Overstory

Beech tree with autumn foliage

My wife and I have been house hunting in Indianapolis. While we certainly are looking for a home with a modern kitchen and nice center island, just as important is whether the street has a nice tree canopy, and a tree or two in the yard. You never see a house listed as a 3-bed, 2-bath home with a lovely sycamore in the backyard, but that would help me narrow my search!

The house we are moving from in Connecticut has a massive, 70 – 80 foot tall copper beech tree in the backyard. So big it takes four people holding hands to encircle its trunk. The leaves emerge in the spring with a bright copper color that turns green in the summer. As the fall weather cools, the tree’s job is to drop thousands of spiky beech nuts, to the delight of the squirrels and chipmunks. I love this tree.

I’m not sure which Indy neighborhood we will ultimately end up buying a home in. If for some reason there isn’t a great tree in the yard, you can be sure that one of my first tasks will be to plant something marvelous that will last for generations.
I have been thinking about trees a lot lately for three reasons. 

First, I recently finished reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. It is an exceptional book about nine intertwining characters who each are profoundly impacted by trees. There is the Hoel tree, a chestnut planted as a seedling on a farm in the Midwest which survives the chestnut blight and serves as a beacon to the Hoel family and the surrounding community for generations. There is a giant redwood named Mimas that three of the characters live in for a while to prevent it from falling to the axe. The writing is exceptional and immersive. One of my colleagues at KIB described it as similar to that of John Steinbeck. I love the fact that there are trees so important they deserve names. Do you have a special tree that you have named, or has been planted in a loved one’s memory? Let us know!

Second, as readers may know, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful held a Tree of the Year contest this fall. Dozens of trees were nominated from across the city, from younger trees that have sentimental value to the 140 year-old “Harrison” oak at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. Stay tuned to find out the winners!

Third, our fall tree planting season is about to begin. We have 1,800+ trees to plant this fall, and we are vastly reducing the number of volunteers for safety reasons – we’re thinking of the health of our staff, and your health, too! However, if you have lost your job (or know someone who has) because of the COVID-19, we just received a grant through the Federal CARES Act to hire folks for the next three months to help plant trees and restore native landscapes. It’s a temporary gig that requires working outdoors even when it’s cold or wet outside. However, it could lead to green jobs with some of our landscaping partners and other employers, so could be the beginning of a new career! Let us know if you are interested.

While KIB is here to help the city of Indianapolis become a better place to live, work, and play, we also rely on you to help us do that important work. Please consider making a meaningful contribution. Even $5 or $10 makes a difference. Do it for the trees, and please do it soon to help us with the fall planting.

Warmly,
Jeremy
 

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