In the year since the Manchester Garden Club teamed with the town Conservation Commission to adopt the Foster Parent Tree program, the initiative has been so successful that the club was honored with two awards from the Federated Garden Club of Connecticut.
"The club enthusiastically took on this long-term project with the goal of providing a sustainable inventory of trees for town use, as long as there are foster parents willing to care for them," said Molly Toomey, Manchester Conservation Commission member and chair of Birds and Conservation for the Manchester Garden Club.
The club as a whole was awarded the Environmental Concern Conservation Award and Toomey in particular was honored with the Tribute Award for Conservation.
"This was a great honor for us," she said.
Toomey explained that during 2016, "a large number of four-foot saplings were donated and planted throughout the Hockanum Linear Park system, through the Foster Parent Tree Program.
Club members, she said, became "foster parents" for tree saplings and collected and potted them from their property or the property of others who had small trees they wanted removed.
"These trees are being cared for until they are large enough to transplant into designated opens spaces," Toomey said. "In late fall, the club secured a large plot in the MCC gardens where they created a place to winter over more than 46 saplings - including oak maple, beech, white pine, and dogwood their inventory."
In September 2016, the first planting of 12 trees - including American beech, red maple, and red oak - were planted in the Purdy Preserve, where Japanese Knotweed had previously deforested a substantial section of the preserve, she said.
The Manchester Garden Club, in conjunction with the Conservation Commission and the HRLPC, created the Foster Parent Tree Program to "restore and protect targeted town-owned open spaces damaged by man-made and natural environmental threats," Toomey said.
"These habitats will benefit from the effort and the restoration of the forest and will reestablish a healthy environment that is so essential to insects, birds, and native wildlife," she added. "The future success of the program is in the hands of the new generation of youngsters who will one day be charged with protecting the environment."
To that end, the garden club presented a program, called "Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks," at the Lutz Children's Museum on April 20. Children between the ages of five and 10 were given the opportunity to "learn fun facts about oak trees, plant and care for acorns, and color oak leaves and acorns from five native species of oak trees," Toomey said.
Dominique Nevers, of Meriden, brought her children Dylan, 4, and Dream, 8, to participate in the program so they could learn about the important role trees play in the environment.
"I'm always looking for something hands-on for them to do," she said. "We had a lot of fun today. It was worth the drive."
The children went home with their planted acorns, care instructions, fun facts, a take-home surprise, and their colored oak leaves, intended to help them and their parents identify oak trees in their neighborhoods.
Families who later cannot care for their sprouted saplings may return them to the Lutz Children's Museum, and the Manchester Garden Club's Foster Tree Program "will then nurture them until they can be used in reforestation efforts in town," Toomey said.