Toward that end, a public campaign has been created and named Healthy Trees for Healthy Neighborhoods, which is seeking to increase the planting and care of trees by local organizations, businesses, and municipalities. This campaign to increase trees and their benefits is now known as the Kate Sessions Commitment.
Based on Kate Sessions’ arrangement with city leaders in the early 1900s to plant 100 trees per year in Balboa Park, the modern-day tree-planting commitment in her name has refocused on planting trees throughout the City, not just in parks or open spaces.
“It’s time to grow more trees in all of our neighborhoods,” implored Anne S. Fege, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the tree-planting movement who is an urban forester and executive board member with San Diego Regional Urban Forests Council. “Healthy trees are grown locally and can be purchased in five-gallon containers at Walter Andersen Nursery in the Midway District. Kate Sessions planted 100 trees a year. We wanted to make that a challenge, so we plan on planting 100 trees in each neighborhood eventually.”
Trees are best planted in San Diego during the wet season from November to March, said Fege, who added trees can be planted almost anywhere from backyards to houses of worship to community gardens to businesses and schools. Tree cover can be increased in parks and street rights-of-way,” Fege said. “Trees make for cooler and healthier neighborhoods.”
Fege added that Village Nurseries and NativeWest, local wholesale nurseries, were chosen to grow trees to ensure “that we have quality container-planted trees.”
The City recently upped its allowance for the purchase of shade trees to facilitate the urban forestry initiative. “The City Council has historically approved $100,000 for tree planting, but recently increased that to $400,000,” Fege said. “The extra money will be used to plant trees in parkways, street rights-of-way, and parks.”
Point Loma resident Mandy Havlik is promoting tree planting throughout the Peninsula. She got her first “commitment” recently for Kate Sessions Commitment from Ocean Beach Woman’s Club. “They want to purchase a tree for OB Elementary School,” Havlik said. “We’ll be meeting with them in January to see if they will be purchasing a bundle of trees. We’ve also made contact with Point Loma High School’s student body, and with Cecilia Carrick of the Point Loma Association’s Mean Green Team, reaching out to them as well.”
Havlik issued a call to action, urging those interested in committing themselves to tree planting to visit katestrees.org, where trees to plant can be pre-ordered via an online form.
Pre-ordered ornamental and native trees will be purchased and picked-up at Walter Andersen Nursery at 3642 Enterprise St. near Old Town State Park. Participants will be notified by email for purchases, and then for pick-up in January.
The purchase price for most trees is between $40 and $50 plus tax, for each five-gallon Kate’s Tree. Native trees are priced at $24.99. Fruit trees can be ordered directly from Andersen Nursery or other nurseries.
Participants can choose from more than a dozen beautiful tree species including crape myrtle, bronze loquat, Indian Hawthorne, gold medallion, mimosa (silk) trees, strawberry (marina madrone) trees, southern magnolia, Chinese elm, jacaranda, tipu, fern pine, toyon, Tecate cypress, honey mesquite, Catalina ironwood, Catalina cherry, and Engelmann oak.
Shade trees are affordable and cool neighborhoods while implementing the City’s aggressive Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They also provide wildlife habitat and reduce water and air pollution.
Trees need to be selected, planted, irrigated, and structurally pruned correctly from the start. If communities invest a reasonable amount of time and resources in the early stages of the tree’s life, their trees will live longer, provide more benefits, look more attractive, and require fewer resources to maintain.
Kate Sessions was an American botanist, horticulturist and landscape architect known as the “Mother of Balboa Park.” In 1892, she leased 30 acres of land in Balboa Park as her growing fields. In return, she agreed to plant 100 trees a year in the mostly barren park, as well as 300 trees a year in other parts of San Diego. She is credited with importing and popularizing the popular jacaranda tree in San Diego.
Kate Sessions Elementary School in Pacific Beach is named for her, as is Kate O. Sessions Memorial Park in Pacific Beach. A bronze statue of Sessions, dedicated in 1998, is situated in a prominent location in the southwest corner of Sefton Plaza, near the Sixth Avenue entrance to Balboa Park.