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The Gift of Trees at the Motherhouse

Posted on May 13, 2021, by Martha Alderson CoL

Dawn redwood tree leafing out
A dawn redwood, gift of Barbara Nicholas in memory of Basil Doerhoefer, grows at Mary’s Lake. Doerhoefer’s mansion became the location of Loretto High School in Louisville.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL

By Martha Alderson (for the Farm and Land Committee of the Motherhouse Coordinating Board with information from Susan Classen)

‘So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture.
‘So much is in bud.’

Denise Levertov
Budding tree in front of Badin Pond.
A dawn redwood grows by Badin Pond. The tree was given by the Rosalie Phillips family.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL

The last lines from this poem, “Beginners” by Denise Levertov, tell of possibility and promise. So much is in bud! The new trees at the Loretto Motherhouse are symbols of the possibility and promise — of the trees themselves, of course, but also of new ideas and continuing mission of the Motherhouse. Although the trees were “in bud” when this article was begun, they have likely leafed out or blossomed by the time Interchange arrives. Still there is unfolding to complete as we plan forward.

Spring brings many buds, some flowering, such as the redbud and dogwood, and some just showing promise of luscious green leaves or blossoms to come. In spring, trees put their energy into new growth rather than into their root systems. We are lucky, above ground, to witness this new growth. November and December are much better times than spring to plant trees because the roots have a chance to settle in when the trees are dormant.

Dogwood buds in front of a gravel road.
A dogwood buds in the Nature Preserve Cemetery. The tree was given in honor of Jessie Rathburn, Andy Dyrsten and their foster daughter at the time, Bella. Two redwoods and a dogwood were planted for them.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL

We know that trees are a major source of carbon sequestration. Loretto’s carbon offset fund supports the planting and maintenance of trees at the Motherhouse, promoting carbon sequestration through native plantings. The fund was established in honor of Anthony Mary Sartorius, a great respecter of and supporter of trees. (To contribute to the carbon offset fund, go here.)

Carbon sequestration captures and stores carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn aids in reducing climate change.

In some circumstances, trees are too large for a site that requires stable soil and shelter for wildlife. In this case, we provide native shrubs that serve the purpose.

There are new trees at the Motherhouse, many gifts in honor or in memory of others. These new trees are native ones that provide shelter and food for wildlife. Some of our Motherhouse trees are not native but are still revered. For example, the beautiful gingko tree in front of the church is a non-native tree that does not provide shelter or food but one that grows well in Kentucky. A native oak tree, on the other hand, supports over 500 different species of caterpillar — which will provide birds with food. (A single nest of baby chickadees will eat from 5,000 to 10,000 caterpillars before they leave the nest!) So, we will enjoy and protect the gingko tree but make sure that the new trees and the majority of our other trees support the broader ecosystem.

Buds on a witch hazel branch.
A witch hazel buds in the AIDS garden; it was given in honor of the Loretto Community.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL

In addition to sequestering carbon, trees also have been found to provide an improvement on mental and physical health. Studies have shown that when students have access to trees and shrubs, their test scores and graduation rates increase. Employed adults show increased employee morale as well as an increase in job efficiency and job satisfaction. Also, the benefits extend beyond our brains. Trees can be calming for our physical selves as well. Patients with views of trees from their hospital windows tend to have lower blood pressure and require less pain medication. Trees have an important role in our physical health as well as our mental health. (See this article.)

Besides the trees shown in the images with this article, others given include a blackgum tree from Paulette Peterson for Marian McAvoy’s birthday and a cherry bark oak in honor of Eileen Custy given by Michael Bickett.

Newly planted young tree is supported with a stake.
A young shumardi oak stands tall by the apartments. The tree, given by the Loretto Community, replaces the linden tree that died.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL

We currently are making plans to establish a grove of trees on campus as a way both of increasing the number of trees and also of decreasing the need for mowing. It is not too soon to be thinking about someone you might want to honor with a special tree in the new grove. (Write to Susan Classen.) This not only lends promise and possibility to the Motherhouse land itself but also to the plans that are always afoot for enhancing the lives of residents and (eventually) visitors.

Let us continue to honor the trees, the honorees and the persistence of the belief that “so much is in bud” in our lives!

Poplar tree bud
A poplar tree buds by Mary’s Lake. The tree was given by Paulette Peterson in memory of Eileen Harrington’s brother, Tim.
Photo by Susan Classen CoL


Martha Alderson CoL

Martha Alderson has been a Loretto Co-member since 1984. She is retired from the publishing industry and more recently from being on the Loretto Community staff as coordinator of co-membership services. She served one term on the first Community Forum. For several years she was an editor and layout person for Interchange (Loretto's internal newsletter) and now edits two issues of that newsletter. At the present she is on the Special Needs Committee and the Motherhouse Coordinating Board. She does the occasional proofreading and editing of Loretto publications.
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Loretto welcomes you

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