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Garden party beautifies post office oak

Melissa Duffy beams as she shows off the first acorn to drop from the post office garry oak this season. The nut is a sign of a healthy tree, she said.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Melissa Duffy beams as she shows off the first acorn to drop from the post office garry oak this season. The nut is a sign of a healthy tree, she said.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

A grand old oak garden party at the Oak Harbor Post Office was a “party of one” earlier this month, but Harbor Pride chairwoman Melissa Duffy didn’t mind. The real highlight of the day was the first acorn of the season.

“This is a special moment. It’s a sign that the tree is still healthy,” she said. “Dying oak trees do not produce acorns.”

Four and a half years ago, the garry oak on the corner of Barrington Drive and City Beach Street held little hope for a dignified future. An arborists’ report stated the tree was “imminently dying,” Duffy said. The tree seemed destined for the wood pile.

When Duffy learned of city official’s plans to remove the tree, she and many others pleaded for a second opinion.

“It did have some problems,” she said of the 295-year-old tree. But some of its issues, such as root crown rot, were a result of black plastic and asphalt over the tree’s extensive root system.

The successful effort to spare the tree produced the “Post Office Demonstration Garden.” The project began in February 2005 with the removal of plastic ground covering, narrowing of City Beach street and replacement of a nearby asphalt sidewalk with pavers. The changes allowed water to filter down to the tree’s root system.

Today the tree is in good shape for its age, Duffy said.

The garden couldn’t have happened without support, materials and labor provided by the city of Oak Harbor, Oak Harbor Post Office, Harbor Pride, Oak Harbor Garden Club, Home Depot, Salal Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, and a host of individuals from 4 to over 80 years old, she said.

The garden contains more than 50 plant species including a small Pacific rhododendron, high bush cranberry and native iris.

The next garden party will take place Saturday, October 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Post Office, 1155 SE City Beach St. Call Duffy at 679-1255 for more information.

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