Monday, October 31, 2011

Trees Are Spooky

It's Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. I love the pagan nature of this evening and the opportunity to become someone else for a night. I adore ghost stories and especially those involving haunted trees. You know exactly which trees in your neighborhood are haunted. Your steps speed up when out walking the dog at night. You don't look too close for fear something is looking back at you.

So here's a spooky maple for All Hallows Eve.  Careful, now. It's watching you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bright Fall Color for a Grey Day

The maples have finally decided to turn.  Now I'm noticing freemanii-type maples in parkways, lawns, and parks. With their strong pyramidal shape and bright blue-red leaves, they pretty much leap off the grass and wave hello. Marmo and Autumn Blaze are two very very common cultivars.  We like these maples. They are easy to grow, they tolerate wet soils, they are pretty pest free and they grow like the proverbial weed. However, in light of elm and ash overplanting, I think they may also be too popular. Diversity makes the world a much more interesting place, don't you think?

Hill's oak makes a lovely crimson addition to the autumn landscape and grows surprisingly fast. The birds and squirrels will thank you for the acorns, too.

How can you not love a ginkgo? They are just beginning to turn. The pristine gold of a ginkgo is fleeting, so I try to really take a moment to savor those geisha fan leaves. Once temperatures fall below freezing, these trees will drop all their leaves in a night. For me, it's like a lady shedding her party dress to puddle around her feet.

I'm plotting how I can add more trees to my typical suburban-size yard. There's a spruce on the lot line that's fated for the chainsaw next March. I'm vacillating between conifers to replace it.  Hmmmm. There's still a patch of lawn in the far back. Do I really need a sunny perennial bed?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Eulogy for Ash

Although not my favorite tree, I have a soft spot for ash (Fraxinus). My parents had one planted in the back yard and each fall it turned the most beautiful copper and purple. It shaded the patio, but the only time I really noticed the tree was in autumn. My father used to take a pocket knife to the trunk and dig out huge fat larvae of our native borer. Ash trees, as you probably know, are threatened by the emerald ash borer. I've linked it so you can find more information than you probably want to know. It's a devastating pest and since we have once again over planted a single species (you'd think we would have learned with the whole Dutch Elm Disease fiasco), we will lose a significant portion of our urban canopy. There is a wonderful project that reclaims trees for wood products. If you're cutting down your tree, check it out. So this is my eulogy:

Purple copper russet gold
Leaves like pennies
Floating in a puddle
Slivers of sun
Lost in dark water

Rough corrugated trunk
Carries rain to the roots
Bends in the summer storm
Anchors squirrel nests
Reaches long twigs skyward

Cool the hot wind from my face
Remind me of nature's grace
Sway with me again
In that bewitching rhythm
Of castanet seeds

My fickle heart
Wavers between oak and maple
Beech and elm
Yet your tower of green leaves
Beckons me still

My friend, my dear one
May your heartwood
Become a treasure
Your honeyed flesh
A priceless gift

Good luck, little guy

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Lingering Swallowtail

A black swallowtail caterpillar in the foggy foggy dew

A little more than a week ago, while cutting herbs for dinner, I noticed something on the fennel.  A black swallowtail caterpillar was steadily chomping its way through a stalk. He was quite fat and satisfied. I think he's being a bit optimistic about his survival.  It is very late in the season.  I checked on him daily, and finally, one day, no more caterpillar. I haven't been able to find a chrysalis in the tangle of the herb garden, but it's a bit of a fall mess right now. The birds are eating their heads off at the feeder as they bulk up for migration and winter. He may have gotten eaten.  Either way, we enjoyed having another caterpillar to contemplate in all his stripy glory.  There's a reason I let the fennel reseed.