Myesha Jones tied a pink ribbon around the skinny trunk of Jim Grill’s new red maple tree, a native species the 67-year-old planned to plant to entice bees and other pollinators into his Catonsville yard.
“Hopefully it’ll attract those little devils,” Grill said.
Behind him, a long line of dozens of gardening enthusiasts waited Sunday in the 60-degree sunshine at Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery at the Mount Pleasant Golf Course to pick up a free tree or two during an Earth Day tree giveaway.
The annual giveaway distributed 122 trees this year, said Darin Crew, senior forestry manager with Blue Water Baltimore. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of planting trees and give Baltimoreans a chance to take stewardship of nature, he said.
“People care about trees deeply,” he said. “It’s Earth Day. People want to make a difference.”
Baltimore was one of only a few cities to report a net gain in canopy cover in recent years, reaching about 28 percent as of 2015. Private property represents the biggest opportunity to reach a 40 percent canopy goal, Crew said. It’s one measure of a city’s environmental health.
TreeBaltimore, a coalition devoted to increasing the canopy, started the tree giveaway about a decade ago, Crew said. Other supporters include Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, he said.
Citizens and various groups collectively plant about 10,000 trees per year in the city; Crew hopes to see that number grow to about 25,000 per year.
“If this is what we need to do to get people to plant trees, great,” he said.
Some had a particular tree species and spot in mind for where to plant it; others just wanted to add a little shade or figured planting trees would make for a good Earth Day activity.
Stephanie Boudreau and Chris Lesjak brought their daughter, Sophia, 3, to the nursery to get a pawpaw tree for the backyard and a magnolia for the side yard.
They grow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and peppers at their home in Baltimore County’s Idlewylde neighborhood, and the trees will join the black walnut that already stands in their backyard, Boudreau said.
“We already have our garden planted,” she said. “It’ll be a nice addition to our yard.”
As Felix Irla’s mother waited in line for a tree, the 3-year-old colored at a children’s station complete with crayons, coloring books and a blanket spread out picnic-style nearby.
“I live in Baltimore,” Felix said proudly, upon being asked.
The Irlas, who live in Hamilton, got a fig tree at a fall giveaway at Druid Hill Park a few years ago, said Felix’s father, Jason Irla. This year was their first Earth Day tree giveaway, he said.
“We thought we’d check it out and see if there was something we’d have space to plant,” he said.
Abby Bjork, 25, said she wanted to pick up a tree to replace a 60- or 70-year-old one that Baltimore County cut down a few years ago from her front yard in Rodgers Forge.
“It was starting to pull up the sidewalk and die,” Bjork said. “Hopefully we can get a river birch. They’re native to the area, and they don’t get quite as big as the one we had. But it’d give some shade to the front of the house.”
Bjork said she liked the idea of giving the trees away, making gardening and environmental sustainability more attainable to those who might not have extra money to invest in their yards.
“Trees can cost thousands of dollars,” she said. “I had no idea.”
Randy Slaysman and Shelley Heyer’s children, Jules, 17, Cannon, 14, and T.T., 11, helped them carry their haul — a magnolia, a river birch and a serviceberry — which they planned to plant in their Ruxton yard Sunday.
The family has come to the tree giveaway three or four times over the years. They live near Rolling Run, and they’ve been planting trees in their yard for years to try to cut down on erosion into the stream.
“We’ve been filling it in with trees,” Slaysman said.
Barbara Hoblitzell, 61, and her daughter, Amber Richert, 37, visited the nursery to pick up a magnolia and a yellowwood for Richert, who is re-landscaping her yard in Homewood.
“What a great way to keep Baltimore green,” Hoblitzell said.