All Saints', Concord: Growing Native Tree Saplings - A New Creation Care Ministry
Cimate change is a threat to the health of our planet and has the most adverse effects on those with the least resources. Planting the right tree in the right place removes carbon from the atmosphere, provides shade to lower utility costs, filters storm water and makes yards more enjoyable. The Episcopal Church has made creation care a priority, and All Saints', Concord, has committed to use our nine-acre campus to provide green spaces for our community and for our creation care ministries, such as the All Saints' Arboretum, and our Energy Saving Tree Campaign.
The All Saints' Arboretum of Native Trees was established in 2019 using trees already growing on our campus. The objective of the nursery is to gather native trees saplings donated from private landowners in Cabarrus and nearby counties, grow them in irrigated pots and then distribute them to be planted locally. So far, 14 different species of native trees have been labelled and dedicated. The labels include the tree species and the person(s) to whom the tree is dedicated. QR codes link to educational content about the tree and, if desired, information about the person(s) being honored or remembered. When the QR code is scanned, it links to information contained on the All Saints' website.
In 2019, All Saints' invested in a well and irrigation system. As a next step for our arboretum, we identified an area to grow native tree species that are not typically sold in stores, such as sassafras, eastern red cedar and big leaf magnolias. We are blessed with a dedicated core of volunteer gardeners to complete this work.
Two local landowners and longtime naturalists donated some sapling trees from their 30-acre woodland to our native tree nursery. With their help in October of 2019, we marked nine different species of native tree saplings with color coded surveyor tape. The plan was to dig these up in this spring and place them in pots to grow in the nursery. In March 2020, the pandemic brought all church activities to a halt, so we decided to leave these trees in the ground this year.
A few of us on the Gardens of All Saints' team have been collecting native trees from various nearby sources over the past two years and keeping them watered in pots in our yards. With a Creation Care grant from the Diocese of North Carolina, we have been able to plant some of them in a garden we call The Path. As we did not have room to plant them all, the rest remain in pots and became our first trees in the native tree nursery.
On April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary Earth Day, we measured the layout and organized these trees in a dedicated space in The Path garden. We installed individual drip emitters in each pot and grouped them by species. These initial trees included: three bald cypress, three loblolly pines, five serviceberries, four eastern red cedars, one red bud, 10 white oaks and three big leaf magnolias. Labels indicate the name, source, and date of acquisition for the trees. Some pictures follow.
The arboretum was created both to honor creation care and to create a space both open and welcoming to our local community. We look forward to the day all can come and enjoy it again; until then, our native plants will continue to grow.
By Mark D. Robinson, M.D