Garden Cutbacks at Montclair’s Mt. Hebron School Get Low Grade

If Montclair didn’t have a name, some might suggest Gardenville, that’s how much horticultural know how is floating around town, both professionals and accomplished amateurs.

And yet, the Montclair Times is reporting that at Mount Hebron school, a major out-of-season pruning has Cary Africk, former 2nd Ward Township Councilman – and a Master Gardener — upset, while interim Schools Superintendent Clarence Hoover compared the pruning to a haircut that will grow back.

Africk disagrees, and sent along this:

It’s not that simple.

There is skill, and science, behind pruning. College level courses teach pruning theory and skills — there’s a difference between pruning or shearing a boxwood, or a rose bush, or a multi stemmed shrub. Even pruning a simple Hydrangea has complexities insofar as you can’t prune certain types in the summer and expect them to flower next year.

Right now is not the time to do most any kind of pruning.

As for trees, there are proper methods. The Elm that was pruned this week was done improperly. It didn’t need pruning in the first place, and the way it was pruned injured the branches making them susceptible to disease.

The area will be replanted. Even better. But there are lessons to be learned.

The BOE could have turned to the Town. We have a Certified Tree Expert, our arborist Steve Schuckman, and the head of our shade tree department, who actually helped with the original planting, Pat Sexton who is thoroughly trained and also an expert. Either would have helped, if asked. There is also the wonderful Garden Club. And the professional gardeners at Presby, and the extraordinary gardeners at Van Vleck. Or how about Eric Von Hoffman, a premier Landscape Architect in town of considerable expertise who has volunteered much of his time at no cost to the community. And then there’s the dozens of volunteers from Anderson Park, including Scott Kevelson who has tree certification. And of course there are the Master Gardeners.

I agree that the area needed work. But the next time I hope the BOE reaches out for help.

The Times notes that the Mt. Hebron School PTA is already planning fundraising efforts to rejuvenate the school’s garden areas. And when we took a walk past the school at noon today, many beds looked (and smelled!) as if they’d been freshly mulched (perhaps to make bare patches and stumps less noticeable?), and tools strewn about suggested work was still underway.

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  1. Cary’s really just upset that a beautification project didn’t reduce street parking 50%, cost 1.3 million dollars and take a year to complete.

  2. Maybe the guy that did such a terrible pruning job will get the “Morra” treatment and be “demoted” to a $100k job at Mt. Hebron at our expense.

  3. I coordinated the landscape re-design at Mt Hebron Middle School and I would like to correct a factual error in the above quote by Cary Africk. The NJ Tree Foundation in the form of Lisa Simms and her capable and well-trained staff worked with the students, staff and volunteers at Mt Hebron. Pat Sexton was not involved.

    Darlene Sneden

  4. The pruning job was done well. All the bushes will come back well and look great next spring. Get the knot out of your underware.

  5. Hey Darlene… I”m guessing that you volunteered and had a bunch more volunteers who helped. Thank you for that. My kids don’t go to Mount Hebron, but I pass it all the time, so when the grounds keeping looks great, it gives people happiness and pride.

    Hey Cary… Why don’t you stop bitching about everything that’s so wrong? While at times on the council, I thought you were a very astute individual who pointed things out that would be better. But sometimes I thought you’d never get anything done because you suffered from analysis paralysis. Sometimes things just have to get done. Not perfect, perhaps, but done.

    So Cary… did you reach out to the people who WERE involved before speaking out about what they had done? I don’t know. Doesn’t sound like you did. But until you’ve spoken to them, please quiet down. Not matter how good your garden is.


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