The Garden Club of Lexington is celebrating its 100th year with its Kentucky Coffeetree Project. The Garden Club of Lexington began the project in conjunction with the Garden Club of America, celebrating its Centennial, “Preserving the Past, Growing the Future: Trees, Our Living Legacy.
The Kentucky Coffeetree is an uncommon species, native to North America. On the 20 acres of the Ashland estate, there are 10 of the trees, both male and female. In 1951, at the request of the newly formed Henry Clay Foundation, the Garden Club established the formal gardens at the Henry Clay Estate and continues to maintain the garden, weekly seven months of the year; as well as a Peony garden since 1986 and a Monarch Way Station.
In 2010, members of the Garden Club gathered seeds, primarily from the Ashland trees.
The Kentucky Coffeetree Project began with 200 fourth graders at 13 local schools. In 2016, the project has grown to more than 1,500 elementary students at 13 schools.
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Each student is given pods, seeds, potting soil, pots and a nail file. The dark brown seeds are tough and in order to germinate, have to be scraped with a file and soaked in water overnight. The teachers are given an instructional packet and each child is given a bookmark with instructions on how to care for their seedling.
In 1994, the Kentucky Coffeetree was proclaimed a State Heritage Tree, recognized for its historical significance to the Commonwealth. At one time it was the state tree.