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Master Gardeners donate sugar maple

Photo by Mike Davis

Photo by Mike Davis

Arbor Day, which recognizes the importance of trees to the well-being of America and its human inhabitants, will be celebrated across the United States over the next few weeks.

Arbor Day began in Nebraska in 1872, and the Georgia General Assembly proclaimed the first Georgia Arbor Day in 1890. National Arbor Day is the third Friday in April, but in Georgia Arbor Day is celebrated the third Friday in February, since it is a better time for planting trees in this area.

The cities of Jackson and Flovilla will both have special Arbor Day celebrations on Friday, Feb. 18, in association with the Georgia Forestry Commission, and will plant trees on that date. Jackson will be giving away 100 red maple seedlings.

Trees clean the air and water, beautify neighborhoods, provide homes for wildlife, conserve energy, and prevent soil erosion, among other benefits, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission. Arbor Day is an opportunity to celebrate the environmental, social, economic and health benefits trees provided to communities.

On Friday, Feb. 11, the McIntosh Trail Master Gardeners celebrated Arbor Day and the value of trees by donating a 10-foot-tall sugar maple to Butts County. The tree was planted near the Butts County Community Center tennis courts, not far from the Butts County Child Development Center.

The planting was completed with the assistance of personnel and equipment from the Butts County Parks & Recreation Department and the City of Jackson on Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon, the Master Gardeners were watering the tree, which was purchased from Redbone Tree Farm in Barnesville.

The sugar maple is a deciduous tree known for its bright fall colors of yellow, orange, and red. It is fairly fast growing, usually reaches 50 feet at maturity, tolerates shade well, and can live for 300 years.

The McIntosh Trail Master Gardeners organization includes members from Butts, Lamar, Monroe, Pike, Spalding, and Upson counties. For at least the last decade, the group has donated $100 to purchase a tree on Arbor Day, rotating the donations between the counties represented by the membership.

The Master Gardeners also commit to give the newly planted tree special care for at least six months, particularly being sure to water the tree through that time, which includes the often dry summer months.

Director of the Butts County Parks & Recreation Department Jim Herbert said that the newly planted sugar maple will replace a tree previously planted at the site. A local nursery that was going out of business had given four sugar maples that were planted in the area near the tennis courts.

Two of them still stand, but two have not survived. The Master Gardeners are replacing one of the trees, and the Butts County Home School group that holds meetings at the Community Center is replacing the other sugar maple. Herbert expressed his appreciation for the new trees.

The Master Gardeners Program was created in Tacoma, Wash., in 1972 and introduced in Georgia in 1979. It was initiated to train volunteers to assist county extension offices in responding to gardening questions.

Master Gardeners receive 40 hours of extensive training and must perform 25 hours of horticulture-related community service annually to maintain their state certification.

Master Gardeners help provide educational programs for the public on gardening topics, contribute leadership in establishing and maintaining community vegetable gardens, help with 4-H projects and conducting school programs, maintain gardening "hot lines" at county extension offices, present programs for local garden clubs and other groups, and raise funds through plant sales, garden tours, and lectures by botanical experts, as well as contribute to the observance of Arbor Day.

The McIntosh Trail Master Gardeners Association meets monthly at various locations for educational programs, field trips, planning community projects, and other organizational business. In January, they had a demonstration on "Creating a Water Feature." In February, the group will attend the Camellia Festival at Massee Lane.

Linda and Ronny Yates will host the group in April for a garden tour of their Butts County garden, The Clearing, which will include a lecture on azalea care and propagation by Allison Fuqua. Scheduled for May is a field trip to the fern collection at Georgia Perimeter College. The Towaliga Nursery will be the site of a meeting at an as yet undetermined date.

For more information on the McIntosh Trail Master Gardeners Association, contact the Butts County Extension Service at (770) 775-8209.