Gardening: Plant a tree to mark Arbor Week in Saskatoon

The province has declared the last week of May a permanent Arbor Week and Saskatoon is pulling out all the stops to mark the occasion

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By Sara Williams

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I’ve been planting small trees every spring for almost half a century. At one time, hundreds; more recently, only a few. The process inevitably brings a smile to my face, along with a sense of satisfaction, caring and hope for the future. And years later, I now live in a forest, surrounded by the bright orange bark of Scots pines, the corklike bark of the Amur cork tree, the lobed foliage of burr oak, fruit of crab apples and mountain ash, the rustling of leaves, tweets of birds (instead of phone-obsessed humans), and flowers of various plum, apple and pear species. A feast for the senses that changes with the seasons.

Although schools and communities within Saskatchewan have long marked spring with tree planting, Arbor Day was not officially observed until 2021. The Government of Saskatchewan has made the last full week of May a permanent Arbor Week (the official Arbor Day is the Friday of that week) and Saskatoon is pulling out all the stops to mark the occasion. In celebration, plant a tree, take part in one of the many scheduled activities, or simply stroll through the University’s Patterson Gardens (enter from Preston, across from the Field House), an arboretum containing more than 800 trees labelled with English and botanical names.

Save Our Saskatoon Trees Coalition (SOS Trees), formerly known as SOS Elms, will again be organizing events to celebrate Arbor Week within our urban forests. The theme for 2022 is “Trees Breathe Life.” All events are free and open to the public. Registration and additional information are on their website: sostrees.ca/arborweek.

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May 21-29: Interpretive Walk is a self-guided audio nature-walk describing the contribution of specific trees to our urban ecosystems. Ideal for families or small groups, signage will be in front of the trees included in the walk (bring your phone to scan the QR codes to access the audio clips). Parks hosting this event are Silverspring (710 Konihowski Rd.) and Victoria (16th Ave. W. and Ave. H S.).

Tuesday, May 24, 7 p.m.: Branimir Gjetvaj, representing ‘Wild About Saskatoon,’ will lead a workshop on creative photography of trees. With a background in ecology and genetics, his interest in photography focuses on appreciation and protection of natural environments and cultural legacies. Location: Chief Whitecap Park south of Saskatoon; meet in the dog park parking lot. Participation/pre-registration required (SOS Trees website); limited to 15 to 20 people. In case of rain, the alternate date is May 26.

Wednesday, May 25, 7 p.m.: Tree Spirit Connections: Exploring Spirituality in the Trees. Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck, known as the Green Priest, employs spirituality — using breathing, prayer, body movement and the active imagination — to connect with and bless the natural world around us. Location to be announced on SOS Trees’ website.

Thursday, May 26, 7-9 p.m.: Our Trees in a Changing Climate, a University of Saskatchewan webinar. Dr. Colin Laroque, Soil Science Department, University of Saskatchewan, explores the carbon sequestration by trees. How do they contribute to climate mitigation? What adaptation strategies can homeowners and city planners employ to maximize our efforts? The financial benefits to homeowners of planting trees? Free, but register through gardening.usask.ca.

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Friday, May 7, 7 p.m.: Remai Modern Art Gallery Film Night. “What Trees Talk About,” directed by Ryszard Hunka, deals with the secret, dynamic life of trees in our boreal forests — how they communicate, wage war and work together to transform their world and ours. Check the Remai website for COVID protocols.

Saturday, May 28, 9 a.m. to noon: Arbour Crest Tree Pruning Workshop. This hands-on pruning workshop, instructed by local arborist Robin Adair, takes place at the Varsity View Community Garden (Wiggins Ave. and 12th St. E.). It covers the what, when, why and how of pruning and tool care. Bring your own pruning tools, gloves and safety glasses. Registration is limited (SOS Trees’ webpage).

Sunday, May 29, 1 p.m.: Community Tree Planting of a Food Forest. SOS Trees has partnered with the Sunnyside Care Home, the City of Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Nature Society to plant fruit trees in the care home’s garden, 2200 St. Henry Ave. This initiative will connect vulnerable populations with access to nutritious food, improving food security in a sustainable manner. It also encourages bird populations. Please bring your own tools.

In celebration of Arbor Week, plant trees — with your family, neighbours, school, club or community organization — and breathe in that sense of satisfaction, nurturing and hope for the future of our urban forests.

Retired from the University of Saskatchewan, Sara’s most recent book is Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens with Bob Bors. She’s been hosting garden tours for over 20 years — to Great Britain, Ireland, Europe, Turkey and Iceland. Join her for a tour of French gardens this September [Contact Ruth at 1-888-778-2378, worldwideecotours.com]

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This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society. Reach the society by email at saskperennial@hotmail.com or visit their website at saskperennial.ca. You can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/saskperennial. The Spring Plant Exchange will be held on Sunday, May 29. The plant exchange will start around two o’clock for more information please see the website. These are “member only” events, but memberships are available at the door for $10.00.

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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