Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree

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Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree is mostly camouflaged by the surrounding forest.

Steven Michael Ralls got his Memorial Tree this morning, three years after he passed away on May 2, 2017. The circumstances that coincided for this event were impossible to ignore. Just like the other Memorial Tree, which was installed to replace an oak that was missing from a parking lot island, the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree also has a practical application.

The small tree is a young Monterey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, that needed to be removed from one landscape, and was waiting in the recovery nursery to be installed into another. Of course, a Monterey cypress in no easy tree to accommodate. It is too big and too dark to be compatible with most of the landscapes into which we add smaller and mostly deciduous trees.

However, it happens to be ideal for obscuring undesirable scenery, just like a row of five Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica, will be expected to do when installed along a busy roadway. Furthermore, it just happens to grow bigger faster than Arizona cypress, so is even better for the low end of the row where a bigger tree is preferred. The row really needs six trees anyway.

The location of the tree just happens to be ideal as well. With all Arizona cypress spaced evenly along the roadway, and the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree strategically situated around the lower corner of the fence, it is located precisely where Steven Michael Ralls camped while homeless late in 2012. I could not have selected a more appropriate location if I had planned it.

The new tree will need to be watered by bucket occasionally through summer, but will need no intervention after the rain starts next autumn. It knows what it needs to do to get established and become an evergreen asset to the forest.

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It was easier to see before it was planted.

Memorial Day

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Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Yesterday was the Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival, which is how Memorial Day is celebrated in Felton. It was a celebration worthy of Memorial Day, with plenty of music, crafts and expensive but unhealthful food to go with it. All that was lacking was that which is ‘memorial’. It seems that we have forgotten about that which we should never forget.

There were plenty of classic cars to provide memories of how stylish cars had been. There was a Boy Scout Troop to conduct the Flag Raising Ceremony at the main interchange of Highway 9 and Felton Empire Road to provide memories of when we still respected the American Flag and traditions associated with it. We were reminded of who our local politician are, and that we are still procuring funds for a new library, and that there are too many clubs for hateful women, and that the individual members of the motorcycle club get more done around here than everyone else combined (except for our local District Supervisor who provides the memories of what a public servant used to be.)

Felton Covered Bridge Park, the venue of the Covered Bridge Festival, is surrounded by memorial trees. All the redwood trees (which are of the cultivar ‘Soquel’, rather than wild trees) are memorial trees, sponsored by friends and families of the honored deceased. Some are outfitted with plaques. One was recently added. Another sweetgum tree is a memorial for Charlie, a very respected English bulldog. The small valley oak in an island in the parking lot is known simply as the Memorial Tree, to commemorate several who did not get their own tree. All the trees were there for the festivities, but only to provide shade and beauty.

Perhaps celebration is the best Memorial, or at least the best that such a large group can collectively participate in. Actually, the Covered Bridge Festival was exactly that, a ‘festival’ that merely coincided with the Felton Remembers Parade. It was not really a Memorial by design.

The big old Featherstone Tree at the center of town, and in the picture of the Felton Remembers Parade above, is not really a memorial tree, but does happen to be outfitted with a commemorative plaque for Mr. Featherstone who planted it, and has witnessed more parades on Highway 9 than anyone has.

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/big-tree-in-a-small-town/

The little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park, and in the picture below, was easier to ignore in the parking lot behind the mobile kitchens. I have written a few articles about it, beginning with this one –

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/small-tree-in-a-big-park/

and most recently this one –

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/may-2/

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May 2

P80502When I started writing this blog eight months ago, I reserved the right to occasionally write about topics that were irrelevant to horticulture and gardening. I designated the category of ‘elaborations’ for posts that were not from my weekly gardening column; but so far, I have tried to post articles within this category that were at least remotely relevant to horticulture, even if only to discuss a single tree, or merely a single ginkgo leaf that somehow appeared in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

Today is May 2. My post for today is only relevant to horticulture in that it explains the importance of the ‘Memorial Tree’ in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

Steven Michael Ralls passed away a year ago, on May 2, 2017

Jeffrey Dale Scofield passed away two years prior to that, on May 2, 2015

They were two of my most intimate friends. I wrote both obituaries. The obituaries are posted below, and are irrelevant to horticulture.

The small valley oak ‘Memorial Tree’ that was planted in Felton Covered Bridge Park was originally designated as the ‘Scofield Tree’. However, a few more prominent friends of our Community passed away afterward; and the Park could not accommodate more memorial trees. Finally, when we could not find an appropriate situation for a memorial tree for Steven, the ‘Scofield Tree’ was designated simply as the ‘Memorial Tree’. These are a few brief articles about it.

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/small-tree-in-a-big-park/

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/scofield-tree-update/

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/scofield-tree-update-spring-2018/

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/memorial-tree-update-to-the-updated-update-etc-the-sequel-to-all-those-other-sequels/

These are two articles about some of our adventures with Steven, and a third about the ginkgo leaf that appeared in Felton Covered Bridge Park on Steven’s birthday last December 13:

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/oklahoma/

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/birthday/

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/01/21/okie-mowers/

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Jeffrey Dale Scofield of Felton passed away peacefully from complications associated with cancer on May 2, 2015, in Santa Cruz, only a short distance from where he was born on June 9, 1959. Except for when he traveled for work in other regions, he lived his entire life in the San Lorenzo Valley.

After harvesting timber earlier in his career, Jeffrey Scofield became well known professionally for setting “miles of tiles” and stone. More recently, he harvested firewood. He was a champion of both baseball and arm wrestling.

Mr. Scofield is survived by his sister Valerie of Las Vegas, nephew Rodney of Bethel Island, niece Christa, nephew Charles of Reno, and many lifelong friends of the San Lorenzo Valley. Ashes will be scattered privately.

P80502++Steven Michael Ralls of Felton succumbed to complications associated with a variety of chronic medical conditions, and passed away in Aptos on May 2, 2017, at the age of 46. Steven was born on December 13, 1970 in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and then spent most of his childhood in Norman, Oklahoma. He came with his family to Berkeley, California in 1987, and then lived in Hayward, before settling in Felton in 1999. His recent relocation to Aptos was considered to be only temporary, as he would have preferred to return home to Felton.
Prior to the onset of debilitating medical conditions, Steven had a distinguished career in specialized woodworking and finish carpentry. His work can be found in some of the more luxuriously outfitted homes and offices of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. Steven was also remarkably proficient with the restoration of old homes, cabinetry and furniture.
Later in life, Steven devoted more attention to art, particularly drawing and guitar music. His talent with the guitar was exceeded only by his exquisite voice that accompanied it.
Steven Ralls is survived by his son Michael Forrest Ralls of Oakland, California, wife Gayle Schermerhorn of Murphys, California, brother Jonathan Ralls of Hayward, California, sister Tammy Roberts of Wichita, Kansas, sister Brandi Ralls Sullivan of Lakewood, Washington, brother Brent Patty of Saginaw, Texas, mother Virginia Bates of Newalla, Oklahoma, father Michael Ralls of Olathe, Kansas, and many old friends of the San Lorenzo Valley.

Memorial Tree Update to the Updated Update, etc. – the Sequel to all those other Sequels

P80415KWe can keep this more brief than that long title.

The small and young Memorial Tree, which is also known as the Scofield Tree, in Felton Covered Bridge Park is doing quite well. Nothing unexpected is happening. It just looks too happy to not get a picture of it. It is well foliated and lush like a happy valley oak should be at this time of year. The only improvement it could implement would be to divert more growth to the main vertical trunk. So far, growth is somewhat evenly distributed over all actively growing stems. The little tree is consequently quite fluffy. The main trunk will eventually get bound to a stake to direct growth upward for a straight and vertical trunk. Lateral stems may need to get pruned back so that they do not dominate. They remain for now, to sustain healthy growth and to promote trunk caliper growth. Weeds around the trunk will get pulled so that ‘gardeners’ will hopefully keep a safe distance with their weed whackers. The previous update with links to even more previous updates can be found at https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/scofield-tree-update-spring-2018/ .

Charlie’s Memorial Tree is a healthy sweetgum nearby, just outside of the southwest corner of the same parking lot that the Memorial Tree is in. It is several years older and significantly larger than the Memorial Tree, and is also quite healthy and foliating lushly. However, no matter how diligently it gets correctively pruned, it continues to develop minor structural deficiencies, which are unfortunately normal for the species. The top was broken out while the tree was young, so a lateral branch dominated as a new top, only to get broken as well. Consequently, as the tree matures, the trunk will be somewhat bent and slightly leaning, which is the big picture, is not really a problem. Charlie is the little Boston Terrier depicted in the mural that was mentioned in the article from yesterday at https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/foliage-is-not-always-the-answer/ .P80415K+

Scofield Tree Update – Spring 2018

P80331KNot much has happened since the last update on Christmas Eve. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/scofield-tree-update/ The Scofield Tree has been bare all winter, and is only now developing new foliage.

It was planted more than two years ago, but had been set back by some serious damage from an altercation with a weed whacker. Unbelievably, after emphatic explanation of how dangerous weed whackers are to such young trees, and an unfulfilled promise that the tree would be outfitted with a tree guard, a ‘gardener’ attacked the tree with a weed whacker AGAIN! Fortunately, the tree had previously developed enough scar tissue to not be damaged by this latest assault.

It will certainly be pampered this year. It really needs to grow. The bark at the base needs to be tough enough to survive an even more aggressive weed whacker attack. The trunk must be resilient to someone bumping into it, or a dog getting a leash tangled around it. Eventually, the trunk will be resilient to a car bumping into it, which is a possibility in the parking lot in which it is located. The canopy must eventually grow up and above the height of parked cars and those getting into and out of those cars. Ideally, it should be out of reach of gardeners with cutting tools that they do not know how to use properly.

The old lodgepole stake will be replaced because it is likely rotten at the base. The binding stake will also be replaced because it has warped in the last two years. Such binding is not horticulturally correct, but is necessary to correct disfigurement, as well as to help protect from more damage. Fertilizer should accelerate growth.

The first article about the Scofield Tree was posted back on October 6. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/small-tree-in-a-big-park/P80331K+

September 11 Remembrance Garden, Winslow, Arizona

P71118The main complaint about this Remembrance Garden is that there is no garden. Two steel girders from the destroyed World Trade Center stand vertically on pedestals within a concrete slab shaped like the site of the World Trade Center. The pedestals are set within squares of stones that correspond to the outlines and locations of the of the World Trade Center Twin Towers #1 and #2 within the World Trade Center Site. The outlines and locations of the other buildings of the World Trade Center are designated by darker concrete within the slab. There is no real synthetic landscape. Only a few ash, cottonwoods, pines and junipers are scattered about.

This might be the most perfect landscape I have ever seen.

Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate good landscapes that do what they were designed to do. Most of the prettiest are designed to make spaces more appealing. They make our homes more homey. They make our offices more comfortable. They shade streets and parks to make them cooler during warm weather. Whatever landscapes are designed to do, they should do it well. That is precisely what is demonstrated so perfectly by the landscape, or lack of synthetic landscape, at the September 11 Remembrance Garden of Winslow in Arizona.

This is not a comfortable space. It is not intended to be. A bit of shade might be nice during the hot summers in Winslow, but would detract from what this space is set aside for. The starkness and harshness are important here. There is nothing to distract, nothing to obscure, nothing to interfere with what the Remembrance Garden is designed for.

The Remembrance Garden is located outside of the eastern edge of town and on the western edge of the Painted Desert. It might have benefited from more of a synthetic landscape if it had been located in town. A few trees and evergreen shrubbery might have been useful to soften any urban surroundings. Actually, the girders were temporarily located in a lightly landscaped area when they first arrived in Winslow, and then moved to this site a bit later. Despite the complaints of a few insensitive tourists, it is hard to believe that this setting and landscape were not very thoughtfully planned out.

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