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Alumna and landscape coordinator Susan Calhoun tends Ohio University’s cherry trees with love

Published: March 22, 2022 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University alumna Susan Calhoun has been the longtime caretaker of OHIO’s cherry trees, assuring each year that the iconic trees that line the Hockhocking Adena Bikepath are tended to and sustained for years to come.

Calhoun earned a B.S. in Plant Biology from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1985 and has been tending one of OHIO’s most precious international gifts for two and a half decades.

As the University’s landscape coordinator, Calhoun designs landscaping plans, safeguards campus trees during construction projects, and monitors invasive species. For 26 years, she has been a set of watchful and intuitive eyes for the Chubu University Relations Committee and Office of Global Affairs, through whom the OHIO community receives updates about the well-being and blossoming of the beloved cherry trees that shower the bike path with gorgeous white scenery each spring.

The blossoming of the cherry trees is a favorite annual tradition on the Athens campus, and many students leave Athens with a forever picture of themselves beneath the blossoms.

OHIO’s cherry trees were a gift from partner institution Chubu University in Kasugai, Japan, with the first trees arriving in 1979.

As each spring draws near, even before buds begin to form on plants across campus, especially the cherry trees, Calhoun meticulously tracks the weather and schedules the Grounds Department crews to perform disease prevention and pruning practices to prepare the trees for a healthy bloom.

Calhoun carefully watches as spring unfolds and provides insight into the ways in which nature may offer different bloom outcomes through unprecedented warm periods and overnight freezes. Removal of lost trees due to intense cold snaps or polar vortex, as well as the planting of new trees to replace those that did not survive, is an ongoing process; plans for strategic replacement ensure continuity of the grove and range of tree maturity.

“It has been my honor to care for this symbolic grove of Yoshino Cherry Trees,” Calhoun said. “Seeing how much joy they bring to the community as well as out of town visitors is something that never gets old. I want to thank the grounds employees and landscape students that have performed this necessary labor over the years.”

Her keen observations of the trees’ health and prescribed pruning and care regimen has fostered longevity and vibrance to this annual harbinger of spring’s arrival. The local and regional community, as well as Bobcats past and present, benefit from her diligent and enduring relationship with these special trees.

The OHO community and public can track the blooms from wherever they are at the Cherry Blossoms Website. Updated images and insights about the blooms’ peak will be provided frequently during March and April. New signage from the Ohio Museum Complex, installed near the Bingham House, also shares details about the historic partnership with Chubu University and the origins of these special trees.