Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spanish Steps neighbors kick off RMA tree care season

May 20
Our volunteer Treekeepers led a Tree Care Demo for residents of one of the loveliest nooks of Embassy Row at Decatur Place and 22 Street by the famous Spanish Steps.

Sarah Randolph, RMA Treekeeping co-chair, explained to the crowd that young city sidewalk trees need "foster care" for a few years to get established. She urged neighbors there to "adopt" specific trees near their homes.

The event was a party so these long-term neighbors could plan what each will do for trees.
Host Ross Newman provided refreshments: goat cheeses from Firefly Farms Creamery and local wines from sommelier Veronica Kunkel.

Especially in our current drought, sidewalk trees will suffer if they are not watered regularly: 25 gallons per week is recommended, Anna Viggh of Casey Trees told the guests. For trees to get established, the sidewalk boxes should be free of weeds, rocks and plants that block air and water exchange with the soil.  Liriope and ivy are no-nos.

In the kickoff demo, we planted some small boxwoods and dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonica) in a tree box; these lightly rooted plants allow a tree to thrive.

"The event was a delight to host. It brought together several neighbors who really care about our area, including the wonderful trees," Newman said.

 "I look forward to doing much more with Restore Mass Ave, including adopting 22nd Street below the Steps." Newman said.

Though the trees below the Spanish Steps are so-so, the area is rich with history. Decatur Place, which crosses the foot of the grand stairs, is named for Stephen Decatur, the US naval hero killed prematurely in a duel in 1820. A huge parade -- including the President and every member of Congress --  accompanied Decatur's casket to this place, which was then on a private estate, for interment.  Fast-forward to 1911, when the city decided the wooded hill was too steep for 22 Street to continue up to S Street; so a grand staircase was installed named for the Spanish Steps of Rome.

Of late a wonderful neighborhood partnership with DC government has been renovating these steps.

With this party and tree care demo, a new partnership of neighbors and Restore Mass Ave will renew the landscape of this marvelous place.

TAGS: street trees, drought, Decatur Place, Spanish Steps, Kalorama, dwarf mondo grass,  Ross Newman, Anna Viggh, Sarah Randolph, Firefly Farms Creamery, Casey Trees, Stephen Decatur, Decatur funeral parade

Sunday, May 13, 2012

British Embassy helps Restore Mass Ave's international outreach

We're always looking for new participants in our program of saving the trees and landscape of Massachusetts Avenue -- the last "Grand Avenue" landscape in the nation.

So we were delighted to tell our story -- how Restore Mass Ave gets trees planted, arranges care for them, our international allies and volunteers  --  at an exhibit table at the British Embassy on May 12. The Embassy threw its gates open as part of  the popular European Union Open House Day. 

Robert Tarasovich and Claire Wagner of RMA greet visitors at British Embassy.
Hundreds of people stopped by the table and got our flyer [pdf link below].  Several dozen signed up for follow-on news and to volunteer.  Many of those interested were from other nations; also people signed up from other DC neighborhoods such as Georgetown and Petworth. 

Our "green community" grew! Making friends at embassies is especially fun.

A sign of the Embassy event's huge popularity is that, today, by official count, 10,400 people visited the British Embassy. Though free shuttles buses carried the public among embassies, most people walked. The sidewalks were packed, with lines forming on sidewalks under our trees. 

Robert Tarasovich, RMA Board member leading this outreach, says: "RMA enjoyed the privilege"of being on the "beautiful and popular venue.  We are grateful to Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott and his staff, particularly Kelly Hysan and James Harris, for their hospitality and support."
Entering the Embassy gates about 2 pm May 12.
Visitors also learned the extent to which the British Embassy has "greened" its 1927 mansion and other facilities, significantly lowering the environmental impact of physical and human activities there. Restore Mass Ave was honored when the Embassy hosted our spring benefit in April 2011 [See]. 

That thousands of people are fascinated by embassies was shown Saturday May 5, Passport DC's  fifth annual Open House when 40 non-European Union embassies opened their doors to the public. We were thrilled to see crowds cluster under our recently planted, growing trees!

Highlights of May 5, from two embassies we work with:

 The Chad Embassy (2401 Mass) in 2009 planted ten new trees advised by us and Leo A. Daly, the renovating architect. Chads Open House featured music and dancing with film producer  Danielli Mbangdadji. She's pictured below, in front a magnolia grandiflora tree, which like the others is doing beautifully thanks to the Embassy's care.

Below, the Brazil Embassy residence  known as the McCormick Villa (3000 Mass)  saw streams of visitors. In the garden, they clapped and swayed to Capoeira dancing performed by Abada-Capoeira, a local troupe. Men, women and even children dance in pairs, tumbling and kicking (sort of), and competing to pick up a small object in their mouths!

More photos of this performance are at Abada-Capoeira

Link to Restore Mass Ave pdf of flyer and of historical card goeshere.