Patricia Duench has lived her entire life in Elmira, and leaving a lasting legacy was part of her inspiration to take on a project that sees her caring for about two dozen young trees.
Once the acorns were planted by the gardening club at Chartwell Elmira, the task of taking care of the trees was then passed to a very willing Duench, whose method of caring for plants may be a little different than others with green thumbs.
“I talk to them. I say ‘good morning’ to them, I do puzzles right beside them and I’m with them all morning – and it works,” said Duench. “Yeah, I talk to them, [telling them to] get growing and if they don’t grow then I give them heck too, scold them. But they’ve been good to me, they listen, I know they do because look at them.”
The project was the put together by Charity-Mae Votary, programs and support services manager with Chartwell Elmira. She says someone told her about a program involving trees and asked if they could have them contact her. Elated at the idea, Votary says she then heard back from Woolwich Healthy Communities, which gave her two platforms to plant acorns that would grow into trees.
“They reached out and I asked them for two platforms. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with that or where this was going to go, but our gardening committee kind of all helped put them all together. And then, Pat, who’s looking for a little bit of a sense of purpose and things to do since COVID has restricted a lot of that, took it upon [herself] to take care of all of them for us,” said Votary of Duench’s involvement.
Once the trees’ time with Duench has come to an end, they will go to Woolwich Healthy Communities and Trees for Woolwich. Planting will take place not long after that, with some expected to be planted on Chartwell property.
Duench said that prospect makes her happy, knowing some of the trees will be there so she can see their progress over the next few years, but she warns the squirrels away from them and will be out there protecting them once they are in the ground.
“I can see when I look at them growing that I did that from start. When you see something you planted from an acorn and you see this beautiful tree, it’s very rewarding,” said Duench.
Duench says she expects the trees to be ready for planting later this year, but she hopes that the animals do not dig them up and ruin them, as they are still acorns.
An avid gardener, Duench says she used to have beautiful gardens at her home and cottage, and still very much enjoys the work she is able to do. Despite her gardening prowess, she has never worked with trees until now, with these being her first.
Some tips she has for those who want to become as good at the hobby as she is, Duench says the key is to make sure you find the right balance of water.
“Don’t overwater. Most people, they kill them with love and kindness, they think they’re going to thrive with watering – but no. What little water is in there, their roots will always go to the little bit of water. Don’t overwater, that’s my number-one thing.”
Once these trees leave Chartwell and get planted in various locations, there’s a good chance more will follow. Votary says she is not sure if they will plant more, but she is hopeful the project will carry on.