Jackson County Courthouse gets new trees



The county has added five trees to the courthouse lawn after the removal of four ash trees in September 2019.

The new trees were planted Jan. 29 by a crew from Naturalscape Services Inc. of Seymour.

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It was approved last October for the county commissioners to provide no more than $3,000 toward the project that allowed five trees to be planted to spruce up the courthouse lawn, replacing the four trees that were cut down, plus one extra tree was added.

The ash trees were removed last year because they were weakened by the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that affects the ash species. Officials had expressed concerns of the possibility that a diseased tree could fall with a person nearby.

The ash tree that remained on the courthouse lawn had about 10% damage and was pretty mature and it was a high-value tree, so it was treated by arborist Forrest Willey with Naturalscape last July.

Willey completed a trunk injection with an insecticide to the remaining ash tree and will do so annually to help kill the emerald ash borer.

“The next injection is pending approval of the county commissioners but will probably be in late spring of this year,” Willey said. “We’re required to submit a proposal to the commissioners prior to each treatment of the tree.”

Willey was hired to plant new species of trees this year, but before he decided on what trees to plant, he took some soil samples and created a list of trees that would thrive on the courthouse lawn.

“For the most part, the soil samples were about average for the Brownstown area,” Willey said. “The only thing that stood out to me was that the soils were a little more alkaline than what I’m used to seeing.”

Willey said the pH level was 7.2, whereas the average for the county is between 6.5 and 6.8. The pH is not so high that it prohibits a lot from growing, but there’s really only a handful of species that are are going to thrive in it, he said.

With that knowledge, Willey chose the following species for the courthouse: London planetree, greenspire linden, magnifica, which is a hybrid form of hackberry and sugarberry, red horse chestnut and a male ginkgo tree.

“A male ginkgo was chosen because the females produce some really obnoxious fruits and the males don’t,” Willey said. “The planetree is like a sycamore tree, only it doesn’t have as many disease problems as a sycamore.”

Willey said the linden is a cone-shape tree, and the nectar that’s produced with the pollen is delicious and would be a great tree for anyone who has a bee farm.

“London planetrees grow at a fast rate of about 3½ to 4 feet per year, while most trees grow at a rate of approximately 1 to 2 feet per year,” Willey said. “Planting several different species will better protect the trees against disease or pests.”

New maple trees were not planted because there are an abundance of maples already growing at the courthouse.

“There is a potential pest called the Asian long-horned beetle that preferentially feeds on maples,” Willey said. “We’ve not seen that yet in Indiana, but there have been some reports out of Ohio, and I’m trying to be proactive.”

Most of the trees came from Schneider Nursery Inc., but Willey had to outsource the magnifica out of Indianapolis because it is a difficult species to come by.

Willey was given free reign where to plant the trees around the courthouse, as he is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist. The commissioners agreed to let him use his best judgment.

He also a professional photographer and his specialty is astrophotography, which is photographing images in the night sky. Willey also photographs wildlife and does infrared and ultraviolet photography, which is rare locally.

He and his crew, which included Roger Bowlen and Braeden Walker, started with marking the ground as to where each tree would be placed and the species that was to go in each specific spot.

“I’ve been using a machine to cut the sod away from everything first, and it makes it a lot easier to dig and keeps the grass separate from the sod,” Willey said. “Unfortunately, on the third hole, the machine threw a belt, but I had a backup tool ready to go.”

Walker, a senior at Brownstown Central High School, has worked for Naturalscape for about two years. He’s in the school-to-work program, so he goes to school for two periods and then goes to work for the rest of the day.

“I like working outdoors, and maybe after I’m done with school, I might do some contract work someday,” Walker said. “The longer I’ve been with this company, the more I’ve learned, like today is the first time I’ve used this sod cutting tool.”

Walker said he was tilling the soil, breaking up the ground, then using the cutting tool to make an edge for the circle where the tree would be planted. So after the tree was in the ground and had mulch around it, there would be a nice border around it.

Willey drove a front load tractor, moving one tree at a time to transplant into the freshly dug holes from which he and his team had shoveled.

Each tree was moved as close as possible to where it would be planted, then carefully slid off the loader by Walker and Bowlen and maneuvered into the hole, which should be approximately 1 to 2 inches less than the height of the soil ball.

Every transplant tree has a soil ball containing the roots. The ball is covered with a piece of burlap, wrapped tightly around the soil and secured with twine and wire.

“Each of the soil balls weighs about 250 pounds, which is too heavy for two men to pick up easily,” Willey said. “Once the tree is in place, part of the materials are removed from the top of the ball so water can reach the root system.”

Bowlen said the best time of year to transplant a tree is when it’s dormant in spring or fall. In the fall, a tree is transplanted before the first frost, and in the spring, a tree is relocated before it starts sprouting.

“I live in the knobs just above Medora and just recently came back to work for Naturalscape,” Bowlen said. “I had worked there for about 10 years before and at one time was the groundskeeper supervisor. Now that I’m back, I’ve been doing all kinds of things here keeping pretty busy. I don’t get to do a lot of the landscaping anymore, so coming out to do this today is like old home week.”

As for how long the newly transplanted trees will last at the courthouse, Willey said in a landscape situation, the trees generally aren’t growing in an environment they’re native to.

“A tree that grows from a seed will usually always live longer than something transplanted,” Willey said. “A lot of times, you get 60 to 70 years max out of a tree ideally.”

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