Armstrong-kelley Park in Osterville isn’t so much known for its giant trees as it is its 29 rare and unusual species. The Cape’s largest privately owned park contains umbrella pines and large-leaf Magnolias, Japanese cedars, Stewartia, and a rare Franklinia, an 18th-century bloomer cultivated in Georgia in the 1700s and named for Benjamin Franklin.
The Franklinia flowers in late summer and is virtually unknown in the wild, says Larry Evans, the president of the Cape Cod Horticultural Society, which owns and operates the preserve. No one quite understands where it came from. “A lot of the trees here were brought in, but we have no idea where that one came from,’’ says Evans.
Evans has spent his 67 years in Osterville and is dedicated to the park he says is unchanged from when he was a boy. And that’s just fine with him. “It’s probably the only eight and a half acres in all of Osterville that is still open space,’’ he says. “[The park] is just how I remember it.”
Not all the old beauties have survived. In Orleans, a graceful linden dominated the garden of the Captain Linnell House on Skaket Beach Road for 150 years before it was blown down in 2006. After the linden fell, it was replaced almost immediately with a younger linden donated by a resident of West Yarmouth, which did not thrive. Soon that tree was replaced with another European linden from Johnson Tree Farm in Osterville. And the cycle goes on. “We have lost a lot of trees,’’ Evans says. “They are fragile things. You have to save what you can, and try to preserve what you can.”