Saturday, January 29, 2011

Crape Myrtle in the Snow

The crape myrtle, which lost a branch in the storm,
becomes poetic when captured in Patsy's lens. Photo by Patsy Lieberman

Friday, January 28, 2011

Any Tree in a Storm

Before the storm hit, a dried dahlia
strikes a beguiling pose.
Afternoon light added a sparkle to coneflower,
which is now under a blanket of snow.
The dog and I are comfortably snuggled into the sofa this afternoon. The heat is thrumming, a comforting white noise that we sorely missed these past 24 hours when a storm hit Wednesday night. It knocked out our power and took down several limbs on my maple tree (damaging our gutter). It also severed one of my new dogwoods and crushed one of my old ones.

The dogwood that was crushed was the one that sheltered my chair. Its branch, which is now hanging from the trunk by a woody thread, was the one that literally created the rooftop to my shade garden. The overhead leaf cover was so dense, I could sit in my chair in a light rain and be almost completely protected from any raindrops. The dogwood must have been decades old. It was among the original backyard plantings that came with the house when we bought it 25 years ago.

I've taken on an almost magical, mystical appreciation for trees lately. I feel rather certain that they share something akin to human-like traits and speak to us in ways that are both spiritual and real. I read somewhere that if you were patient with a tree, visited it often, took shelter under its branches, even brought it gifts, it would reward you with a kind gesture or a very real-world acknowledgment. And so I beg of you, don't make fun, but I am a tree hugger. I like to wrap my arms around a tree and place my cheek against its trunk to see if I can feel the pulse of its life, the water surging from deep within its roots as it travels up through its trunk and out to its branches. The temperature of the trunk of a tree is often exactly what I crave, depending on the season. On a hot day, the trunk feels cool to the touch and in the winter, it generates warmth.

The branches of the now-destroyed maple are all strewn about our side property. Some of them are literally the size of a good-size tree. Had they hit our roof, the huge logs would have caused some very serious damage. And yet the space between our houses is little more than a mere 20 feet. How is it that the tree managed to drop its branches into such a narrow passageway, with only a brushing glance to the gutter?

Down the street, a massive American beech tree split during the storm at its apex and fell as if it was trying ever so hard to minimize the damage. A direct hit to either of the houses would have been tragic. At the time, I'm told, the family was upstairs putting their young children to bed. Two massive branches are indeed, lying across the back slope of their roof, but the house remains intact.

A few years ago, I watched from my back window during an afternoon summer storm as a tree split during a brutal wind surge. As it fell, I was certain the tree was consciously twisting and turning, as if it meant to lay itself neatly into the narrow space between the houses. No one was hurt and damage was minimal.

I'm not saying that trees don't cause terrific damage during storms. Of course we know they do and someone did die when a tree fell on their car on Wednesday night. But I wonder, sometimes, if they do try very hard not to. 

So when Jim asked me Wednesday night if I wanted to sleep in the basement in case a tree branch were to fall on our bedroom roof, I told him no. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. And for some reason, I felt safe. The Putterer

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Twenty-One Degrees

A tiny January blossom on my vibernum.
It's so cold outside that my hot flashes are lukewarm.

And yet, when I went for a stroll through my garden this morning when the temperature was hovering in the low twenties, I could find vestiges of spring. A tiny pink blossom is timidly showing itself on a viburnum (left) and old Aunt Rhody is sporting tons of buds as if she, like me, is more than ready for winter to end.

All the Christmas decorations got put away two weekends ago, and we took a fast trip down to Austin last weekend with friends for some, drinking, dining, music and warmth (alas it rained both days, oh well). But as we settle into these bitter, cold last days of January, I've begun to think about my next garden.

And I've got budget-busting plans that include deer fencing, built-in and terraced raised beds, and back-breaking transplants. Basically, I'm thinking: tear it up and start over.

Somehow, I'd like to enclose a portion of the backyard, so that my old nemesis, otherwise known as "that fucking deer," can't get in and break my botanical heart with his voracious nibbling. But the yard doesn't want to be easily fenced. There are pre-existing structures that can't be moved and won't look right either inside or outside the fence. If I fence just a portion of my garden, would that look weird in such a small space to create two rooms? And, if I fence the whole backyard, there is not a logical place to bring it to a close, where the gate could go.

But so far, I've got a vision of a high, dark mesh fence held between a series of poured concrete columns that support an arbor-like structure that cantilevers out over all or part of the north side of the property. The entry to the vegetable garden is immediately to left of my stone path at the bottom of the steps. In my minds eye, the gate takes the form of either an elegant Asian design or an English cottage garden style. Where the land slopes a gentle path meanders snakelike between terrace vegetable boxes. Now, instead of just cukes and squash, I'm growing chard and lettuces, carrots and onions and instead of five varieties of tomatoes, I'm able to double that, sampling from all of the heirlooms that I admire in the catalogs.

And now at the back of the property, where my neighbors are growing a beautifully restored native forest, the new fence very much becomes an unwanted barrier, mostly because the exchange of gardening ideas flows freely as I often work side-by-side with my friends back there. And because their garden is an eye-pleasing sight to behold when I'm sitting in my chair.

And then, of course, don't even get me started about what it would all cost. Isn't January gardening grand and glorious? The Putterer