Mt. Cuba Center donated nine native trees to beautify and stabilize a vacant lot in Wilmington’s West Center City neighborhood. More than 40 members of the community, government agencies, and local conservation groups attended the ceremony around the planting.
“Our communities are the sum total of all of these gestures by people who care for them,” said Mayor Purzycki. “We all have our shoulders to the wheel, together.” The community greening effort is part of the mayor’s ongoing Beautiful City and West Center City initiatives.
This planting served as hands-on training for the Delaware Center for Horticulture’s Branches to Chances trainees, who are preparing for entry-level jobs in horticulture-related work. They worked with DCH employees to plant nine native trees, and to install a fence around the underutilized lot at 5th and Madison Streets.
“We’re making a new spring on 5th and Madison,” said Roger Collins, a Branches to Chances trainee. “This whole city can see that we’re neighbors. It’s a blessing for everyone.”
A graduate of the Branches to Chances program, Ray Taylor, is now employed by the Delaware center for Horticulture. “It’s is a marvelous thing for people to see me putting back where I once dirtied up. This program is here for anybody, and this program saved my life.”
Roger, Ray and their cohort planted three Wildfire sour gum and six Rising Sun redbud trees. The redbuds, which are currently blooming with light pink flowers, will provide essential early season forage for native bees and butterflies. The sour gum has less noticeable flowers, but is known for showy fall color. Both kinds of trees will add beauty and wildlife habitat to the cityscape.
“It’s critical that we show the value of nature in our cities,” said Richie Jones, Delaware State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “By 2050, seventy-five percent of our country will live in cities. We’re going to need more lots and more partners.”
The timing of the planting coincided with the anniversary of a painful time in Wilmington’s history, said Councilman Va’shun Turner, of Wilmington’s 5th District. “Last week was the 50th anniversary of the National Guard’s occupation of this community. I am looking forward to where we can go from here.”