Ormewood Park Neighbors Growing Community by Planting Trees Together
Every community has movers and shakers, the agents of change who rally their neighbors around a cause to improve the quality of life for the whole neighborhood.
People like Brent Huff and Mike Gardner.
During the last planting season, they sent a NeighborWoods project inquiry to request a street tree planting project in their corner of Ormewood Park, just off Hemlock Circle. They submitted the request in January, and they took on a tremendous leadership role for months through the March planting project. Brent (image above, left) and Mike (right) were instrumental in every stage from scouting out potential tree locations, getting community buy-in from their neighbors, guiding homeowners through species options, and planting on the volunteer planting day.
What makes Ormewood Park special, they say, is that it’s a community in the truest sense of the word.
The couple has lived in Ormewood Park for 24 years. They had not even heard of the neighborhood when they started house hunting, but after one tour with a real-estate agent, they were enamored. A massive water oak in the backyard was a major selling point when they bought their house. Each had grown up with gardener parents which fostered a deep love and respect for the natural world.
“We loved the view of it from our kitchen and the deep shade garden it helped create. We learned it was not healthy in 2020 and had to have it taken down. It broke our hearts, but we plan to replace it with another large overstory tree in the fall of 2021 to do our part to keep Atlanta’s tree canopy intact.” Therein lies the motivation for contacting Trees Atlanta. Their neighborhood has lost at least eight mature overstory trees over the past year. Many houses in the area were built in the earlier half of the 20th century and many trees are simply aging out.
They wanted to take steps to do something about preserving the overall canopy of their beloved neighborhood. “We know that if you are patient, persistent, and learn how the city operates, you can get things done.” Brent and Mike love trees, and thus the project to plant more trees in Ormewood Park began.
After submitting the request for tree planting, Brent and Mike met with Trees Atlanta project coordinators, Jacob Kennedy and James Moy for site consultations to select appropriate species.
The goal was two fold: replace the aging and lost canopy trees with Trees Atlanta’s free front yard tree program and plant new trees along the streets. Residents jokingly refer to Hemlock Circle as the Hemlock 500 because drivers speed down the large hill. Research shows that the presence of street trees has a traffic calming effect, and Hemlock 500 needed a yellow flag… or more green trees. The psychology is simple: when drivers are in a wide open environment they feel free to speed, but when the road feels narrower, they slow their speeds.
After carefully reviewing the size of the planting strips between the road and sidewalk, sunlight and soil conditions, as well as overhead spacing, the couple and project coordinators selected a planting palette of native trees, including sweetbay magnolia, serviceberry, tulip poplar, and oaks. This palette showcases both vibrant fall foliage and spectacular spring blooms, providing year-round beauty.
Next, Brent and Mike contacted each of their neighbors to ensure the proposed planting met everyone’s needs. Residents that participate in the Front Yard Tree program can pick the tree they want, then Trees Atlanta volunteers plant the tree exactly where the homeowner prefers in the front yard. Once neighbors were on board, they received species selection sheets on tree options. Their neighbors were ecstatic, in fact, the only challenge they faced was getting neighbors to decide on the list of options provided, and over a dozen neighbors registered to volunteer for the planting.
For Mike and Brent, community is more than just a shared sense of place, but it is also a shared sense of responsibility.
On March 13, 2021, the planting went off without a hitch. Thirty-eight new trees were planted along Hemlock Circle, Moreland Place, and Berne Street. The rejuvenated tree canopy will beautify the area, provide shade for pedestrians and homeowners, reduce summer energy costs, and help to slow down traffic speeds.
Recently, Brent and Mike planted a young Bald Cypress in their back yard. The species was selected based on the planting spot which got a lot of water runoff from their patio. Bald Cypress is a native tree to Georgia but not used a lot in Atlanta landscapes and adding to the city’s tree diversity was another plus for the couple.
Finally, about the water oak they had to remove from their backyard? It didn’t quite “leave” their property. It will make a return to their household in the form of hand crafted furniture.
If you’d like to have trees planted in your neighborhood, please submit a request online at on our Tree Planting program page.
Written by Jacob Kennedy
Posted January 5, 2022