This old tree

Former president Ronald Reagan’s uttered one of his more laughable statements on the campaign trail in 1980. Obviously not much of a nature man despite all those pix of him on horseback at his ranch, he casually mentioned that trees cause more pollution than automobiles do. Even as early as 1966, he said in opposition to the expansion of Redwood National Park, “A tree is a tree. How many more do you need to look at?”
Fortunately, ridiculously false or stupid claims usually fade away like the dolts who utter them. But Reagan’s statement did one good thing: it raised awareness of the special symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. Trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which living creatures both use and need.
    Trees are the oldest living life forms on our planet and deserve credit and care for enduring so much climactic change. Caring for these giants takes a little foresight and knowledge, but the rewards are immeasurable against the backdrop of our own fragile and transient passage.
    Even if your house has been plunked down in the middle of a cow pasture and all your trees are recently Lowe’s-bought, you still probably have a drive through or at least a view of some classic Virginia beauties. Tom Burford, a.k.a. Professor Apple, of Monticello, lives to restore neglected apple trees to their healthful, productive best. Many Albemarle County landowners inevitably end up with old, dilapidated, barren trees on their properties.
Using an ancient, gnarled apple tree in a field at Tufton Farm as an example, Burford will conduct a workshop showing participants how to preserve such specimens and nurse them back to productivity through reconstructive pruning.
    Similar guidelines govern pruning an apple tree or a Japanese maple. Positive airflow is an important need, considering that it is one of the few things saving our native dogwood species from disappearing. Eliminating dead and weakened wood also helps a tree use its energy more effectively. To reduce it to a simple metaphor, pruning is like a haircut: even if you want long hair, you have to trim it once in a while to keep it in its best shape.

Old tree renovation convenes at Tufton Farm April 13 at 9.30am. $10. Enrollment is limited and registration required. To reach Tufton Farm, go 1.5 miles east of Monticello on Route 53, take a left at Brix Market and proceed .6 miles on Milton Road, Route 732 to Tufton entrance. Take a left and follow driveway to CHP headquarters in gray barn. To register, or for more information, contact Monticello’s Department of Public Affairs at 434-984-9822.

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