Beauvoir tree project includes education outreach

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A place best known for historic preservation turned its attention to trees on Wednesday. Beauvoir hosted a workshop, teaching participants how best to protect and maintain live oak trees. It included planting, pruning and root stimulation.

"What's fascinating to me is that these trees you're around, were here when Davis was. If they could only talk, imagine the stories they would tell," said Bertram Hayes-Davis.

Jefferson Davis' great, great grandson tells visitors how those historic trees are getting renewed attention.

"It's the first real restoration project. We're taking old trees down, replacing with new growth and we're going to continue to do that throughout the property so at a certain point in time we will re-forest this back to what it was in the 1880s," said Hayes-Davis.

What it is now is an opportunity for education.

"We don't want to plant the tree too deeply," said arborist Tony Miller. "That's one of the biggest problems with planting trees."

Arborists and other tree experts shared their knowledge about caring for live oaks.

"A lot about what's on the coast now is managing the trees in a way that it's going to decrease storm damage when the next storm comes," said Donna Yowell, with the Mississippi Urban Forest Council.

"We're going to get what we can reach, just to give you a general idea of what we do, why we do it and the proper way of pruning some of these trees," said Miller, as a worker with a chain saw began his trimming task overhead.

Eighty years ago, pecan tree farmers in Mississippi understood the importance of breaking up the soil around their trees. They did that by dropping sticks of dynamite underground. These days, fracturing the soil is still important for healthy roots. But gone is the dynamite. It's been replaced by a gas powered machine.

A worker sticks a metal spike into the ground. Compressed air, fed through a hose, gives the hard ground a jolt, followed by a fertilizer injection.

"We're just turning old trees that are in decline, back around by re-stimulating the root system," said David Fulgham.

Along with the live oak planting and pruning, there's another major landscape improvement underway at Beauvoir. Workers are busy creating the Varina Davis garden project, located behind the main historic home.

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