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Connecticut Garden Journal: The Great Oak Tree

Nov 23, 2017

It's a time of gratefulness and I've been appreciating oak trees lately.

Oaks are magnificent trees providing food, shelter, wood, and habitat. And oaks have a special significance for Connecticut. Ever hear of the Charter Oak? Its name is everywhere. Well, here's the story.

In 1662 the colony of Connecticut was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles of England allowing Connecticut to govern itself.

When Charles died, his brother James took the throne and demanded the return of the royal charter. The king's representatives met colonists in Hartford in 1687 to hand over the document.

While meeting, a great wind blew through the tavern and blew out the candles. In the confusion the charter was hidden in the trunk of a great white oak tree on the grounds.

Two years later, King James lost his power and the charter was rediscovered and used to govern Connecticut until the 1818. The famous charter oak was said to be 1,000 years old when it finally blew down in 1856.

In honor of the Charter Oak, consider planting an oak tree. While the white and red oaks are common, other oaks offer interesting variations.

The golden red oak features golden colored leaves in spring. English oaks, although not native, offer more selections. Purpurea English oak has purple leaves in spring. The cutleaf English oak has deeply dissected leaves and only grows 15 feet tall. And there's even a variegated oak with leaves edged in white.

Plant oaks in full sun on well-drained, slightly acidic soil. You can even start your oak from an acorn with your kids and nurse it along into a beautiful tree.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about holly. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.