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Trees, Beautiful Trees!

In much of the country, today is Arbor Day...a wonderful idea that originated in the great state of Nebraska.

I love trees. Growing up in Illinois, we had 11 mature oaks in our yard, along with huge, stately spruce trees on three corners of the lot. At my current home, more than half of the property remains in a natural state packed with established trees and saplings alike. That's not unusual here in New Hampshire, where thick stands of trees are prevalent in what is the second most forested state in the country. (What is unusual is the fact that this is so, because 100 years ago, New Hampshire had been largely deforested. This is difficult to imagine when observing the current landscape.)

Trees are fascinating; their characters are multi-dimensional. They're the stately sentinels of the natural world, majestically reaching skyward. They're chameleons. One day they might sway dreamily in the breeze - while the next, branches are flung about violently by a rough storm. They're air conditioners; who hasn't found welcome relief from the summer heat beneath a tree at one time or another? They're magicians. Watch with wonder in the spring as temperatures moderate, buds begin to show and - sometimes seemingly overnight - a lush canopy of green appears. They're entertainers, staging a spectacularly colorful display - free of charge - each autumn. (Especially sugar maples: the extroverted show-offs of the tree world.)

Today, we celebrate these great anchors of the landscape via Arbor Day, the brainchild of J. Sterling Morton. Originally from Detroit, Morton moved to the Nebraska Territory 1854. Recognizing that trees were necessary to create windbreaks and shade - and to produce timber - for the homesteaders, he promoted the idea of tree-planting via the newspaper he owned.

After becoming secretary of the Territory, he had an even bigger platform to spread the idea. The first Arbor Day took place in April of 1872 when it's estimated more than one million trees were planted across Nebraska. Thirteen years later, it became a legal holiday there; Morton's birthday (April 22) was chosen to mark the official celebration.

Now observed nationally, Arbor Day most commonly falls on the last Friday in April - though some states pick other dates in order to coincide with the best tree-planting weather in their areas.

Have a special occasion coming up? Consider giving the gift of a tree! One of the nicest wedding presents my husband and I received was a beautiful young pin oak from my brother and his wife which we planted in the front yard at our new home. I drove by last summer when visiting family back in Illinois specifically to see that tree. I was pleased to find it - now so much larger and more stately - beautifully standing watch over the house.

On the Arbor Day website you'll find an interesting story about a unique 90th birthday celebration: the family purchased and planted 90 small trees in honor of the patriarch's big day. What a lovely idea for a long lasting tribute! Want to find out more about trees? Check out the Arbor Day Foundation website. 

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