Taking root: Bloom & Grow partners with community to plant 1,000 trees

Winter Garden’s Bloom & Grow Garden Society and Cherrylake Tree Farm recently partnered with other organizations to plant 1,000 bald cypress trees at Tucker Ranch.

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  • | 3:01 p.m. February 26, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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In the year 3020, visitors to Winter Garden’s Tucker Ranch might walk among bald cypress trees that will have just turned 1,000 years old.

That’s because the Bloom & Grow Garden Society, the city of Winter Garden, Healthy West Orange and Cherrylake Tree Farm recently partnered to plant 1,000 trees in the 209-acre recreational park and nature preserve.

The 1,000 trees were planted by more than 200 local volunteers Saturday, Feb. 22, as part of the 1,000 Trees for 1,000 Years initiative. The movement stems from Cherrylake in Groveland, a 1,000-acre nursery and tree farm that grows trees for the industry statewide, as well as in the Southeast and Northeast regions of the United States.

With the help of those volunteers and support of various companies and organizations, the Bloom & Grow Garden Society was able to plant 999 trees in just a couple of hours. A few hours later, city staff and local leaders joined in a ceremonial planting of the 1,000th tree — a symbol of the dedication to conservation and promise of many years to come.



The 1,000th bald cypress tree will grow from just a few feet tall to more than 100 feet tall over time.
The 1,000th bald cypress tree will grow from just a few feet tall to more than 100 feet tall over time.

Timothee Sallin, president of Cherrylake, said the initiative exists as a way to encourage communities to come together and take action to plant trees — specifically species of trees that will live for thousands of years. 

“To find places like this that are lands of conservation so we have a good chance that these trees will last and live for a thousand years, we believe that it’s important to give people the opportunity to plant trees because people love to do that,” Sallin said. “They get really excited about it, they bring their kids out, it’s something that’s really tangible, you get your hands dirty. We also want to encourage people to stretch their thinking longitudinally, to think about a future 1,000 years from now. 

“When you connect yourself to 1,000 years from now by planting those trees ...  it’s a way to encourage optimism and thinking about how we can take action right now in our community to make an impact for our environment,” Sallin said.

Cherrylake has partnered previously with the St. Johns River Water Management District and Keep Lake Beautiful to plant 1,000 trees along the north shore of Lake Apopka. It also has partnered with plantings in New Orleans, Sarasota and Montverde.

Katy Moss Warner, a member of Bloom & Grow and chair of the event, said the organization has maintained a tree fund due to its interest in investing in trees locally. Having known Sallin for a while now, Warner decided to present the 1,000 Trees for 1,000 Years project to fellow members.

“Essentially it was 1,000 trees for 1,000 years for $1,000,” Warner said. “We decided that we would plant these trees. What we didn’t know was that the community really wanted to rally around this project, and I wasn’t necessarily prepared for that, the enthusiasm that would happen as a result.”

The Bloom & Grow Garden Society, city of Winter Garden and Cherrylake together decided to plant bald cypress trees. It’s a native Florida species that tolerates both very wet and dry conditions, and it is known to live for thousands of years.

“One of the reasons we locally know — and the idea that they live to be 1,000 years is reinforced — is because in Sanford we have Big Tree Park,” Warner said. “Big Tree Park had two very old cypress trees. One was called the Senator, and it was reputed to be 3,500 years old. There’s another tree called the Lady Liberty that’s reputed to be 2,000 years old.

The Senator was the largest tree east of the Mississippi and it stood 118 feet tall. However, in 2012, the Senator was destroyed after a woman caused a fire while sitting inside the hollowed-out tree. But the Lady Liberty continues to stand tall, and the tree’s reputation for longevity made it the perfect candidate for the planting.

“The other reason for bald cypress is that it’s a keystone species for our Florida ecosystems,” Sallin added. “They establish the environment for hundreds of other species to thrive. So when you have bald cypress, you bring in turtles, alligators, all kinds of species of birds and butterflies and other pollinators and plants that thrive because of the environment that the bald cypress creates with its roots and its canopy. 

“Bald cypress also plays a very important role in stabilizing our shorelines and in cleansing the water because they grow at the edge of the water,” he said. “They have a very important environmental contribution to make, and we want to do what we can to encourage healthy ecosystems in our community.”



Winter Garden Mayor John Rees and City Manager Mike Bollhoefer helped plant the 1,000th tree.
Winter Garden Mayor John Rees and City Manager Mike Bollhoefer helped plant the 1,000th tree.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. However, it also takes a village to plant 1,000 trees.

As the community rallied behind Winter Garden, Cherrylake and Bloom & Grow’s efforts, more support flowed into the project.

Warner said Healthy West Orange donated garden gloves; Ace Hardware in Winter Garden donated buckets; Ace Hardware in College Park donated shovels, and the Florida Nursery, Grower; and Landscape Association donated the lanyards and name tags. 4Rivers Smokehouse provided lunch for the volunteers, and Crabtree Inc. designed the event logos and banners. The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and the Duke Energy Foundation also contributed.

Volunteers also came from various organizations. Moss Warner said this included Windermere Cub Scouts and their parents, students from Ocoee and West Orange high schools, Walt Disney World Resort, Duke Energy, AdventHealth, Orlando Health, and members of the Rotary Club and the Bloom & Grow Society. Many came with their families to help.

A team of 12 horticulture experts and industry contributors served as zone leaders, who led volunteers in the planting process and taught them the proper way to plant a tree.

The 1,000th tree was planted in a special ceremony attended by Winter Garden staff, city leaders and Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey. The initiative is a precedent city staff and the Bloom & Grow Society hope to set for other communities.

“We want to encourage other communities locally, but also throughout the state and the Southeast, to plant trees and to plant 1,000 trees for 1,000 years,” Sallin said. “We are looking forward to partnering and supporting other communities who want to do the same. This is a way to give back to the community and to inspire people to get out there, plant some trees and dream about the future.”


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