Tree loversBrothers take advantage of sapling giveaways

Published 10:04 pm Friday, September 7, 2012

For Thomas Skinner and his brothers, Frank and John, planting trees on their 30 acres of land off Gibson Road is just something the men have done for more than 20 years.

“We pick up trees and set them out where ever we see an empty spot,” Thomas Skinner said.

The brothers take advantage of the once-a-year tree giveaway at the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation office in Vicksburg, where each of the brothers is allowed six kinds of hardwoods and a handful of pine trees.

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They also are members of the Arbor Day Foundation, which is offering free trees to members who sign up this month.

Thomas Skinner said he and his brothers plant about 60 trees a year through the program, which is held in recognition of Arbor Day.

To help the trees get off to a healthy start they keep the roots wet and keep the brush away from them.

“We don’t do anything special just give them a chance,” Thomas Skinner said.

He said during Hurricane Katrina a large oak was lost on the property, and after receiving the free trees from the conservation office, at 2660 Sherman Ave., following the Category 3 storm, they decided to plant some of the cypress trees where the old oak had grown.

“I call the area where the oak fell on my Katrina garden,” said Thomas Skinner.

He said one of the saplings has grown 20 to 30 feet in just seven years.

Nancy Melancon, who serves as the information and education coordinator at the conservation office, said the once-a-year event is held the first Friday in February.

“We have been offering the free trees for 25 plus years, and on average we give away between 400 and 500 trees each year,” Melancon said.

She added that Warren County chooses February to celebrate Arbor Day because that is the optimum time for tree-planting in the area.

Melancon said along with offering the free trees in February the conservation office follows up the next week with a program for all third grade classes in Warren County.

“We plant a tree at each school and do a program on trees,” she said.

Not only have the Skinner brothers taken advantage of the free trees here in Vicksburg, they also are members of the Arbor Day Foundation, which gives away free trees.

Thomas Skinner said some of the crepe myrtles that he has planted in his Katrina garden have come from the foundation.

According to Sean Berry, director of media relations at the foundation, the Mississippi Chapter has a little more than 10,000 members and during the month of September, Mississippi members can receive 10 free trees.

“We make sure the trees are good for the area and the climate,” Berry said.

Mississippians will receive an eastern redbud, white pine, sugar maple, white flowering dogwood, pin oak, red maple, river birch, silver maple, northern red oak and Colorado blue spruce.

According to the foundation, trees was carefully selected to yield year-round benefits in Mississippi, including spring flowers, summer shade, nesting sites for songbirds, autumn colors and winter berries.

The trees are shipped postpaid at the right time for planting between Oct. 15 and Dec. 10.

The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or be replaced free of charge, Berry said. Easy-to-follow planting instructions are enclosed with each shipment of trees.

Each new member also receives a book about tree planting and care.

Berry said that the Arbor Day Foundation in the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees.

To receive the 10 free trees, a membership contribution of $10 should be mailed by Sept. 29 to Ten Trees, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, Neb. 68410. For more information visit