A Spanish fir that resembles a towering blue-green ball gown has been named Ashland's 2008 Tree of the Year.

A Spanish fir that resembles a towering blue-green ball gown has been named Ashland's 2008 Tree of the Year.

"I was absolutely thrilled," said Cindy Barnard, who owns the yard at 128 Wimer St. where the tree grows.

Native to the mountains of Spain and Morocco, Spanish Firs can grow well in Ashland because of the hot, dry summers and somewhat alkaline soils found here, according to Ashland Tree Commission members.

For 21 years, the city has held a Tree of the Year contest. This year, residents nominated 16 different trees, which the Tree Commission narrowed down to five finalists: the Spanish fir, a silk tree, two Oregon white oaks and a tulip tree.

Residents voted in late October and November to choose a winner from among the finalists. The winner was announced Tuesday at a City Council meeting.

Barnard said the Spanish fir has provided a haven for both children and animals.

"It has a needle that's soft in your hand. It's a friendly fir," she said.

Barnard bought the property three years ago from former city administrator Brian Almquist and his family. The tree still has the remnants of a children's playhouse.

A three-legged deer Barnard dubbed Tripod, a buck and a fawn make their home under the tree, where they can lie and watch the activity on the street. The deer used to chase her late yellow labrador back into the house when the dog would venture out, she said.

An owl and several raccoons have also called the tree home, Barnard said.

Several years ago, an arborist collected seeds from the tree for a worldwide seed bank and catalogue.

"This tree has probably been planted all over the world," Barnard said.

In the spring, the Tree Commission will dedicate a plaque at the site to honor the Spanish fir.

Past winners include a silver maple, a Pacific madrone, a giant sequoia, a Monterey cypress and a pecan tree.

A few nominations have already come in for the 2009 Tree of the Year contest.

To get a nomination form, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=597 and click on Tree of the Year 2009 Nomination Form in the left column.

The Web site also has a Tree of the Year map, as well as recent and historic photos of Tree of the Year winners throughout the years. Viewers can see black-and-white photos of the trees when they were just saplings.

Among its other activities, the Tree Commission is working to prepare a list and map of distinctive trees in Ashland.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit www.dailytidings.com.