By: Greenwich Sentinel | Column | October 29, 2020
By: Anne W. Semmes
The winning trees are!! A Copper Beech, a Horse Chestnut, a Red Tip Photinia, a Katsura, a Sugar Maple, and a Colorado Spruce! They now wear nameplates as chosen by the Greenwich Tree Conservancy (GTC) in its second year of celebrating the winning entries of Treasured Trees on private properties across town.
But this pandemic year there was no festive Treasured Tree gathering at the Sam Bridge Nursery – instead the GTC principals, including founding chairman Peter Malkin, invited the winning tree owners to share their tree stories virtually. Presiding was GTC President Cheryl Dunson who kicked off with a tree lover’s quote, “Someone is sitting in the shade today, because somebody planted a tree long ago,” with her adding, “Because there were others who also nurtured that tree along the way.”
The six winning tree nurturers were introduced after the Town’s Tree Warden Dr. Gregory Kramer shared his own tree stories. Kramer found his own treasured tree growing up in Manhattan, “a 350-year-old Tulip tree that to this day resides at its current location and is thought to be the oldest living organism in the metropolitan area.” Kramer arrived at his post in Greenwich already with tree connections through Pinetum founder, Colonel Montgomery, “having worked at his property down in Coral Gables [Fla.] and done my research there. I really got a sense of who he was and what he was inspiring to do, and what trees would he be interested in.”
How those six winning trees were chosen was explained by the two tree judges, Sam Bridge, “multiple generation owner of Sam Bridge Nursery and Greenhouses, and John Conte, renown horticulturist and landscaper…both champions of conservation and the environment,” so introduced by Sue Baker, GTC Advisory Board Co-chair.
“We use these various categories,” told Conte, “Size, age, what we call pedigree… the uniqueness of the specific tree, its ornamental value…is the tree well suited for where it is.” Lastly, its history, “and that category has the most points.” Sam Bridge confirmed, “What it really came down to was the story of why that tree is treasured by the person presenting it, and that was the cool part of the whole thing, why you love that tree.”
The great Copper Beech on Field Point Road is familiar to many a passing motorist on their way to Town Hall across the street. For the last 75 of its surely 100 years or more, it has graced the front lawn of the First Lutheran Church and provided shade for Sunday Schoolers shared the Church’s Amy Young. It is also embraced by next door office workers who “feel they’re in a tree house,” she reported. The Rev. Evan Scamman spoke of his appreciation of Frank [Rusty] Parker of Parker Associates LLC (located in that next-door building), “for helping out greatly in the care and maintenance of the tree.”
More praise for the Copper Beech came from neighbor, Peter Malkin. “It’s a wonderful thing every day when we go out, we see that beautiful Copper Beech.” He noted that Rusty Parker is a GTC board member.
The Horse Chestnut is located in Rock Ridge -its owner Kirsten Galef was unable to be present. Her note praised her “special tree” for its “white blossom in the spring, and in the fall the chestnuts provide a feast for our squirrels.” Conti weighed in with, “You can see that tree is like a sculpture, like a fountain frozen in time. It’s just a beautiful tree.”
Riverside residents Wendy and Jim Enelow had entered their winning tree as a Parrotia tree but after some research it was identified as a Red Tip Photinia. “We thank you for honoring our tree and telling us what it is called,” said Wendy Enelow. “We just love this tree because it’s an evergreen and keeps its leaves all year.” Judge Conte added, “This tree just knocked us out when we saw it. It’s more of a southern growing tree. You must have an interesting climate there.”
On Glenville Road resides another less known and winning tree, a Katsura. owned by Mary Shaw and Rob Marks. “We inherited the tree when we bought the house in 1989,” said Marks, “It’s just majestic. We’ve installed some spotlights underneath it…and on a dark night it’s almost as if you have your own heaven above this with the leaves like little stars.”
“At this time of year, it turns a rich yellow,” said Mary Shaw. “And when the sun comes through it’s just a glorious yellow, and then the leaves fall to the ground and make a carpet of yellow.”
“Is this the tree,” asked Malkin of the Tree Warden, “that you are replacing the Copper Beeches we’re losing on Greenwich Common?” “That’s correct,” said Kramer. “It gives you a similar form and grows in a somewhat similar fashion.” He added, “When I was talking before about pedigree, really nothing ranks higher than Katsura.
It’s got great ornamental value in every season.”
A Sugar Maple familiar to many that towers before the offices of the Greenwich Land Trust (GLT) on Round Hill Road was number five of the six winners. Speaking for it was GLT Conservation Outreach Manager, Dan Brubaker. “One of the neat things about it is it gets used every day – it provides shade all summer for our Youth Corps when they’re having lunches. With COVID this summer we’ve had a lot of meetings out there underneath the tree.”
What age might that accommodating Maple Brubaker be he was asked. At least 150 years old was his answer.
Conte agreed, “It’s in its second half of life. Sugar Maples that are 50 years old or so would have a very oval rounded shape. This one has maxed out. It’s just spread out to full height – you really don’t see sugar maples bigger than this.”
Perhaps the most passionate testimony of tree treasuring came with the sixth tree winning Colorado Spruce. Owner Joan Stewart Pratt lives on Mallard Drive in the Milbrook area, where her tall Spruce is said to be seeable from the Post Road across from the Greenwich High School football field. “It used to be our Christmas tree in our living room about 30 years ago,” said Pratt, wearing her Santa hat, “And my late mother and I planted it together.” She cited the significance a spruce tree had in her family – with her mother’s Greek heritage. “The spruce tree according to Greek mythology represents constant eternal life, and was referred to as the tree of birth, and that the scented needles mean resilience and strength. So, during these challenging and uncertain times now more than ever we need to know that resilience, strength and love, is what is important in life.