You can’t go by the Wellesley Square post office without noticing the 150 year-old Black Oak tree that provides shade and a sense of permanence to an area where mail never stays in one place and people come and go on the commuter rail.
But this 70-feet tall tree with multiple lower branches that extend over 80 feet horizontally doesn’t remain upright on its own. Hartney Greymont, a Needham-based landscaping company that also cares for trees in Boston’s Post Office Square, the Boston Common, and Harvard University, has been caring for the tree since the early 1980s and officially adopted it about 10 years ago. Like good parents, they provide their ward with the basics. They keep the soil and rooting environment healthy through aeration, composting, and mulching — efforts which have rewarded the team with a success and the tree with large leaves and lush, dark green growth.
And when the going gets tough, like when a few years ago the lowest limb cracked and was laying on the ground, they provide more serious interventions. After all, it takes a village to prop up a specimen tree of such stature, so to mitigate that near-disaster, Hartney Greymont worked with the town to pull the limb back up and cable it to the limbs around it. At the same time they pruned all of the long heavy limbs to reduce and remove excess weight. They then installed multiple cables to support other limbs as well.
In addition, the company installed a sign at the site to encourage people to tread lightly in the area of the tree. Unfortunately, there are bike racks a little too close to the tree for the liking of some. As a member of a garden club that maintains the flower boxes in town, I’ve been out there toiling away at the post office boxes, deadheading and watering, only to be mistaken as keeper of all nature. Why are the bike racks placed so near the tree, demand passing hecklers and tree huggers. I’ve tried to explain that my club has nothing to do with the tree only to be told primly that one expects a garden club to be in the business of caring about such things. That’s when I mutter something about no good deed going unpunished, and finish up my watering chores. “It would be better if the bike rack were placed further away from the drip line of the tree,” acknowledges Scott McPhee, District Manager for the landscaping outfit.
The company provides this work pro bono but if they were to send a bill, Wellesley would be into tree care for approximately $3,000 – $5,000 a year, an amount that would be a hefty line item on a gap list. Can’t help but think that if I make it to 150 it’s likely that I will also need upward of $3,000 – $5,000 worth of work annually. Hopefully someone will be thoughtful enough to support my limbs when that time comes. Doubt I’ll get all that pro bono, though.