Trees and bees and more

  • Bee boxes come in many styles, but they offer shelter to several types of bees that we rarely pay attention to.

  • The value of trees to the life of cities has been appreciated for years. Central Park was first designed and built in 1858 with additions to come. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • The Norway Spruce with its big seed cones, and the horse chestnut feed the birds, and the squirrels. Birds are more welcome than squirrels. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • The Sycamore is the biggest tree on our block. Sycamore seeds are eaten by some birds including the purple finch, goldfinch, chickadees, and dark-eyed junco. The sapsucker has its own interest in the sycamore. It taps away at the bark making little holes. Then it flies away waiting for insects to come along to eat the sweet sap. Then the sapsucker comes back to eat the insects. The Japanese lilac tree in front of the sycamore is not a native tree, but its flowers do attract hummingbirds, butterflies and insect pollinators. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

Published: 1/4/2020 8:25:56 AM
Modified: 1/4/2020 8:25:30 AM

It seems like the whole town of Greenfield has been making New Year’s resolutions to work more energetically with trees and plants to make this a more beautiful and more environmentally sensitive town.

But while it might be a new year, the city’s focus on environmentally conscious design isn't. The Greenfield Tree Committee has been at work to that end since it was founded in 1998 by Carolyn MacLellan. In 2002, Greenfield was designated as a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation, a distinction renewed every year since.

Nancy Hazard has been involved with the Tree Committee for years. She told me they received a new grant from the United States Forest Service last year that is giving the town 800 new trees. Already, 210 have been planted. Two hundred more will be planted each year in 2020 and 2021.

Hazard was part of the Town’s plan to turn the land at the end of Miles Street into a park. Energy Park was created with planting schemes that would concentrate on native plants.

Trees, including river birches, a sycamore, sassafras, maples, redbuds and hawthorns with beautiful red berries in fall and winter, have been in place for many years. Over the past few years, Energy Park has been undergoing renovations that include soil enrichments and replanting.

Hazard told me that she had an “aha” moment there. She suddenly realized that trees provided many services to the environment in addition to shade, reducing heat and controlling rainwater runoff. Trees provide food and nesting places for birds, food for insects, food for caterpillars, and even pollen and nectar for the bees. This year, Hazard, Mary Chicoine and John Bottomley, all of the Greenfield Tree Committee, planted two tulip poplars and disease-resistant elm trees, which certainly provide those services.

I had not realized before that trees require pollination as well as the flowers in our gardens. The species that rely on insects (mostly bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, and moths), birds, and bats, tend to have fragrant or showy flowers.

I was surprised to learn that Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state, while being the 8th most forested state with 62 percent forest cover. All those trees sequester carbon. They are an important weapon in the fight against global warming. I am grateful to those around the state, and especially in our rural area who have maintained woodland and street ‘forests.’

Trees are one way to care for our environment, but flowers are another way. Volunteers for the Energy Park have worked for years to keep the park filled with native plants. Some are early spring ephemerals like blue cohosh, bloodroot, jack in the pulpit, trillium and others. As the season progresses there are more and larger flowers like turtlehead, coreopsis, bee balm, black-eyed susan, cardinal flower and joe-pye weed. All of these native flowers and many others provide pollen and nectar for the bees, food for caterpillars. Plant labels made by Wisty Rorabacher are very helpful.

Happily, there are other gardens in town that support our important creatures. Susan Worgaftik works with volunteers at the small River Works Park. Pollinator-friendly flowers dance right under the “Brookie” sculpture on Deerfield Street. The park is surrounded by trees, which are busy sequestering carbon.

Nancee Bershof and Tom Sullivan worked with volunteers and designed a beautiful and functional meadow garden on Pleasant Street in front of the John Zon Community Center. For two years, now, the garden has bloomed with tiarella and lady’s mantle in the spring and with all manner of bigger native plants like liatris, bee balm, yarrow, culver’s root, amsonia, jacob’s ladder, butterfly milkweed,  as well as joe-pye weed and asters in the fall. This is not a comprehensive list. Be sure to visit this wonderful teaching garden and follow the path through it. Identification labels make it easy to learn about the plants.

Behind the John Zon Community Center is a long rain garden filled with plants that tolerate being wet, as well as benefiting the birds and the bees.

In addition, the Community Garden will have new gardeners this spring. Last year a tool shed was installed, complete with tools from the old shed.  Rabbi Andrea Cohen- Kiener, Dorothea Sotirios and the Working Group of gardeners kept the project moving. Soil amendments were added to the poor soil. This past summer the soil improvement work continued. Rye was planted and cut down before it went to seed. Clover, vetch, peas, oats, and sorghum were also added. Visiting chickens and ducks spent a couple of months living on that space and added their own soil enrichments.

A new project has begun on Fiske Street. Amy McMahon of Mesa Verde and Claire Chang of the Solar shop are supporting Wisty Rorabacher and Sadie Miller in replanting the weedy bank at the edge of the parking lot. With the help of the DPW, a plan to rebuild the retaining wall is now in place. I’m keeping my eye on this new project. You can be sure the bees and birds, butterflies and bats will all be considered.

This New Year I will be looking for more ways to make my garden useful to the environment. Maybe you will, too.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers can leave comments at her website: commonweeder.com.




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