This Gardener Is Working to Preserve George Washington’s Last Surviving Trees
Washington Post (February 20, 2017)

George Washington was supposed to have cut down a cherry tree — that was fake news, folks, because it is well documented that our first president loved trees. In the late 18th century at his Mount Vernon plantation, Washington supervised the planting of hundreds of trees — trees for shade, for beauty, for fruit and for timber. On his travels, he brought trees back to plant at Mount Vernon.

When Washington remade his garden and grounds after the Revolutionary War, he took a special interest in developing the bowling green, the expansive, bell-shaped lawn to the west of the mansion, bounded by serpentine paths that he proceeded to line with trees and shrubs. The paths were made of gravel hauled by slaves from the banks of the Potomac River.

Today, only four trees survive from Washington’s time — he died at Mount Vernon in 1799. Scattered around the bowling green are two tulip poplars and a hemlock, native plants that grow wild in Virginia. The fourth is a white mulberry, the Chinese tree essential to the silk worm industry.

How much longer these trees will live is anybody’s guess. The mulberry, planted on the outside of the Upper Garden, is a sorry-looking specimen. It has two trunks, but they have been beaten back and split, perhaps by lightning.

The trees were dated in 2005, using small core borings that allowed experts to count the rings. A fifth tree from Washington’s time, a swamp chestnut oak, fell in 2014. (In non-public wooded areas outside the garden and grounds, another 10 trees were found to be from the 17th and 18th centuries).

No one is more aware of the mortality of the witness trees near the mansion than Joel King, a Mount Vernon gardener who is on a mission to propagate them. This has been challenging to say the least, because in great age, a tree is less likely to produce viable seed or readily root from a cutting.

Read the complete article here.