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History and Horticulture

Registration is limited for AHS's sixth Garden School.

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Studying flowers at River Farm.

Trees have played an important role in American history from the beginning. Probably the best depiction of that fact is the painting of William Penn meeting with leaders of the Iroquois Nation to sign the treaty of mutual peace under a large, spreading oak in the area of what became Philadelphia.

In addition to forming the backdrop of the American landscape, trees have provided the people of this nation with an array of benefits such as food, shade and the basic material for housing, furniture, eating utensils, sea and land transportation. Many have borne silent witness to our history — the good and the bad.

On April 10 and 11, The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is offering a new Garden School program entitled "Trees of the American Landscape." It will be conducted in conjunction with and at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens followed by a field study focusing on tree care and preservation at the AHS's River Farm Headquarters.

Serving as Guest Horticulturalist for the event will be Mount Vernon's Director of Horticulture Dean Norton. Other featured speakers will include author, landscape architect, and arborist Guy Sternberg; aboricultural researcher Tom Smiley; tree enthusiast Mike Hayman; Director of Data Gathering and Analysis for Casey Trees, Holli Howard; and Director of Horticulture and Curator, Morris Arboretum, Tony Aiello.

In addition to the various presentations, participants will tour the Estate and gain first-hand information about its trees. The afternoon of April 11 will be spent at River Farm for a "Tree Care and Preservation Field Study" conducted by The Care of Trees, the exclusive tree care company of the AHS.

"There are excellent tree experts on this program to help people understand how to properly care for trees. Many people just plant trees and forget them thinking they will take care of themselves," said Norton.

"Trees become the step children of many gardens and landscapes. They don't receive that extra and consistent care they need. They are very much like people and they need that early nurturing tohave long and productive lives," he said.

THERE IS HARDLY a more appropriation location for such a program than the 500 acre Mount Vernon Estate -- 300 of which are forest and another 60 in lawn and gardens. While relandscaping his plantation in 1785, Washington planted hundreds of trees, creating a naturalistic landscape. Many of those specimens exist on the Estate today.

Friday afternoon, The Garden School concludes with a specially designed field study allowing participants to get an insiders look at River Farm's tree care, one of Washington five outer farms. The Care of Trees will have aborists on hand "to teach attendees about root health, juvenile tree pruning, structural integrity of trees, and maintaining optimal soil biology using compost tea applications," according to the registration brochure.

The two day event, which kicks off formally at 1 p.m. April 10 with a welcome by Norton, is priced at $415 for AHS members and $450 for non-members. In addition to the lectures and field study, the fee includes admission to Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, a reception and dinner at the Mount Vernon Inn Thursday evening, April 10, as well as a continental breakfast and lunch Friday, April 11.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. April 10. Thursday morning is free allowing attendees to explore Mount Vernon Estate on their own. This includes not only the Mansion and other structures throughout the Estate but also the new Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center and the Ford Orientation Center.

Initiated in 2004, the AHS Garden Schools offer an opportunity for life-long learning in the art of gardening and horticulture. The in-depth workshops feature personal instruction from noted gardening authorities as well as opportunities for practical hands-on experiences.

As noted in the registration literature, "AHS Garden Schools are designed to have national interest and are tailored to the avid gardener — whether professional or home." This is the sixth such school to be offered by AHS.

A participant in one of the previous schools, Elaine Lee of Virginia, said, "As a serious gardener, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work alongside noted authorities in the field. Now I look at my own garden in a whole new way."

Additional information is available by visiting AHS's website at www.ahs.org, through email at education@ahs.org, or by calling 703-768-5700 ext. 137.