BOISE -- A few days after being nestled into its new home, we wanted to find out what's next for Idaho's largest giant sequoia.
The century-old tree was hauled from outside St. Luke's Hospital in Downtown Boise to Fort Boise Park this past Sunday.
It is not easy work by any measure to care for a tree of its stature and age; maintenance of the well-known sequoia will be routine and constant in order to preserve the historic wonder and ensure it establishes new roots.
"[It's] become quite an icon for the City of Boise," Boise Parks & Recreation forester Brian Jorgenson said. "I think a lot more people will be able to see it and appreciate it for its size and stature."
Months of preparation led up to the move: towering at nearly 100 feet, and weighing about 800,000 pounds, Boise's largest sequoia was placed carefully at the City of Boise's Fort Boise Park, near the intersection of Fort, State and 1st streets. After more than 100 years planted in the same spot in front of the hospital, St. Luke's gifted the sequoia to the city.
"Super excited and honored to have St. Luke's give us this tree and let us try to take care of it," Jorgenson added.
The treasure stood at the site of a future hospital tower which is a part of St. Luke's planned expansion. Rather than cutting it down, they saved it. In October, contractors prepared the sequoia by pruning its roots and installing a barrier to temporarily prevent further growth. This month, Environmental Design returned to replace and enhance that support by building a structure around the base of the tree and inserting steel pipes under the tree to create a support structure.
Now that the sequoia is in its new home, crews have spent the last few days leveling the tree before removing a steel beam that essentially sewed the structural bottom in place as well as the root barrier. Contractor David Cox with Environmental Design Inc. said they are leaving the structural bottom in place, as well as the cables around the tree - which are in place for extra support during high wind events.
The area around the tree was back-filled with soil from its original home. Next, Environmental Design installed two irrigation systems:
"We have two irrigation systems prescribed to this tree: a surface irrigation for the root system, I also have an aerial irrigation where I'm going to put sprinklers up in the tree. So in hot times of the day they can come on for 15 minutes to cool the tree down," Cox told St. Luke's Public Relations Manager Anita Kissee in an interview earlier this week. "Because we have such a good drainage system in, we can water it fairly regularly, I mean three to four to five times a week if necessary."
Cox says this will be great for the tree to help it establish new roots outside of its transplanted root system. He says they also put sensors within the tree's root ball so they can read what areas might be lacking or getting too much water.
"I think they've got it anchored in place pretty good. I think the next big test will probably be if we have a real dry winter, real cold winter," Jorgenson added. "Sequoias are a little bit sensitive... they tend to brown needles if it gets real dry."
Environmental Design contractors say they will check in and monitor the sequoia's health over the next five years.
"You've got to monitor for insects, diseases, bugs. Everything from micronutrients feedings, fertilizations," Cox added.
"Water is critical," Jorgenson said. "During that time it's going to be very important to maintain the irrigation on the tree and the right balance."
If properly cared for, experts say this beauty should live another 300-500 years.
The sequoia seedlings are believed to have come from John Muir in California. The tree was presented as a gift from conservationist Emile Grandjean, one of Idaho's first foresters, to two St. Luke's doctors in the early 1900's.
"It is truly a family heirloom," said Mary Grandjean, the granddaughter of Emile Grandjean. "We believe the tree speaks to the power of a gift and, in this case, a living gift."
City officials tell KTVB there are plans for a plaza or marker of some sort commemorating this massive tree and the history behind it.