DUNEDIN — As early as this summer, you may be able to go window shopping for the ideal tree to plant in your yard.
Tonight, city parks superintendent Art Finn will ask the Dunedin City Commission to approve a state grant request for $10,000 to be used for the development of the Dunedin Arboretum. It would be at Trailside Oasis Park, a linear park adjacent to the Pinellas Trail near the corner of Curlew Road and Alt. U.S. 19.
People who wanted to learn about Florida trees or see what they looked like in the real world rather than in photos could visit the arboretum, which eventually would grow about 150 new trees in four groups: flowering, conifer, upland hardwood and wetland.
The trees, initially 8 to 10 feet tall, would be planted in phases over the next three years in a strip of parkland that is 180 feet wide and 2,000 feet long.
"We have a saying: Put the right tree in the right place," Finn said. "And this will help people make the right decision."
Too often, trees must be chopped down or mutilated because they are too big for the location where they were planted. Or they die because they are in the wrong kind of soil or receive too much or too little water, Finn said.
The grant the city staff wants to apply for is administered by the Florida Division of Forestry and is a 50-50 matching grant, meaning the city would have to chip in $10,000 in funds or in-kind services. About $4,000 is in the city's tree bank, and some businesses, organizations and individuals have pledged to make donations to help raise the remaining match. There would be opportunities for people to adopt a tree as well.
A shell path would be laid to guide visitors through the arboretum. In each area, educational kiosks would feature pictures of the trees, descriptions of their physical characteristics, and their light, soil and water requirements. The benefits of each species would be detailed as well.
The arboretum would stress the importance of diversity in tree gardens so that large canopies won't be wiped out if a disease or pest-infestation takes hold, such as the Sudden Oak Death that had devastating consequences in California and Oregon.
The flowering species area of the arboretum would feature ornamentals like plums, crape myrtles and little gem magnolias, which are favored for smaller spaces with adequate light.
Bosque elms, a medium-size tree with yellow fall colors, would also be planted in the arboretum.
"They make a nice alternative to live oaks, which can have a 120-foot spread," said Finn.
Bald cypress, red cedar and slash pines would be showcased in the conifer section. Hardwoods would include hollies and sweet bay trees.
But aren't some of these trees hard to find around here?
Finn and Alan Mayberry, the city's arborist, suggested that residents visit nurseries featuring native plants.
And residents can always make a special request at their nursery.
"Hopefully, if the nurseries see these trees are in demand, they'll start stocking them," Mayberry said.