By Barry Avery, CT Hort Member and community activist
Gordon DeWolfe’s initial response to three Granby residents looking to start an arboretum was “The first thing I’ll say is you’re crazy. Next is that you’ll need $10 million!”
Gordon was with the Arnold Arboretum in Boston for decades, and he just happened to be the first person that Peggy Laureau, Eric Lukingbeal and I contacted. Ultimately, Gordon went on to say he thought it was a great idea and offered plenty of useful advice.
There were numerous positive and encouraging visits with other Arboreta, public and private, and their Directors in Connecticut, New York, and as far away as San Francisco. Glen Dreyer and Maggie Redfern at Connecticut College Arboretum were and still are especially encouraging and helpful. Solid advice and ideas came from a number of other people, including the Director of the Bartlett Arboretum; John Kehoe, once the Chief Forester for Hartford; Dr. Robert Richard of UConn; and three local Arborists, John O’Brien of O’Brien Nursery in Granby, Don Ford of Gran- by’s Stonegate Nursery, and Shawn Bosco of Bosco’s Nursery in Simsbury.
The next step taken for the Tree Trail was to ‘hire’ John Alexopoulos’ Junior Landscape Design Class at UConn to perform a Study and give us design criteria. Taking this step strengthened our resolve and helped convince us we could succeed. We then went full speed ahead.
Well, not quite full speed because we didn’t have any funding, but what we did have is Holcomb Farm. This 330-acre farm was gifted to the town of Granby from the Holcomb family. Interestingly, it was the first ’electrified’ Dairy Farm in Connecticut, dates back to 1750, and had remained in the possession of the Holcomb Family. The property has spec- tacular views, mature forests, a thriving CSA Farm and beautiful open fields just waiting for trees.
Holcomb Farm is overseen by Friends of Holcomb Farm, a volunteer Board. The Tree Trail concept was presented to the Board whose response was to “Go for it.” The Granby Board of Selectmen and Town Manager gave the go ahead after one false start and 16 trees were ordered from Rare Earth Nursery in Cazenovia, New York. The Nursery uses a Missouri Gravel Bed system of growing and the trees are all six to ten feet tall, with a mature root system. The first trees planted in 2018 – three each of Kentucky Coffee Tree, American Lin- den, American Elm, Swamp White Oak, Shingle Oak, and one Black Tupelo – are thriving in their new home.
A grant from the Hartford Founda- tion for Public Giving paid for the trees planted in 2018. The hope is that the Foundation will contribute again in the future. It also helps that a significant sum of money was left to the HFFPG when there were no remaining Holcomb heirs.
Fourteen more trees were planted this past autumn; three each of Japanese Tree Lilac, Cornelian Cherry, Kousa Dogwood, and Sargent Cherry. More trees have been ordered for planting this year. Friends of Holcomb Farm recently received a very generous donation from a long-time Granby resident and it is to be used ‘for Trees only.’
A group of native shrubs and flowers and some interpretive signs will go in this spring. Permanent name tags have been installed on some 60 trees along several of the marked trails on the Farm. Other efforts include an ongoing program to clear unwanted brush and invasive plants that have grown since active farming stopped over two decades ago, and a dedicated parking area is also in the plans. We are actively working to bring Educational Programs to the Tree Trail, coordinating with the Granby School System, and other organizations such as 4H, Scouts and maybe McLean Game refuge. McLean’s is a 4000+ acre property located primarily in Granby with some property in Simsbury and Canton, and has trails that connect with Holcomb Farm and that opens many possibilities.
Come and visit anytime. Holcomb Farm is on Simsbury Road in Granby and is open to the public for free. The Tree Trail is across the street from the parking area near the house and barns.
The Tree Trail is looking to expand its volunteer roster. The Trail is approved as volunteer hours for UConn Master Gardeners. If you would like to be involved in the exciting future of this property you can email me, Barry Avery, firstname.lastname@example.org. That will also work if you have a couple million dollars you would like to donate; or even a few dollars. We are a 501(c)(3) organization so all monetary donations are tax deductible. We would love to tell Gordon DeWolf we are getting close to his advice to obtain 10 million dollars.