Dear Miss Floribunda,
Unlike “Not a Tree Hugger” in last month’s column, I like trees and appreciate the ones in my front yard, but my backyard is completely unshaded. There must have been some trees there at one time, because I have noticed a couple of decaying stumps. As it is, I’d just as soon crawl into an oven as go out back of my house in summer. My budget can’t include tree purchases. One of my neighbors told me you can get a free tree from the City of Hyattsville. I looked at the municipal website but didn’t see anything about tree giveaways, although I did learn how to contact “Miss Utility” (any relation to you?) to make sure I don’t dig into an underground pipe when I plant a tree. So, do you have any inside information on this or is my neighbor just putting me on?
Overbaked-Backyard Owner on Oglethorpe Street
Dear Overbaked-Backyard Owner,
Your neighbor must have lived in Hyattsville for quite some time, because it has been many years since trees have been given away outright. However, the Hyattsville City Council and Environmental Committee and have been working to establish a rebate program for tree purchasers. If you have questions about this initiative, please email Julie Wolf of the Hyattsville Environmental Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, you can get a $25 coupon offered by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to help defray the expense of buying a tree. Print out the coupon from their site, which also provides a list of local nurseries that honor the coupon. In addition, if you join the Hyattsville Preservation Society, you will be given a contractor’s card that authorizes a 10- to 20-percent discount at these nurseries.
Prince George’s County offers a $150 rebate to participants in its stormwater management program for each purchased native tree measuring at least 5 feet high. You can find more information about the “Urban Tree Canopy” on the county’s website. You might also call 410.974.2941, ext. 114 to speak with a helpful and knowledgeable associate, or send an email to rebate@cbtrust. You would also be reimbursed for installing rain barrels or cisterns; replacing your impermeable driveway with a permeable covering; creating a green roof; or turning your lawn into a rain garden. The total reimbursement per household for tree planting on residential property and any other approved ecological project would be $4,000. Be advised that there is a restriction on the time of tree planting, which must be done between October 1 and May 1 of the following year. The tree you choose should be an approved native species that would grow to a height of at least 25 feet.
Through May 31, you can obtain an absolutely free tree through a program Pepco is financing through the Arbor Day Foundation. Go to arborday.org, or call 1.888.448.7337 to apply. However, only three varieties are being offered: northern red oaks, red maples and river birches. If you are willing to spend $10 to become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, you can get a package of 10 free native tree seedlings from a much wider selection.
I must emphasize that most of what is offered are tall shade trees, although some smaller ones are included in the flowering-tree package. The intent behind tree gift and rebate programs is to improve the ecosystem with a pest-free, low-maintenance native tree canopy, or urban forest. As mentioned in last month’s column, an urban tree canopy cleans the air, muffles noise, nurtures beneficial birds and insects, absorbs storm water run-off and improves property values.
Now, however much you appreciate a majestic tree canopy gracing the street in front of your home, you might prefer to shade your backyard with a more varied and less overwhelming landscape. While smaller native trees and shrubs are not included in the rebate programs, you can very inexpensively obtain such charmers as redbud, persimmon, summersweet and winterberry trees at the Ninth Annual Hyattsville Native Plant Sale sponsored by the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA. It will take place on Saturday, May 19, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hyattsville Elementary School Gymnasium, 5311 43rd Avenue. If you miss this sale, Wendy Wildflower and Dave Greenfinger of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society inform me that they will be working at the Chesapeake Natives sale on Sunday, May 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the grounds of Mount Airy Mansion, 9640 Rosaryville Road in Upper Marlboro.
Since you asked, as far as I know, I am no relation to Miss Utility. I admire and value the service she provides, and have called her to send someone to put little pink flags in my garden that warn me where the gas and sewer lines run, but we have yet to meet. Oh yes — to avoid further confusion — neither of us has the surname Manners.
There will be no meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society (HHS) in May but HHS members will meet on Saturday, May 19, at the Hyattsville Municipal Center to arrange flowers for homes opening their doors for the Hyattsville Preservation Society’s annual Historic Hyattsville House Tour. The tour takes place on Sunday, May 20, from 1 to 5 p.m. This is a unique opportunity to see some of Hyattsville’s most interesting homes and gardens. Tickets are on sale now at Franklin’s and at the Hyattsville Municipal Building on the day of the tour.