I recently learned about an amazing cherry tree located in West Chester, PA just minutes from my home. When people think of flowering cherry trees, they often think of the tidal basin in Washington DC and the corresponding cherry blossom festival each spring. Even I was unaware that some of the saplings gifted to the US in 1912 as a symbol of friendship made it to my local area. But that is the case.
Thomas Butler, a member of the House of Representatives at the time, received two saplings and planted them at his house on Miner Street. The most spectacular specimen of the two greets those walking down the sidewalk or driving by. The current owners of the Butler House care for the property and the historic trees planted there. Despite their best efforts, the tree is in decline.
With a lot of help from Andy Schenck, nursery owner and local plantsman extraordinaire, I set out to propagate the tree for future generations. Andy and I took cuttings from the tree after it flowered, placing them in a storage bag with damp paper towels so they wouldn’t dry out. From there we cut off some of the foliage to reserve the plant’s strength and dipped the stems in two different kinds of rooting hormone.
Cuttings were placed in a rooting chamber that receives a misting every twenty seconds or so. Now we wait. If all goes well, in several weeks, the cuttings will begin to produce roots and we’ll have new saplings to share. If we are successful, our first recipients will be the owners of the Butler House who have been such great stewards of this amazing tree and its historic roots.