Friday, April 27, 2012

Orchard Trees

Before Doctor Leslie donated the land for Leslie Park Golf Course, he and his wife had been running the land as a farm. On this farm, he planted wheat, corn and other annual crops, but a large portion of the land was devoted to orchards. They had cherries, pears and apples, as well as blueberries and raspberries.  The area where 5, 6, 7 and 8 are now located was predominately pears, apples and cherries. A small portion of this orchard was retained when the course was built. It was originally a 12 row by 12 row section, with a few trees outside of this square. That would have been 144 trees.

When I started with the City of Ann Arbor, there were less than 100 of these trees left. Through the previous 40 plus years, the trees naturally died out. Since the purpose of Leslie Park was to be a golf course and not an orchard, this was not a priority. The life expectancy of these trees is not overly long, and since they were planted around the time of World War II or before, it became clear to me that if nothing was done, we would lose the entire orchard. Since this was an integral part of the strategy for playing holes 6 and 8, as well as an homage to the former use of the land, we decided to start replanting the orchard.

The first step was to decide what to plant. the northern part of the orchard still had 6 cherry trees while the rest are Bosc and Bartlett pears.  It was decided to re-establish the northern part with cherries. The "holes" in the orchard were filled in with a mixture of Bartlett pears, Comice pears, Honeycrisp apples and Red Delicious apples. The apples were added to bring about some of the historcal feel to the orchard, even though this part did not have any apples. We started slowly on the 8 fairway side. This was to get a feel for how to proceed and give us some experience with the different trees. In 2010, we planted 16 apple and pear trees. We soon discovered that the deer love the apple trees but leave the pears pretty much alone. We started to experiment with deer deterrents and finally settled on cages. The following year, we planted another 18 pears and apples, along with 12 cherry trees. This year, we got 8 Bartlett pears, 4 Comice pears and 4 Montmorency cherries. With some failed trees, this brings the total number of new trees in the orchard to 39 pear/apples and 16 cherries. A quick count shows about 10 more "holes" in the original 12x12 square. We are also going to re-establish some pears along the cart path on #8.

A cherry tree with the wire cage around it.

Beside these orchard trees, we planted 40 White Pines (Pinus strobus) in the spring of 2009. These were donated by the City of Ann Arbor's Natural Areas Preservation Division and The Adopt-A-Park program they have spearheaded. In the fall of 2009, we brought in six maple trees. These were 2.5 inches in diameter and were about 12 feet tall when planted. In the following spring, we brought in two more maples that were 4 inches in diameter. In the fall of 2010, we replaced some dead white pines with 4 blue spruce (Picea pungens.)

As a golf course manager, you have to stay one step ahead. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is right now."

Here is a satellite view of the orchard from a few years ago. You can see the gaps between the rows. These are the holes that we are trying to fill.

View Larger Map


Brian Kuehn said...

I thin it is great that you are preserving the orchard. Leslie wouldn't be Leslie unless a slice on #6 was punished by a trip to the orchard.

Amy said...

I love the reintroduction of our state tree, as well as the revitalization of the orchard. Excellent work.