New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill’s Worcester Tree Initiative Department planted its last tree of the spring season on June 10 at the Highland House Apartments as a memorial for Kathleen Phelan, the daughter of Ed and Gerry McGovern and cousin to Congressman and WTI cofounder James P. McGovern. Ed and Gerry are residents at Highland House and enjoy the diverse plantings found around the property in the informal arboretum that is growing there. This tree was planted where they will be able to see it from their window. 

The tree planted for Kathleen is a Sweetbay Magnolia, a flowering tree that blooms in the early summer, later than many of the other magnolias in the landscape. This species adds to the diversity found in the landscape and ties in with several other flowering trees nearby, adding beauty later into the season. Many people think of magnolias as southern species, and while there are some varieties that won’t grow this far north, we are fortunate to be able to grow several varieties of magnolia here. 

As people gathered for the memorial tree planting Derek Lirange had an opportunity to speak to the crowd about the work of New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill in the community through the Tree Initiative. Plantings like these are reforesting developed landscapes, helping to bring communities together and make more livable spaces. And memorial trees are particularly special trees to plant. It is a beautiful thing to plant a tree for a loved one as a living memorial.  

In addition to the tree a plaque will be placed next to the tree marking its significance in the landscape. This special touch ensures that everyone who comes to pass under the tree’s shade in years to come, and who sees its flowers and pauses in the busyness of their lives to look, will know that it is special and that it was planted for someone special. In this way a person’s legacy lives on and even those who never knew them can be grateful for them. 

It was an honor to be able to plant this tree with Kathleen’s parent’s, sisters, and friends. We offer our sincere condolences for their loss, and hope that the Magnolia will gently remind them of the beauty she brought into the world and their lives.