Karolina Lavagnino stands next to an Oregon white oak tree that’s outside the home she rents on Iowa Street in Ashland. The tree was selected as Ashland’s 2012 Tree of the Year. - Julia Moore

Oak is Ashland's Tree of the Year

ASHLAND — Don Greene likens the Oregon white oak in the front of the house he owns at 1209 Iowa St. to that of a guardian that's seen all of the changes occurring in the neighborhood and Ashland in the 150-plus years of its life.

"It just has a wonderful spirit to it," Greene said.

The spirited Oregon tree has been named the city's Tree of the Year.

Michael Pina, an assistant planner with the city of Ashland, said the tree was chosen from 15 others nominated. The city's Tree Commission whittled the ballot to five and then residents were asked to vote. He said it received 16 of the 36 votes cast.

Pina said the tree's "unique form" was a factor for its victory. Its craggy branches twist and turn at angles unseen in other trees.

That's another piece Greene admires — its cragginess. He also said there's an element of perseverance, though he's unsure of its age. "I'm not sure how old the tree is," Greene said. "Obviously very old."

It played a role in his buying the lot that was then vacant more than a dozen years ago. "Part of the reason we got that lot was that the tree was so magnificent," Greene said.

Karolina Lavagnino, who rents the home from Greene, said she's fond of the tree for its summer shade and beauty, and notes that it produces a hefty amount of acorns.

Those acorns have attracted tree lovers, who must want others to grow nearby. Last summer people asked to gather some of the acorns so that they could be planted in other spots around town, said Karolina's husband, Doug.

Greene said he and his wife, Niki Newkirk, believe trees carry a spirit and energy. Greene, a builder in Ashland since the 1970s, said he always attempts to honor trees in his plans. He mentioned a recent subdivision in which the buildings were designed so that trees were preserved.

It was the same with the white oak. When he built the house, he made sure the tree remained healthy by avoiding compacting of the soil and keeping out of the drip line of the roots.

He also said he installed minimal landscaping to avoid watering because oaks do not like too much water.

"All of our design was with that tree in mind," Greene said. "It's just a wonderful tree to have in your yard."

Pictures of past winners can be viewed at

Vince Tweddell is a freelance writer living in Talent. Reach him at

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