Edwards’ Riverwalk gets a holiday tree | VailDaily.com

Edwards’ Riverwalk gets a holiday tree

Raymond A. Bleesz
Special to the Daily
Vail CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThis spruce tree, dubbed "Fat Albert," was donated to Riverwalk in Edwards by Raymond and Faith Bleesz, proprietors of Brush Creek Dry Goods in Riverwalk, in the spirit of Rockefeller Center in New York.

Having an interest in horticulture, and of being of French ancestry where flowers, gardens and landscaping is somewhat natural to me and my family, I commenced to landscape my yard in Singletree in 1997, when our home was being constructed. Originating from the woods along the Appalachian Trail in rural Connecticut, I wanted to landscape my lot as an “estate,” something I was familiar with in my youth, and I felt a need to create a landscaping worthy of note in this harsh high desert environment. Historically, the early pioneers who crossed the Mississippi and colonized the “American frontier,” to use the noted American historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s term, planted trees, flowers, shrubbery of all sorts to remind them of their heritage. I likewise have landscaped my yard in an attempt to reflect those values of yore.

Over time, my landscaping has undergone major changes and advancements, and some failures of note due to the harsh environment and soil conditions. All landscaping on my lot has been done with my hands with assistance and approval of my wife, Faith, who has been most supportive of my endeavors as she, too, is originally from Connecticut. Coincidentally, we both met here in Vail.

Trees in abundance are evident in my landscaping endeavors – presently there are over 20 aspen trees reaching 30-foot heights, all hand planted as saplings long ago and, as in good forest management, I have cut down a good number of these aspens over times to thin them in our lot. (I do not have an exceptionally large lot for Singetree.)

To complicated matters, I also have 30-plus apple trees, mostly 4- to 6-foot saplings, including approximately six trees at this time which produce edible apples, apples of different varieties all purchased from an organic nursery in Potsdam, N.Y. Then there is shrubbery, evergreens, bushes, flowers and a large garden with produce that I share with my neighbors. And Fat Alberts. Originally I purchased four Fat Alberts, all approximately 4 to 6 years old from a Denver nursery on the advice of my architect. The Latin name for a Fat Albert tree is Picea Pungens. This is the story of Fat Albert.

The name for Fat Albert comes from a popular cartoon – Fat Albert is an easy name to remember as this tree’s characteristic is being “fat,” rather large in girth and can reach 30 to 45 feet tall. This mutant species of blue spruce was originally found in a field nursery in Boring, Ore., approximately in 1978. Unknown prior to this date, the nursery grafted the tree, underwent testing and over time it was determined that Fat Albert was ready for full production as it had strong growing habits, was hardy, had color and strength. The Latin name also identifies it as spruce tree with a strong evergreen, pleasing aroma. This species of tree retains its deep blue color and can be planted in groupings to deter wind. They can withstand severe cold temperatures and can grow 12 inches per year, dependent upon conditions. It also has a characteristic pyramid shape.

Today, this Fat Albert, age approximately 20 years by counting its rings, was donated by Faith and I to the Riverwalk Complex, businesses and residents of Edwards as holiday goodwill. I felt it was time for Fat Albert to be removed from my lot as it was becoming so large and close to my redwood decking that I felt it was a fire hazard, hence its removal and donation. Jeffery Culotta and his Riverwalk crew arrived at 9 a.m. with chainsaw in hand, and we were able to manhandle the tree onto his trailer. Shortly thereafter, it was erected in the Riverwalk area, and lights were strung. At dusk, the lights lit the tree.

Raymond A. Bleesz lives in Edwards and owns Brush Creek Dry Goods in Riverwalk.

Support Local Journalism