Those of us who garden in forests fall in love with our trees.
Our shaded, sheltered gardens grow beneath the protective canopy of their branches, and among the strong and sculptural uprights of their trunks. Ferns and mosses, Hellebores, Heucheras and Hostas thrive in cool shade under their leaf covered branches.
Trees are full of life. Beyond their own twigs, leaves, and flowers; they feed and shelter small birds, squirrels, chipmunks, thousands of insects, and an occasional raccoon.
Our gardens are animated by the swish of wings as birds move from branch to branch, by the call of one hidden bird to another, and the quick swoop of bird or squirrel to the ground in search of food. The whole garden vibrates with living energy among the trees.
Some trees we own because we own the plot of land from which they grow. Some were already growing when we came to our garden, others we’ve purchased and planted. We invest in trees to populate our gardens the way others might buy sculptures; selecting for size and form, color, flower, nut, and fruit.
Some of our trees we own by sight only. They grow in another’s yard, and yet they still form the fabric of our landscape.
They filter the air we breathe and frame our view of the sky. They shade our street, their leaves blow to our yard in early winter, and they are inextricably woven into our lives by their presence and proximity.
Trees are the guardians of the garden. Their canopies offer protection from the summer sun. Air beneath their branches remains moist and cool on the hottest days.
Trees offer privacy to those who live behind them, muffling sound and screening views.
They catch the pounding rain of thunderstorms on summer leaves, channeling it more gently towards the ground; and they renew the soil around their roots with a fresh cover of decaying leaves each winter.
The wind passing through their branches is the melody against which the birds call and sing. It alerts us to coming storms, and soothes us as we relax in the evenings.
As they conceal and enclose when covered in leaves all summer, so our trees reveal and open up the landscape in winter; welcoming the winter sun to melt the snow and coax daffodils from the cold mud of our frost cloaked garden.
They frame our views, and structure our enclosures.
Their twiggy branches trace patterns on the ever changing winter sky, etching elaborate, animated sketches against snow cloud and sunset; clear blue skies and fog. They change hour to hour, and day to day as twigs finally redden, buds swell, and one warm day burst into soft flowers and tiny leaves.
We watch the progress of the seasons by looking up into our trees. From bud break to leaf fall, each season waxes and wanes in their branches.
We watch the progress of each day as the sun’s light, and the moon’s light, traces its path through the tree tops.
We watch the dappled sunlight move, hour to hour, across the forest floor and through our windows, as light passes through the branches that surround our garden; a living sundial.
Trees may also mark the passage of our lives. We plant trees to mark births and marriages.
We watch time pass as our trees grow and mature, transforming sunny meadow to shaded sanctuary. Like a child, the sapling we plant this year will, in its time, bear sweet fruit.
And as our own lives are pruned along the way, so our trees must allow for pruning, also. Whether we limb up to reveal an elegant trunk on a maturing shrub, or whether we thin a canopy so our tree will stand against the wind; we hope our pruning enhances the overall life of the tree.
We prune and shape our fruit bearing trees to make them more fruitful. We prune old wood so a tree renews itself with new. We cut away wood which is broken, or infected with disease.
Our trees, like Tolkien’s Ents, remain the heart and soul of our forest gardens. Not only the biotechnology which keeps our garden, and us, alive; they are our companions, and our benefactors.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014
“In the intimate and humanized landscape, trees become the greatest single element linking us visually and emotionally with our surroundings. We can allow a tree to become a part of us. It’s no wonder that when we first think of a garden we think of a tree.”
Thomas Church, landscape architect
For information on garden design with trees, please treat yourself to Gordon Hayward’s Art and the Gardener: Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design. Church quotation taken from the book.