Natural Neighborhoods: Sustaining Trees in Montford

Lisa Wagner, Montford Resident, Former Director of Education, South Carolina Botanical Garden,
Clemson University

Montford-mulch-spot-webWe live in a historic neighborhood with abundant trees, but they weren’t all here when Montford was established over a century ago. The next time you’re walking or driving in the neighborhood, notice the diversity of our urban forest canopy. Can you spot the mature scarlet and white oaks, Eastern hemlocks, sycamores, Eastern white pines, black cherries, and red maples? Or, you might recognize favorite ornamentals such as Norway spruce, European linden, or flowering cherry. These trees make up much of Montford’s urban forest community, certainly its canopy, and provide a natural diversity of habitats for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife.

Observing the Mature Varieties

Many of the largest trees were probably planted early in Montford’s history by homeowners or were street tree plantings included as part of early development efforts. (A walk through Riverside Cemetery or a visit to Biltmore Estate provides an excellent introduction to the kinds of trees that were being planted at the time; many are still planted today). A venerable ginkgo on Cumberland Avenue probably reflects a homeowner’s enthusiasm for the species; it’s now a huge tree, delighting us with its size and fall color.

What can we do to promote the health of the urban forest in Montford? The City of Asheville, Asheville GreenWorks (a community-based non-profit), and other organizations continue to plant trees along streets and in parks, but as residents, we have an equally important role to play.

Carefully Replacing Trees and Shrubs

As we lose trees and shrubs for various reasons, we have the opportunity to replace them with equally species-rich arrays. We have excellent choices available, both native and non-native. When space permits, long-lived native trees such as oaks, tulip poplars, and sugar maples help re-knit the ecological backbone and functioning of an urban neighborhood. If smaller trees are more suitable, there are good choices for natives and non-natives alike (see the species list in the Montford Historic District guidelines, available on the City of Asheville’s website, for suggestions). Our lot sizes differ as do the character of the streets in our neighborhoods, but choosing to add trees and shrubs that diversify our landscapes is a key determinant of long-term neighborhood forest health.

It Matters—Attentive Planting, Diversity, Mulch

We can continue to make Montford a more natural neighborhood through creating healthy landscapes which incorporate a diversity of trees, shrubs, and perennials, providing natural habitat for a variety of birds, insects, mammals, and other animals, while providing an abundance of nature for human inhabitants and our companion animals.

My garden group recently mulched a small planting spot next to the Montford corner store; it’s adjacent to the recently installed stoplights and median curbs, so it’s a small step toward making the intersection more attractive. There are lots of opportunities in our neighborhood for additions of plants, large and small. Let me know if you need any suggestions!

Lisa’s blog: naturalgardening.blogspot.com/