Bipeds of Brookland: Astrid Jöhnk
In more ways than one, Hamburg-native Astrid Jöhnk has roots in Brookland.
In 1998, Astrid arrived in America from Germany to pursue a career in hotel management with Marriott. In 2009, she moved into the Brookland home she bought with her now-wife, Shani.
And that’s when the gardening and landscaping started.
“Growing up, I never lived in a house with a yard,” she says. “I never had the space to do any gardening. It just happened that, with our house in Brookland, I wanted to do something with the small front and backyard space we had.”
It helps that Astrid’s neighbor is the headquarters of Casey Trees. One of their tree planting team leaders, Astrid spends much of her free time (when she’s not working as a producer for a German radio station) planting and maintaining trees, as well as advocating for their protection. She often teams up with volunteers and guides them through tree-planting assignments throughout the city.
“I really developed not only an appreciation for tree canopies but also the many benefits trees have for the greater community,” she says.
Another of her landscaping projects: beautifying the blank brick wall of the Pepco substation on 12th Street. To help dampen traffic noise and make Brookland a little greener, Astrid spearheaded the creation of trellises along which newly planted Carolina Jasmine vines grow.
When Astrid’s hands aren’t covered in dirt and plant clippings, they’re covered in flour. A trained pastry chef, she bakes cakes and cookies for friends and holiday gatherings.
Astrid’s advice for any tree planters out there is simple: Find the right tree for the right space. “You don’t want to plant a tree somewhere where it doesn’t have enough root or canopy space,” she says. “Do a little research about the tree you’re thinking about planting, and you’ll be able to enjoy it much longer.”
Bipeds of Brookland is a semi-weekly series introducing the people who make Brookland their home, one step at a time. Article and photo by Zak Salih