Tag: Catherine Zacuto

Make 2021 Better!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 16, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

You have set your intention for the new year: Make the world a better place. One way to do that is to plant a tree. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams made similar plans as they wandered the gardens of England in 1786. Jefferson and Adams, sometimes adversaries with opposing political views, joined together to investigate the worthiest of English gardens as they waited for trade negotiations to move forward in Europe. Appreciatively scouring the estates, these two Founding Fathers admired the winding paths and natural features of the most modern gardens. 

The Stowe garden appealed to Jefferson’s practical side. Known for both his head and his heart, Jefferson noted utilitarian features such as pastures and irrigation methods. While he appreciated the color and design of the garden, he seemed irritated by useless items like a solitary Corinthian arch. Adams was most likely in full agreement with Jefferson’s opinions about Stowe. Urban environments strained him; he was happy to escape London for the English countryside. Occupied for decades with government business, he longed to return to Peacefield, his farm in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. Adams enjoyed digging side by side with the hired workers and instructing them on the latest innovations in soil improvement. His correspondence during his retirement years is riddled with the virtues of manure. The English garden tour provided Jefferson and Adams plenty to dream about as they finished their trade negotiations and headed home, inspired to make their gardens and the new nation just a little better.

Maybe you’re inspired to follow through on that intention to make the world better. Your activism represents a decision to make a difference: The tree you plant contributes valuable oxygen to the atmosphere. Added bonus: When your neighbors see the results, they might plant a tree, too. Choosing the best tree to plant can be daunting, but resources abound. Reflecting on the purpose of the tree will help you decide: Do you want more shade in your yard? Are you looking for privacy? Do you have limited space? To see quick results, you may want to plant a fast-growing tree. 

Fast-Growing Trees in Virginia*

  • Hybrid Poplar
  • Weeping Willow
  • Quaking Aspen
  • October Red Glory Maple
  • Arborvitae Green Giant
  • River Birch
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Leyland Cypress
  • Paper Birch
  • Pin Oak

*As you plan, be sure to check to make sure the tree you choose is a Virginia native.

By planting a tree (or two), you are demonstrating the ideals that made our country strong: freedom, hard work, and perseverance. For men like Jefferson and Adams, gardens represented more than just beauty or status; the nurturing of crops, shrubs, and trees symbolized the cultivation of American ideals. Independence is evident in the natural style of early American gardens. The labor devoted to bringing life to their farms and gardens fostered the self-reliance for which America became famous. Experimenting with new methods of soil conservation and irrigation affirmed the idea of perseverance. The Founding Fathers were not afraid to get their hands dirty to achieve a higher goal. Planting your tree also serves a larger purpose – improving the health of the planet.

Helpful Resources:

Fairfax County Tree Basics Booklet | Public Works and Environmental Services

Gallant Gold Media

Tree Planting Information

Planting Trees from Seeds

References

“Notes of a Tour of English Gardens, [2–14 April] 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-09-02-0328.

Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. Knopf, 2011.


© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

Must Act Quickly to Restore Our Habitat | The Powerful Impact of Time Capsules

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 27, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Restoring our habitat is of the utmost importance. We must act swiftly to replant everything we’ve destroyed if we want to succeed at lowering atmospheric carbon levels. Interestingly, our Founding Fathers, as well as early American farmers, were equally concerned about preserving and maintaining our habitat. Sharing plants and seeds across the miles added vibrant diversity to our landscape. Each packet of seeds acted as a time capsule carrying the promise of a healthy future. 

Time capsules capture the imagination of people everywhere. The International Time Capsule Society estimates there to be between 10,000 and 15,000 time capsules worldwide. Even fictional time capsules have a place in modern culture. You may be familiar with the episode of “The Simpson’s” in which Principal Skinner’s prized container is contaminated by Bart’s partially eaten sandwich. Two current time capsules planted in Flushing Meadows, New York contain common items such as a hat, a fountain pen, and a pack of cigarettes, all meant to convey a sense of what life was like in the 20th Century. Seeds also made the list, showing just how important plants are to our survival. Carefully preserved wheat, corn, oats, and tobacco seeds, are just a few of these precious materials we are sharing with the future. One wonders: Are these seeds intended to be agricultural specimens or life-giving sources of food and oxygen for a world that could be struggling in 5,000 years?

If all goes well, the seeds sent forward into time will yield a bountiful harvest. Seeds certainly hold promise for the future. Consider the seeds shared in the 1700s between an American farmer and an English businessman. According to Andrea Wulf’s wonderful book, The Brother Gardeners (2010), the farmer, John Bartram, supplied American plants and seeds to Peter Collinson, in London. Over the course of 40 years, the relationship flourished, and New World trees and shrubs migrated across the Atlantic, adding oxygen-giving greenery to European gardens. The seeds acted as a time capsule joining two worlds and offered hope for a future full of essential vegetation.

Seeds help ensure the future of our planet.

  • Seed banks hold promise for our future, as they preserve endangered species and genetic diversity threatened by climate change.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, stores more than 980,000 seed samples from all over the world.
  • Organizations such as the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are working to restore decimated habitats and re-populate them with native seeds.

Be Part of the Solution

As days grow short and we wait patiently for the light of the new year, let’s consider what elements of the past are worth passing on to the future. Which seeds can we plant now that will strengthen our planet as it fights global warming? Plant a tree, add shrubs to your yard, cover a wall with Virginia Creeper. Share with others the value that a leafy green environment holds for our future. Create a time capsule that will make a difference!

Timely Tree Facts:

  • Most oak trees don’t grow acorns until they are at least 50 years old.
  • Conifers grow 3-5 feet per year in the first five years and can reach 90 feet by age 25.
  • One of the oldest trees in the world is a bristlecone pine named “Methusela” (4852 years old as of 2020).

Resources:

What to Plant in Winter: https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/what-to-plant-in-winter

Fast-growing trees in Virginia: https://timberworksva.com/fast-growing-trees-virginia/


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

A Gift Worth Waiting For | Exciting Eco Projects For Students While Distance Learning

Washington (GGM) Analysis |December 19, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Wandering through a wooded park or along a shady path, it’s easy to miss what’s right before our eyes. How often do we consider the gifts before us, planted long ago? The cool breeze and fresh fragrance are momentary experiences that began with the planting of seeds. No matter how the trees, shrubs, and understory got there, whether through nature or a particular person, you and I are the beneficiaries. 

Thomas Jefferson understood this. His legacy of Monticello lies not only in its Neoclassical architecture but in its lush landscape. As a matter of course, school children learn the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Yet how often are they given the opportunity to uncover Jefferson’s other significant gift, the carbon-fighting greenery flourishing at Monticello and Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia? His plans for Monticello included vegetable gardens, a vineyard, two orchards, and an 18-acre ornamental forest. Trees planted as early as the mid-19th Century still adorn the Academical Village at UVA. This life-giving vegetation continues to fight the greenhouse gasses humans add to the environment. Jefferson and other forward-thinking botanists gave us gifts centuries before we recognized them. We can pass on their legacy by teaching our children about the gift of trees – what we have received and how we can give.

This land was once James Monroe’s cornfield. But Thomas Jefferson bought it and said, “Let there be trees!”

Benefits of Trees

  • Trees clean the air by trapping particulates on their leaves and branches.
  • Trees help prevent water pollution by collecting rainwater on their bark and leaves and depositing it in the ground below.
  • Trees provide economic opportunities for small businesses that provide food to local markets.
  • Exposure to trees helps relieve mental fatigue.

     Jefferson’s story and his gardens offer valuable lessons for young people. Planting a tree, caring for a sapling, waiting for growth all require patience and hard work. What better way to learn these important life skills? Planting trees with children engages them physically and gives them purposeful time outdoors. Watching and waiting for the first green sign of life teaches youngsters that growth takes time, just like their own development. The tree will need nurturing and thoughtful care including some hands on, “Let’s get messy” work. To generate interest in tree planting, you can begin with age-appropriate literature about trees and their care. Adolescents may be energized to learn about the difference trees make in the fight against global warming, or they may want to plant their tree to support a friend going through a difficult time. So, take a moment to enjoy a refreshing breeze and appreciate the clean scent of a forest. Then make a plan for the gift you will give, a gift someone is waiting for.

“Let there be trees,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Ways to Give Back

  • Plant a tree or shrub in your yard (and post a photo on social media)
  • Add Virginia Creeper to cover a fence
  • Learn more about trees and spread the word

Resources for Parents

Books:

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-10)

Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words by Brandon Walden (ages 6-12)

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia (ages 8-12)

Websites:

Informative video for parents and kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVvZLyZAIg

Tree Activities for Kids: https://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/tree-activities-for-kids.html

Benefits of trees: https://canopy.org/tree-info/benefits-of-trees/urban-trees-and-climate-change/,

https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits


© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.