Winter Tree Care Along Main Street Creates Interest

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Odd things can be seen while Hendersonville’s downtown winter tree-care project is underway. Some folks have wondered why crews are carefully and thoughtfully washing the trunks of the maple trees along Main Street with dishwashing soap.

In the next weeks, others may be curious about the blue tarps that will be spread over outdoor tables and chairs or draped over painted bears while the honey locust trees in the 300 block are gently sprayed with horticultural oil. Then again, one wonders why, even after a night-time rain, arborist Bill Leatherwood will be watering raised beds with dirty water first thing in the morning.

These confounding viewings can be explained, according to Leatherwood, who was contracted by the City three years ago as consulting arborist. “The first thing I did was inventory all the trees along and adjacent to Main Street from North King Street south to Allen Street. There are 220 trees of 56 different species from four years old to 40 years old.”

An update on the winter tree-care project along the stretch of eight blocks was recently presented by Leatherwood to the Hendersonville Tree Board, which, of course, has a vested interest in the job that Leatherwood and his crew are doing. Urban trees, especially those contained within raised beds like the stunning garden display of trees and flower beds along Main Street, always need care, according to Leatherwood. For example, downtown visitors recently saw the sides of some of the brick beds removed and then rebuilt, because over time those containers need repair from tree root damage.

Leatherwood captured his inventory of Main Street trees in a database program called I-tree, a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service that provides urban and rural forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools. The tools in this program inform him about species attributes, health issues, maintenance issues, and pest and disease problems specific to the types of trees in downtown Hendersonville.

Once the inventory was completed, pruning and shaping was considered a priority.

“For example,” he reported, “the 19 Brandywine red maples that line both sides of Sixth Avenue between Church and King Street are planted in a narrow bed close to the busy street and next to the sidewalk.  A lot of trucks go along that one-way street and pedestrians, too.  We pruned the trees with a design to keep limbs out of the roadway and also above the heads of pedestrians. On South Main, we noticed that over time, several large trees had clearly been ‘shaped’ on one side by trucks!  And all along Main Street, limbs on trees that shade dining tables must be kept to a certain height for everyone’s enjoyment. So, pruning and shaping are continuing. Yet, to keep a healthy tree, we can only prune a certain amount at a time.  In effect, this artwork of pruning and shaping is an on-going project of beautification, health, and tree management.”

Early morning strollers saw that a crew of arborists recently climbed and pruned the overgrown lacebark elm between First Avenue and Allen St.

So, why were these men gently washing the maple trees with soap?  Because urban trees can often be stressed and succumb to pest infestations.  Some maple trees had developed “gloomy scale,” it was discovered.  Leatherwood chose to treat each infected maple with a “natural” insecticide of first, a pressure wash, and then cleaned them by hand-scrubbing.

“We try not to use commercial insecticides unless necessary,” he said.  “Yes, a few tourists thought our tree-washing was interesting and asked what we were up to.”

The good news – this fall, those maples showed more color and look quite healthy.

One winter project coming up will involve those blue tarps mentioned earlier.  His crew will be spraying the honey locusts in the 300 block with horticultural oil to treat for spider mites.  This problem has caused early leaf-drop.  Even though the treatment is safe, the oily spray falls down and leaves a residue; so during treatment, tarps will be draped to shield tables, chairs, and Main Street bears that sit below the tree branches.

As for watering the beds with dirty water, Leatherwood said he is currently doing this all along Main Street.  He is, in fact, spraying liquid fertilizer to the tree roots, which goes a long way to keep the City’s linear urban forest healthy.

“Most of our work is done early in the day, between 5 and 10 a.m.,” Leatherwood said, “so most people don’t know this is going on.  But we talk to and work with shopkeepers and restaurant owners to be sure we help with their needs and problems as much as possible.”

The array of varied shapes, sizes, and types of trees from North King St. south to Allen St. creates a handsome display of beauty, shade, color, and contrast to flowers, shrubs, and grasses. Included in the 56 species listed in Leatherwood’s I-tree inventory are several types of dogwoods, a gorgeous false cypress and a bald cypress, a graceful ginko, several types of hollies, a handsome Dawn redwood, a favorite Carolina silverbell, five kinds of magnolia (successfully treated for a weevil problem), maples, sweet gums, and many, many more.

This winter, if one strolls Main Street early in the morning, the City’s urban forest patrol might be spotted.

The entire program is supervised and aided by the Public Works Department. Leatherwood made a point of this: “Whenever I ask that trees be replaced or mulch be provided or any other significant projects like that, the fellows in the Public Works Department are right there on the job,” Leatherwood explained.

“This tree-care program makes for a handsome, healthy downtown arboretum that we all enjoy,” said Tom Wooten, director of Public Works Department.  “We are proud of our urban forest throughout the City, and our Main Street is popular with locals and visitors because of its beauty.  Tree maintenance is an important part of that.”

Hendersonville Tree Board is commissioned by the City of Hendersonville to provide advice on the selection and care of trees and shrubs in public places.  The Tree Board also educates the public concerning the economic and aesthetic benefits of trees and shrubs for the community.  The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Hendersonville as a Tree City USA for 25 years because of its high level of tree care.  The city also became a Bee City USA in 2015.

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