Thursday, February 10, 2011

What’s New at the Farm? Enjoying trees

Last week I wrote about trees and this week I’m going to finish up on trees. In last week’s article I talked about the red maple, the apple tree and the cherry bushes, and the plum orchard. This week, I’m writing about a few more trees around the yard and the history behind them.

 Let’s start out with the 20-foot hemlock next to the old well. When my daughter was perhaps four or five we went for a walk down to the brook where the sucker spawn. On the way back we went through an old, abandoned gravel pit. We stopped to look at this tiny hemlock tree growing in the sand and gravel. We decided it didn’t have much of a future there so I pulled it up, stuck it in my back pocket, and we went home to plant it. After picking out a spot, we dug the hole, planted the spindly little tree and watered it. That was 25 years ago and now that tree is taller than the garage and growing quite well. It is located right beside the old, dug well so it has plenty of water and is also on the south side of the house so it’s got the perfect spot. I trimmed the lower branches last spring so the dogs can rest in the shade but still keep an eye on what’s going on in the yard.

The two main shade trees are heartnuts, which I bought and planted some 20 years ago. A heartnut tree is a Japanese walnut known for its fast growth and delicious nuts. The trees do indeed grow fast; at twenty years their trucks are about a foot across. They have large tropical looking leaves and produce abundant crops of nuts some years.  The squirrels enjoy the nuts as is evidenced by all the heartnut volunteers coming up around the yard shows. One tree is healthy and produces nuts every year but the other tree; well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it died at any time. The woodpeckers have drilled it full of holes, but it never was as robust as the other one was anyways. The nuts are incredibly hard to shell; a task I leave for the squirrels. And like oak and walnuts, nothing grows underneath these trees save for violets, which take over the lawn in the spring.

Rounding out the lawn trees is a grafted lilac I planted maybe 20 years ago. I went to a local tree sale and bought this small grafted lilac bush. Planted on the northwest corner of the house, it seemed to like it and thrived there. Each spring the fragrance wafts in through the windows and we get to enjoy its smell for a couple of weeks.  Rounding out the bushes list includes a hedge of Rosa Rugosa roses between the house and the road. We live quite close to the road, and even though it’s a small country road, it gets more than enough traffic. This hedge not only is beautiful and fragrant, it helps to block the noise from the road and also serves as a barrier to keep the dogs and birds in the yard.
Out by the pond there are two mock oranges I planted three or four years back which are doing quite well. One is being overtaken by Virginia Creeper so it’s on the spring list to trim that back a bit. There’s a bush; I believe it’s a snowberry. It has small, white balls on it and doesn’t seem to thrive but neither does it do poorly, it’s just there. A hedge of hybrid lilacs to the east of the lawn, a Kentucky coffee tree and a handful of Norway Spruces close out the backyard highlights. Out front are two pear trees, a hedge of American cranberries, some blueberries and a couple of tree lilacs and a tree peony. All of these trees were purchased and planted since I’ve owned my home some thirty years or so. There’s a small spruce tree up in the pasture, which we light up for Christmas. And then there’s that land across the road…

So, to stop before I launch into everything we’ve planted down the road, my purpose here is to explain why we plant trees. Trees are perennials in all forms; plants that will come back year after year. Our lifespan as compared to a tree is relatively short, so we can watch a tree grow all our lives and hopefully someone in the future can enjoy it as we did once. The old trees that are beside the road – one can just imagine what they’ve seen – winter storms, horse and buggies giving way to automobiles, people growing up and old, generations passing and ways of life gone and forgotten.  A tree is living, unlike rocks which have been around since the beginning of time, and you can watch it grow and change throughout the years, And we all plant trees that we hope others will enjoy and watch long after we’re gone.

Until next week, Brian

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