, Scott recruited Don Ford, owner of Stonegate Gardens Inc., in Granby, Conn., to find the trees a new home. Scott met Don on a field trip to his nursery 13 years ago while he was studying at UConn and always remembered his experience. Don specializes in specimen trees and works with landscape architects across New England. Scott said he has a great business model for larger trees.

When asked whether he would like the trees for his nursery, Don did not have to think twice. “This is a wonderful opportunity,” Don said. “They are beautiful trees and far too valuable to be cut down.”

According to Don, it is a rarity to find Paperbark Maples as large as these. “It is like finding an antique or gem – You can’t pass it up,” he said. Scott even mentioned that one of the Paperbark Maples in front of the Grange is the largest he’s ever seen.

The removal process took two days. The trees, weighing upwards of one ton each, were dug up by hand and wrapped using a special drum lacing technique with rope and burlap.

Drum Lacing Technique
According to the men, this process is a dying art form. Machines that quickly “ball and burlap” plant roots eliminated the necessity of using this old fashioned method.  However, drum lacing still comes in handy for circumstances such as this – when the trees weigh the same as a small elephant.

Once the surface area of the roots was secure, the workers lifted each tree from the ground with a backhoe. They were then able to cut the tap root and continue tying the bottom by tilting the tree from side to side.

After all of the trees were wrapped up into giant disk-shaped mounds, they were put en route to Granby, Conn., where they will be stored in outdoor manmade dirt pits until Don finds a home for them. They will hopefully find permanent residence in the Berkshires.  
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