Lander University observed Arbor Day last week with the planting of a deodar cedar near the pedestrian bridge between Centennial Hall and the Grier Student Center.
A second tree, an “Empress of China” dogwood, was planted at the entrance of the university’s shade garden, in honor of Greenwood horticulturalist and friend of Lander John Elsley.
The deodar cedar is the national tree of Pakistan. It grows in the shadows of the Himalayan Mountains, at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet, reaching up to 150 feet in height.
The tree’s name is derived from a Sanskrit term that means “timber of the gods.”
The tree was donated by the Greenwood Council of Garden Clubs, which has worked closely with Lander’s Arboretum Committee in recent years to beautify the Lander campus.
Arboretum Committee chair Dr. DeWitt Stone said that a cedar was selected for this year’s planting because “we have too few evergreen trees on the campus, and this is a particularly spectacular one.”
An unusual aspect of the “Empress of China” dogwood is that it, unlike native dogwoods, is also an evergreen. It’s also remarkable for its “prolific blooming capacity,” according to Elsley, who developed the tree from a specimen he came across in a local nursery, 20 years ago.
The tree is well-suited to growing conditions in most of the South. In fact, Elsley said, there are “very few better small trees for this part of the country.”
An Englishman who began his career at London’s Kew Gardens, Elsley came to the U.S. to work in the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. He was hired by Park Seed Company to assist in the establishment of its Wayside Gardens business and worked for the Greenwood company for over 20 years.
A Lander Arboretum Committee member and chair of the Greenwood County Beautification Committee, Elsley also serves as horticultural adviser to the Morning Glory Garden Club, which is developing the shade garden. Club president Louise Watkins said that club members donated the unusual dogwood that now greets visitors to the shade garden “in honor of one of our favorite mentors.”