Parks’ class on evergreens offers seasonal creativity

By Amanda C. Davis

Looking for the right Christmas tree? Read on.

YOUNGSTOWN — Isabelle Moyer’s mom, Mary, is a notorious plant killer.

So it makes sense for the 10-year-old Canfield girl to give her a low-maintenance gift that won’t require much effort.

Moyer and her aunt, Cindy Bruno, also of Canfield, attended a class Saturday at Mill Creek Metroparks’ Fellows Riverside Gardens, where they made an arrangement out of evergreens.

Bruno, an English teacher at Chaney High School, joked that Mary has a hard time keeping plants alive, and that “this will be perfect” as a gift.

The class, held in the D.D. & Velma Davis Education and Visitor’s Center, was called “Pine, Spruce and Fir.” Horticulture educator Anita Wesler taught a group of children and adults the differences among the three and how to spot a good Christmas tree.

Wesler told the group she’s not a fan of spruce trees when used to decorate inside because they’re prickly and tend to fall off once they get too dry.

“Inside, they’re not happy trees,” she explained. “It would be raining needles under the tree.” A better choice for a Christmas tree is a fir or pine, she said.

Wesler demonstrated how to tell the difference. Pine trees have needles that are bundled. If you roll a fir needle in your fingers, it should be soft and have two sides, she said, adding that if you break a needle, it has a citrus scent. Aside from being prickly, spruce needles have four sides to them.

The class learned about the three trees, in addition to holly, cedar and boxwood. Pieces of evergreen were used to fill decorative tin pockets, finished with red bows.

Tom Vitelli of Austintown brought sons Nathan, 8, and Jackson, 2. Nathan is home-schooled by his mother, LeeAnn, who brings him often to Mill Creek Park for various learning activities.

“She’s always down here with him,” Vitelli said of his wife, adding that Saturday’s event was a way to supplement his education.

Greg Horvat of Canfield said the program provided a nice opportunity for him to get out of the house with son, Jack, 9. It’s something different, he said, “… because it’s not a video game or football game.”

Natalie Dechant of Diamond brought grandson Stephen Lewis and said the 6-year-old inherited her interest in nature. “It’s a nice bonding experience for us,” she added.

Bruno and Moyer work as volunteers in the park’s family garden. Bruno said she and her niece go to the park regularly for many reasons, including the nature aspect, the bike path, gift shop and educational programs.

“I think this is the greatest resource in this area,” Bruno said. “Even if you just want to come and sit, it’s just restful and beautiful.”

You can see the park’s beauty firsthand tonight during the “Gardens by Candlelight” event, from 5:30 to 8. A wintry walk through the gardens will be lit by twinkling lights and luminaries. The event will include jazz music, children’s activities and refreshments.

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