The best trees in the neighborhood

When I was 5, my family moved into a new home with a large hawthorn tree in the back yard. That tree was some kind of mutant-instead of a forest of thorns it was practically thornless. The neighborhood kids had already declared it the best climbing tree around. They immediately befriended me, probably because they wanted to keep climbing that tree.

They were right; there wasn’t another tree like it for blocks. I could climb it any time I wanted, but I soon found that the best time was in the spring. Every day I’d scramble along the naked branches and count the buds. Soon they would swell and burst into creamy white blossoms. The aroma was sometimes overpowering but the sight from the top was overwhelming-I was sailing on a sea of white.

A few years later, my parents decided to put an addition on our house. The hawthorn was in the way. I insisted that we try to save that tree, and my dad said he’d see what he could do. Talking it over with the builder, they decided to trim off some branches but saved most of it. It might have been cheaper just to chop it down, but my dad understood that tree was worth the extra cost.

In a few weeks the cherry trees in the Liberal Arts Quadrangle will be in full bloom. I won’t be climbing them, but pre-schoolers from local day care centers probably will. While the aging trees will put on a majestic display, the blossoms can’t hide the fact that they won’t be around much longer. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are all emotionally attached to those trees-just as I was to my backyard hawthorn. It will be hard to say good-bye.

Fortunately, the UW is planning now for the inevitable-not just the demise of the Quad cherries, but all the aging trees on its magnificent campus. After a year-long study, the UW Landscape Advisory Committee will present a preservation plan to the administration. While the original trees cannot be saved forever, the plan certainly will preserve the character of the Quad. As my dad understood so many years ago, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars to keep alive the best trees in the neighborhood.