DIANA SOMERVILLE COLUMN: Always a good time to plant a tree

“YOU SHOULD PLANT a tree for every year you’re alive,” my grandfather told me. “It’s a way to say thanks to the Earth.”

Autumn was perfect for planting new trees or relocating “volunteers.” Although Grandpa admired their strength and audacity, trees often sprouted up too close to the house or utility lines.

“Trees never stop growing,” says arborist Gordon Clark, with Clark Horticulture in Port Angeles.

Often trees are planted too close to a building.

“You don’t want to face a future of drastic pruning,” Clark said.

“The right plant in the right place is the mantra.”

For a good long-term choice, feel free to ask a pro instead of relying on nursery tag information.

Well-placed trees save money by reducing your need for summer cooling and by protecting your home from harsh weather.

A young, healthy tree provides the cooling equivalent of 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Landscaping with mature trees increases your home’s market value by as much as 20 percent.

On the North Olympic Peninsula, it’s easy to overlook the value of our “urban forests.”

Trees that beautify our streets and parks — as well as those in your yard — also improve air quality, producing oxygen and cleaning away pollutants.

By reducing erosion and absorbing storm water, trees improve water quality.

Their leafy canopies and broad root systems slow runoff and reduce flooding. They filter the pollutants from water flowing from storm drains into the ocean.

What’s the advantages of just one tree? That depends on the size and kind of tree, says the International Society of Arboraculture’s Web page, www. treesaregood.org.

One bigleaf maple in my yard absorbs an impressive 2,595 gallons of water a year, said its “tree benefit calculator” on the Web site.

That startling figure made me wonder: Could thoughtfully chosen trees offer a green solution to meeting our new storm ­water regulations?

Well, yes, given successes in Portland, Ore., San Mateo County, Calif., and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver began “Green Streets” in 1995. Trees, native plants and vibrant streetscapes encourage walking or using bike lanes while also managing storm water sustainably.

Now a full-blown community effort, Green Streets has improved the city’s mix of transportation choices and involved people beautifying their yards and adopting neighborhood street gardens.

Free compost, sharing plant giveaways and easy access to experienced master gardeners enrich the program.

See their results at http://tinyurl.com/cfa433.

We and trees breathe in harmony — perhaps the root of why trees make us feel good.

So many factors contribute to our feeling healthy or content that researchers struggle to explain how trees impact us. But we have some tantalizing clues.

Patients who can see trees from their hospital windows heal more quickly from surgery, researchers found.

And simply seeing trees helps people recover from stresses within five minutes in laboratory studies.

That’s not counting the health benefits of nuts and fruits or the simple joys of watching birds, squirrels and other wild critters.

Urban forests can also serve as wildlife corridors. We have some 60 million to 200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Enhancing urban forests in shopping and business districts provides an economic boost by stimulating local economies, research studies suggest.

A quality urban forest positively influences shoppers’ perceptions; retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly and tenants stay longer.

With trees, size matters. Tiny token trees edging parking lots don’t make up an urban forest, UDA Forest Service research suggests.

Consider: Trees live the longest of anything — and each tree is a hope for the future.


Diana Somerville, an award-winning author and science writer, lives in Clallam County and can be contacted via www.DianaSomerville.com.

Act Locally, her column on sustainability and the environment on the North Olympic Peninsula, appears every other Tuesday.

More in Life

During the PSHA game show at the Crosby arena in Agnew last weekend, Duncan Parks, 18, and Ed ran a blazingly fast “A” division time of 8.45 in the Keyrace. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)
HORSEPLAY: Olympic Peninsula equestrians beat the heat

ARE YOU FEELING beat by the heat? It’s sure had me feeling… Continue reading

Scribble Bots STEAM event for tweens at NOLS locations

Kids in grades 4–7 will build robots that scribble… Continue reading

Emma Weller
Former Port Angeles Roughrider graduates from Harvard

Port Angeles High School alumna Emma Weller recently graduated… Continue reading

Dan Peacock, on left, receives the 2024 Community Service Award from Lora Brabant, president of the Clallam County School Retirees Association.
Peacock receives retirees’ community service award

Dan Peacock has received the 2024 Community Service Award… Continue reading

The DAISY Foundation has recognized Thomas Batey with its DAISY award.
Thomas Batey recognized

The DAISY Foundation has recognized Thomas Batey with its DAISY award. Batey… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Gardening fun in the summer sun

SUMMER HAS OFFICIALLY begun, school is out, for a couple weeks the… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Living honorably is a marathon, not a sprint

THE OPENING CEREMONY of the Paris Olympics is a week away. The… Continue reading

Jamal Rahman will discuss teaching stories and sacred verses that transformed his life at 11 a.m. Sunday. Rahman will be the guest speaker at Olympic Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Olympic Unitarian Universalist Fellowship speaker set

Jamal Rahman will present “Healing Extremism and Polarization” at… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Maintain Peace of… Continue reading

The Rev. Donna Little will present “The View From Here - 2024” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Unity speaker slated Sunday

The Rev. Donna Little will present “The View From… Continue reading

Repair jewelry, bicycles at Sunday event

Volunteers to show participants how to fix common items

Diane Fatzinger uses the wind phone in Sequim, located just north of the Olympic Discovery Trail on West Hendrickson Road. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Wind phone offers a place for therapeutic discussion

Sequim woman constructs unwired booth to speak to lost loved one