A wooden fence once divided Cathy Gress’ southeast Charlotte home and her neighbor, Sue.
But as their friendship grew, the fence came down and the two neighbors began clearing out brush, thinning trees and working on a border that would draw birds.
Saturday, their border got more elaborate when Gress bought a bunch of infant buttonbushes, possumhaw viburnum, red chokeberry shrubs and wax myrtles at the 44th annual tree and shrub sale held by the Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation District – with an assist from TreesCharlotte. The Charlotte Storm Water Services also had rain barrels to sell at the Hal Marshall Center uptown.
The tree sale is an effort to reintroduce a dozen native species to Mecklenburg lost to development. TreesCharlotte, which donated the trees for Saturday’s sale, has embarked on an effort to plant 15,000 trees a year throughout the county to help replace the county’s aging canopy.
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“This is a great way to get these species that were here historically back into the county. They’re going into people’s yard and will reclaim some of that suburban area,” said Brad Johnson, a Davidson College professor who is a soil and water conservation district board supervisor.
Interest in the sale had dwindled the past couple of years, but not Saturday.
“They say there were years when people circled the building waiting to get in and buy trees,” Johnson said. “This is the first time in 10 years that there was a line at the door when we arrived to open.”
They sold about 1,500 saplings and shrubs Saturday.
Twelve went to Gress, who will plant them in the border by sundown Sunday.
“My neighbor is an older woman and we’ve been talking about this for years,” Gress said. “She didn’t know I was coming to the sale today, but I know she’ll get excited.
“It’s a project we both share – more for nature and the birds. It’s something that she can look at and enjoy.”
The sale is something of a yearly “ode to spring” for Catherine Crigler, who on Saturday had her Saab station wagon loaded with bags of dirt and sweetbay magnolia saplings she had ordered.
She’d ordered several oakleaf hydrangea, but the shipment from Tennessee didn’t arrive because of snow.
“When I got up this morning, I remembered I’d pre-ordered all these plants and didn’t have a plan for them,” Crigler said. “So I went to Home Depot and got some dirt and now I’ll take the plants back and put them in the ground somewhere by the end of the day tomorrow.”
The past couple of years, she’s been working on a rain garden in the back of her lot and hopes to incorporate the magnolias into that.
John Powell, a Republican at-large Charlotte City Council candidate, plunked down $100 for as many trees as that would buy – at least 20 red maples and 20 spicebushes. He bought them to honor Tallulah Greeson, newborn daughter of Shawn Greeson, a Democrat running for an at-large seat on the City Council who is also a soil and water conservation district supervisor.
“We’ll plant them wherever they’re needed,” Powell said. “I just wanted to do something to honor Shawn’s new baby.”
Sharon Jones sent an email to her sisters and nieces about the sale and Saturday she left Hal Marshall with an armload of saplings and shrubs – some that will be planted at her sister’s in Walkertown in Forsyth County and the rest in her yard near Mountain Island Lake.
“It’s such a great deal on these trees, and trees are so good for the quality of air,” Jones said. “I love trees and I love flowers, anything outdoors. That’s why I come here each year.”
She said she had to leave.
“This place is too much like Walmart,” Jones mused. “If you stay, you buy more.”