Crepe myrtle project nears goal for ‘2,000 in 2000’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 30, 2000

Sallie Ballard’s goal was &uot;2,000 in 2000.&uot; By Saturday, she’ll have exceeded that goal by exactly 149 – and Natchez’s streets will be richer for it.

&uot;(We) have ridden the town and counted the streets,&uot; Ballard said. &uot;When we give away these 700 on Saturday, we’ll have exactly 2,149 new trees … and those are the ones we can document.&uot;

Ballard’s campaign to plant 2,000 new crepe myrtles in yards and neutral grounds throughout Natchez grew from an idea she conceived more than two years ago.

Email newsletter signup

With Saturday morning’s giveaway – which includes 700 1-gallon crepe myrtle plants — Ballard will be one step closer to her ultimate goal of establishing Natchez as the &uot;crepe myrtle city.&uot;

&uot;You don’t think 2,000 plants is a lot, but it is,&uot; Ballard said.

Ballard raised funds through donations, memorial gifts and sponsored fund-raisers to purchase 1,400 crepe myrtle trees to distribute to residents throughout the city. In addition to the free 700 crepe myrtles distributed by Ballard in the spring, she said residents and even the city of Natchez have planted hundreds more to help achieve that goal.

When counting, &uot;if we even had any doubt that they were planted in 1999 or earlier, we didn’t count them,&uot; she said. &uot;We only counted ones we knew were planted this year.&uot;

Saturday’s giveaway, which begins at 9 a.m. at MainStreet Marketplace in downtown, is aimed at elderly or fixed-income residents. Two free trees will be available per household.

And, because the crepe myrtles are smaller, they should be easier for people to plant, Ballard said.

&uot;All you have to do is dig a hole, and you can put a little water in when you dig it,&uot; she said of the hearty trees.

&uot;In fact, with all the drought we’ve been having this year, it’s remarkable that the other trees have died right and left, but the crepe myrtles made it … and kept blooming,&uot; she said.

Based on response to the spring giveaway – &uot;It took about an hour and 10 minutes,&uot; she said – Ballard encourages people to come early to select plants.

In addition to the free 1-gallon plants, Ballard said her fund-raising also allowed her to donate about 30 trees to the city of Natchez, for planting at the council chambers and city hall, and four &uot;nice-sized ones&uot; to be planted at the renovated Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center on Homochitto Street.

And, even though she’s reached her goal for this year, Ballard said she hopes the campaign to plant crepe myrtles will continue.

&uot;I don’t want it to stop now that we’ve gotten our 2,000&uot; she said. &uot;If I continue to get donations or memorials, we’ll give some more away in the spring.&uot;