Why do we celebrate Arbour Week?


Trees, hedges and borders

An adult's hands and a child's hands hold a sapling in soil together.

In September we celebrate Arbour Day and Arbour Week in South Africa – a time to plant trees and pay special attention to our environment and the role trees play in it. We delve into the history of this occasion, and why you should celebrate it by planting a tree.

The great idea of turning tree-planting into a special event that encourages urban greening was dreamt up by a visionary called J Sterling Morton. The first Arbour Day was celebrated in 1872 in the state of Nebraska in the US, a place previously devoid of trees, where it is said that over a million trees were planted that year, thanks to Morton’s passion and organisational skills. Today, countries all over the world celebrate Arbour Day with tree-planting drives.

Although Arbour Day has been in existence for many years in the United States, it was first introduced to South Africa in 1982. South Africans love the concept so much that we’ve gone from having an Arbour Day to hosting a full Arbour week in the first week of September annually. At Stodels Garden Centres, we extend our tree-loving celebrations to the whole month so you have more opportunity to join in by planting a tree!

Trees are not only beautiful and providers of much-needed shade, they also play an important role in absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and in return, providing life-giving oxygen. As human populations grow and cities expand, the vast open veld is fast becoming a concrete jungle – the urban population in Africa alone is predicted to double by 2030. Some of the other reasons to plant trees are that they improve the quality of soil and its capacity for water retention, they help to reduce stress and lower heart rates, and they provide food and shelter to wildlife. 

Nick Stodel, MD of Stodels Garden Centres says, “I feel that children should not just be taught about the environment, but given a small piece of ground and told to plant. No number of lectures will have the same effect as watching your own trees or plants grow. By sponsoring trees and encouraging everyone to plant them, we invest in an ecologically sound future.”


  • Plant a tree at home: Choose a good spot in your garden, follow our tree-planting tips and turn the occasion into a little ceremony with your family. Kids will love watching your tree grow, and you can use the occasion to teach them about how trees help to clean the air. There’s a certain magic in watching a tree you planted with your own hands grow over the years.
  • Sponsor a tree to be planted: Don’t have any space at home? Donate a tree to a school, or contact any one of the amazing tree-planting organisations out there who, for a small donation, will make sure that a tree is planted in your name. Food & Trees for Africa, Save our Planet – Plant a Tree and Greenpop are among the many wonderful organisations that you could check out.