This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on September 28, 1991
Aullwood Garden filled with a marvelous history
by Roz Young
One Monday afternoon I found Marie Aull suiting by the window overlooking Aullwood Garden. She was thinking about historic events in this country in the past 250 years. If you go back exactly 250 years to 1741, you won’t find much in the history chronologies. That year Moravian settlers at Bethlehem, Pa., organized the first symphony orchestra in the colonies, and Andrew Bradford published the first magazine; shortly afterwards Benjamin Franklin started the second one, and Johann Gottlob Klemm, the first organ maker in the country, finished the organ for Trinity Church in New York. That was it for 1741.
In Ohio that same year, on the banks of the Stillwater River near Dayton, an acorn from a burr oak sprouted and sent up a shoot. By 1776 it had become a sturdy tree 30 feet tall. In 1991 it had become a stalwart giant by the river, its vast trunk surrounded by low-growing brush.
When Marie opened a parking lot at Aullwood Garden two years ago, the pathway from the lot to the garden passed within 8 feet of the tree. It occurred to Marie that garden visitors would walk past the tree without realizing it was anything unusual.
A boring of the tree revealed 250 rings. She had the brush cleared out around the tree and was planning the text to go on a sign by the tree when I dropped in. Getting the copy ready was one of her projects for the week.
She had two books on her reading table, one that somebody brought her about tricks animals in the zoo think up to play on their keepers. “Animals in captivity get very bored,” she said. The other was a book of essays by Henry Van Dyke from her own library.
A movement outside the window attracted her attention. “Look,” she said, gesturing toward the hummingbird feeder outside the window. “A most remarkable thing is going on here. The baby hummingbirds fly up to get a sip of nectar, and before they came get a drink, one of the parents chases it away. Look there.”
A baby bird flew up, a parent dive-bombed the baby from out of nowhere and off they went. We watched the incident being repeated again and again.
“You see what those parents are doing?” Marie asked. “Earlier they taught the babies to use the feeder. But now they are getting ready for the flight to Mexico where they will spend the winter. The parents know there aren’t any feeding stations along the way, so they are forcing the babies to get their food in the wild. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to make that long flight. I am amazed at how well birds and animals manage things.”`
She had one more project for the week. She had heard about a plastic netting that is used in Europe in grass areas where the traffic is heavy, such as a soccer field. Constant tramping on the grass packs down the ground and makes it difficult if not impossible to grow grass. This new product is laid over the ground and an inch of soil is placed on top and seeded. The roots go down through the plastic, which forms a kind of springy mattress over the ground and keeps the soil from compacting and the lawn becomes established. It can be cut and walked on and still will stay thick and green.
“We have the same trouble here in the garden,” she said. “We reseed every year, but the many footsteps of the visitors wear the grass down to the bare ground in almost no time. So, I was wondering whether this plastic idea would work here.”
She told Bob Siebenthaler about it. He had heard about the plastic at the American Nurserymen’s convention and ordered a roll of it. He gave it to Marie, and she was planning to order some special seed, have the plastic installed and soil hauled in and planted. “I can’t wait to see whether it will work,” she said, laughing. “So you see I have plenty to keep me out of mischief this week.”
I think you ought to know that when the 250-year-old burr oak was 156 years old, Marie Aull had her first birthday.