Over the winter I wrote about a citizen-led project to turn the slopes of Church Hill’s Chimborazo Park into an orchard. Members of the Richmond Tree Stewards, led by Church Hill residents, Jan Thomas and Heather Holub, convinced the city to let them take on the project. They found money from Altria and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. People donated seedlings; they bought some from the Department of Forestry; and local nurseries such as Edible Landscaping pitched in with discounted plants. Volunteers have planted over 225 seedlings of all kinds: apple, plum, peach, pear, persimmon, paw paw, ginko, filbert, hickory, pecan, almond, fig, cherry, cranberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, serviceberry, grape and elderberry.
Well, now, for the first time, the orchard is bearing fruit. I recently received this email from Louise Seals, President of the Richmond Tree Stewards, who passed on these words from Thomas: I was walking around the orchard this morning and amazed – there are mulberries already ripe and being picked by the birds, the strawberries are huge and red and I’ve seen folks stop and pick a few. Our fruit, nut, berries and vines are all doing well – we did lose a few over the winter but ALL of the apple trees are growing like crazy; 3 of the larger ones have apples on them! The large peach trees have peaches. Both Service Berry trees, despite being in a harsh soil, have berries and are growing straight. An established mulberry is already feeding birds with ripe fruit. Good stands of elderberry, milkweed, pokeberry, passion fruit and wild grapes will be preserved. We will be doing some selective weeding around them as well as string trimming and weeding/mulching around all newly planted growth. We have started on getting rid of the ailanthus. And we are string trimming the hillside paths.
Here’s the info on Chimborazo Park and how to get there. Check it out if you’re in that part of the city. This is a very cool project that is just in year two of a five-year plan. There is much more to come.