Last week I drove to Wellesley College to see the Dwarf Alberta Spruce that Jim Doyle and Don Garrick had moved bare-root last November. Fritz Hoffman, an Alaska contractor in town to learn about bare-root transplant work, accompanied me, and we walked and walked along the lakeshore looking for the Spruce.
Well, it wasn’t there. We turned around, backtracked along the pathway, and came upon a grounds crew working on a plaza installation. We stopped and met John Olmsted, Manager of Landscape Operations, who told us that the Spruce had died. He said that despite its loss, the arborists had recently transplanted a Sugar Maple, two Kousa Dogwoods, and an American Smokebush bare-root.
Later, Jim Doyle told me that he thought they had moved the Spruce to a too-exposed location. It seemed to fare well through the winter, but in March had turned brown and had to be removed. We speculated that the move from a very sheltered spot to an open waterfront location might have placed too high a demand on the plant. It might have survived the dangerous phenomenon of frozen soils and warm air had it been wrapped in burlap, but it’s impossible to know.
What is heartening is that the Spruce move came about because Jim and Don took a chance — and though the risk didn’t pan out, the College believed in the possibility of success, and authorized the bare-root moving of four more plants. When it comes down to a choice, especially on a large campus, between moving or destroying a tree, the opportunity to move and save the tree may make sense. Actively managing a landscape — especially one with valuable mature trees — requires this kind of decision-making, and newly available technologies can give greater flexibility in the move-save debate.