After being hit with our most recent wintery blast of ice and snow, the Home is now preparing diligently for the onset of spring. One of our annual tasks is to give our Southern Magnolia tree a trim. Bartlett Tree arborist Bill Eck, who has been servicing our trees for many years, will complete the annual inspection and permit-obtaining at the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs. Bill and his crew will be pruning the front yard magnolia, back yard crepe myrtles, hollies and Bartlett pear tree by March 1st. We hope he will take a swipe at our unruly English and American boxwoods and chase all the spider mites out of the yard as well.
Our Magnolia grandiflora, commonly known as the southern magnolia or bull bay was gifted to the Home in the late 1950’s by Mrs. Smoot, a friend of long-time former Board Mrs. Rebecca Parker. We are very proud of the fact that our magnolia is the only large tree on our side of the block on Wisconsin Avenue. Giving directions we often say, “Look for the large magnolia tree and the steps. We are just a few doors up from the Apple Store.” Native to the southeastern United States, the southern magnolia can reach 90 feet—ours is getting there having been planted back in the 1950’s. Our tree is also driving us crazy growing 3 to 4 feet a year. This wonderful growth is thanks to Bill Eck’s excellent care, but the Home’s front yard is a tight squeeze. By the time spring rolls around, it is hard to see our historic building behind the giant tree crown. We especially love the magnolia tree’s occasional large white, fragrant flowers. We also enjoy getting our daily exercise sweeping up the constant barrage of giant green leaves dropping with even the slightest of breezes. The street sweepers of DC know the Home well.
Washington D.C., as an international city, is one of the great tree cities of the world. We are all familiar with the famous cherry trees gifted to the city on March 27, 1912 by the Japanese Mayor of Tokyo City. In fact, the Japanese gifted 12 different types of cheery trees all those years ago. Today, most are Yoshino Cheery trees, but the District also has Kwanzan, Akebono, Takesimensis, Usuzumi, Weeping Japanese, Fugenzo, Afterglow, Shirofugen and Okame Cherry trees—enough different species to entertain the most diligent of grade school students. Most residents and visitors to the Capitol know of the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteium), planted on the Capitol grounds in 1966 as a gift from the Cherokee Indians to honor their Chief Sequoyah who was famous for figuring out a way to write the Cherokee language down. This tree is certainly not in its best environment (cool and misty) here in the hot and humid DC summer, but appears to be surviving just fine. Despite D.C.’s international tree canopy, if you walk along you will see the official tree symbol of the District—the ordinary scarlet oak. Also, called the black oak, red oak or Spanish oak, this fast growing native tree, along with numerous maples, gives D.C.a magnificent, brilliant color of leaves in autumn and lots of needed shade in summer. The scarlet oak is also tolerant of drought, poor soil, wind and the vicissitudes of city living. Perfect for our city neighborhood.
We also have some notable trees right here in Georgetown. These include 4 Chinese dawn redwoods in the backyard of a P St. resident. These redwoods are more than 30 feet wide, and 110 feet high. Planted in the 1960’s, in a few thousand years, they could be 400 feet tall. Perhaps they will be considered in violation of the District’s height restrictions. Rivaling the redwoods are the American elm trees on Q St. Somehow, these giant shady elms were spared from Dutch Elms disease that spread across the country in the middle of the 20th century. As they age, they are replaced with disease resistant elms and provide the loveliest of shade, again, a great commodity in the D.C. summer months of July and August. If you stroll up Wisconsin Avenue to the woods behind Montrose Park, you can glimpse the second largest tree in D.C., a tulip popular over 96 feet tall with a more than 120-foot crown spread. If you extend your walk over to Tudor Place— just a few short blocks from the Home and home of Martha Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington—you can see a very large pecan tree, ranked in the top 25 of notable trees in the District.
Next time you walk by the Home or visit, please take a new look at the Home’s southern magnolia tree. Maybe it will have a flower or two, and perhaps, will not seem so ordinary after all.