What’s amazing about trees is that all of us have that childhood special tree that we just loved. Being around memorable trees arouses the feeling that we are around something special. Something heartfelt.
Around Wooster Square, a community near mine, children of all ages love this time of year for the cherry blossoms.
Now, if you want to experience an enchanting walk, drive or bike ride, enter Wooster Square through narrow Hughes Street. Although Hughes Street is only one block long, it’s lined with 18 pink cherry trees, 9 planted on each side of the street. You’ll love it! Next, walk around the square itself; it’s surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees with white blossoms.
Blossoming trees not only create joy and instill an appreciation of beauty; they can help strengthen our connection with our neighbors. When we share appreciation, it unites us. Also, just seeing that someone has taken special care heightens our sensitivity and receptivity. We know that those who planted the trees were devoted to their neighbors and to future generations. Maybe they cared for humanity as well.
The closeness of the trees creates a sense of intimacy and being in a special place. It gives people something to talk about, generating the sharing that is at the heart of what makes a community.
The processional if not communal power of planting trees in pairs was not lost on Kate Middleton. For the Royal Wedding, her landscape designer paired six English Field Maples and two Hornbeams to line the aisles of Westminster Abbey. Lining the abbey with trees was a warm and friendly way to make the large space feel inviting.
This works equally well in a church, a field or in a city. When sheltered ‘neath a leafy bower, people tend to feel more intimate, more connected to one another.
Here in New Haven, Bob and Susan Frew have started lining Little Nash Street with blossoming crabapple trees. The Frews have taken the initial step with under-planting their trees with flowers that bloom all summer long. Since they own most of the houses on Nash Street, they have added to the unique sense of place by blessing the houses with unique light fixtures and cool mailboxes. The amount of pleasure added vastly outweighs the additional expense of these elements.
You don’t have to own a street, if you have just a few like-minded neighbors, blossoming trees and shrubs can enhance your community.
1. You can easily create a special gathering place within your community by planting as few as two trees. Position a pair so that it frames a vista.
2. Plant two rows of trees that you create a beautiful alley or a walkway. Be certain to line them up in matched (not staggered) pairs. It feels much more special when you walk under the pairs of trees that frame the Hughes St. than it does to walk under the single line of trees that encircles Wooster Sq., so why not maximize your investment by giving people the greatest pleasure.
3. It is important to consider the “adult” size of the tree. You want the branches of the trees to cross over and touch and overlap just a bit. This creates the feeling that the trees are reaching over for each other are lovingly touching. Remember, the smaller the tree the narrower the space that it can define.
4. Pick your street. The cherry trees work at Hughes Street because the street is narrow. For wider city streets you would need larger trees. However, why not stick to smaller passages where people move slower and appreciate their surroundings as they talk with one another? There is really nothing that surpasses of flowering trees or colorful foliage arching over a pedestrian walkway where neighbors can greet each other.