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Frankfort's Fantasy Forest is example of many benefits of urban tree planting

Fantasy Forest, an urban microforest in downtown Frankfort, provides habitat for pollinators and recreational and educational space for human visitors.
Fantasy Forest, an urban microforest in downtown Frankfort, provides habitat for pollinators and recreational and educational space for human visitors.

October marks the 10th anniversary of the Alliance for Community Trees' National NeighborWoods month. This is a time to focus on the many benefits that planting city forests can bring to urban neighborhoods.

"The trees planted and cared for during October's NeighborWoods will improve public health, moderate city temperatures, mitigate stormwater runoff, and raise property values," said Carrie Gallagher, executive director of the Alliance for Community Trees, based in Washington, D.C.

With support from donors and partners like the USDA Forestry Service, Boise Paper and CSX, this advocacy group provides assistance in planning and funding tree projects.

One such example of a project this group has supported is near downtown Frankfort, at the corner of Logan and East Second streets, adjacent to a community garden in Dolly Graham Park.

Naturalist Connie May and a contingent of local volunteers have created what May calls Fantasy Forest. With a grant from the Alliance for Community Trees, and matching funds from the city of Frankfort, as well as donations from volunteers, work began by planting native trees and shrubs in 2012, followed by perennials in the last two years.

May focused on developing habitat for moths, butterflies and other pollinators by selecting plants that provide habitat associated with particular insects. About 200 types of trees, shrubs and flowers were included. Different native milkweeds which support monarch butterflies, for instance, are in place.

For quick habitat development in urban settings, May has also developed a "microforest" concept, which she uses both at Fantasy Forest and in backyard landscape designs for individuals.

"I realized that trees in natural areas grow close together," she says. That attracts insects and develops cover quickly. Now, classes like plant identification and seed collecting are offered at Fantasy Forest. For more information about these groups, visit: Alliance for Community Trees: Actrees.org; and Friends of Fantasy Forest on Facebook.com. To request to be put on May's email news list, email: ConnieMay60@yahoo.com; to see more of May's landscape design: Chrysalisnaturallandscapes.com; Kentucky Division of Forestry: Forestry.ky.gov

And on a related note, a free urban forest workshop on the use of urban forests to improve water quality will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 21 and 3 p.m. Nov. 18 with instructor Todd Rounsaville, curator of native plants at the Arboretum, 400 Alumni Drive.

This workshop will illustrate the benefits derived from trees and the role trees play in improving water quality. Also included are how to select tree species appropriate for Fayette County, proper tree planting and maintenance techniques and discussion on the recently completed Urban Tree Canopy study and prioritized planting plan for Lexington.

Funding for the workshop is provided by Lexington's Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works and is offered in collaboration with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. For more information, visit: www.ca.uky.edu/Arboretum or call: (859) 257-6955.

Fall lecture series

If you wonder how new landscape plant offerings are developed and would like a sneak preview of new introductions — more than 50 annuals and perennials — in store for 2015, check out the Gardeners Fall Lecture Series event at 7 p.m. Oct. 23.

Marshall Dirks, director of marketing and public relations for Proven Winners, will present a program entitled "Plant Hunting: Amazing New Plants and How We Get Them," which is sponsored by the Fayette County Master Gardeners and the Friends of the Arboretum.

Dirks will offer an insider's view of a company that not only plans and develops high-quality offerings, but the "PW" brand, now so noticeable in the retail trade. Dirks will also speak about the new Proven Winners Signature Garden, one of six nationally, at the Kentucky Governor's Mansion.

The lecture will take place at the Gluck Equine Research Center auditorium, 1400 Nicholasville Road. Cost is $10 for the public; $5 for students with ID. Visit www.ca.uky.edu/Arboretum or call (859) 257-6955 for more information.

Book reviews

The English Country House Garden. George Plumptre; photographs by Marcus Harpur. Frances Lincoln Limited. 208pp. $40.

As the gardening season wanes with temperatures falling fast, and the winter holiday season warms up, this large-format, full-color collection of photographs and histories of England's most gorgeous gardens is balm for the gardener's soul.

The look of impeccably manicured lawns bordered by perennial beds and clipped hedges, inspiration for even the most humble landscapes we manage here in American suburbia, originated in these classic English gardens.

Veteran garden writer Plumptre weaves the history, personality, and settings of each of these places with which he is so familiar into vignettes that easily put the importance of each into perspective, from the everlasting "alchemy" of Hidcote to a contemporary reworking of The Old Rectory at Naunton, where Lewis Carroll is said to have found inspiration for Alice in Wonderland's croquet match. Photographer Harpur has captured the perfect light, time and angle to reveal not just simple views of each of the gardens, but particular moments of beauty that gardeners will find uplifting. The houses and gardens themselves are enlightening: there is not a single flower, wall or ornament that could be removed without diminishing the effect. This is a book to be savored slowly.

Creepy Carrots! Words: Aaron Reynolds; Pictures: Peter Brown. Simon & Schuster. 40 pp. $17.99.

Forget scary Halloween pumpkin stories, and go with Creepy Carrots! You and your kids, ages about 4 and older, will probably never look at a carrot the same way again. Little Jasper Rabbit keeps pulling up these tasty treats from their patch each day, until the carrots seem to start stalking him by night. Brief but well-chosen text for dramatic read-aloud flair appeal, as well as illustrations in shades of grey with orange accents, add a ghost-tale, around-the-campfire atmosphere.

This Caldecott Honor winning book is anything but sappy if you're wanting to get kids interested in gardening, or at least knowing that root vegetables have a life before they reach grocery store shelves.