Most trees don’t have an easy time growing older in our area. There is snow and wind, summer hurricanes, torrential rain, January ice storms and mid-summer drought. Trees rooted near the water, like the old native redbud tree growing along the bank of the James River, are marked by the storms they have weathered.
Few survive long decades without scars to mark their resilient survival; yet there is beauty in the aged.
“Wisdom comes with winters”
Redbud trees prove hardy and strong in our area, and many still bloom this week despite being broken and aging.
December’s heavy snow pushed over the largest redbud in our garden; yet its roots held strong. It leans now up the slope of our ravine, as though reaching out to us as we come into the back garden. And yes, it has covered itself in buds.
“How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.”
“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old,
you grow old when you stop laughing.”
Aging always invites new growth. Pruning away the old stimulates new wood to grow from a latent bud. So long as the roots hold firm and the trunk can transport water from roots to branches, and sugars from leaves to roots, life goes on.
The frame may age, but fresh branches continue to grow with vigor, reaching for the sunlight. And the aging trunk generously harbors vines and moss. Grasses grow above the roots, and many insects find homes in the thickened bark. Birds nest and shelter in the branches even as pollinators come to drink the tree’s sweet nectar.
All these boarders share in the tree’s generous largess. Its continued presence acts as a magnet, drawing life, even as it fills its niche in the web of life. Some boarders sap the tree’s strength, each in its own way. But somehow, the tree manages to keep going season after season, year after year.
The tree’s generosity, and its beauty, only increases with time.
“There is a fountain of youth:
it is your mind, your talents,
the creativity you bring to your life
and the lives of people you love.
When you learn to tap this source,
you will truly have defeated age.”
Woodland Gnome 2019
As resilient as our coastal redwoods are, they are very sensitive to snow. They just are not designed to take that sort of weight. Their foliage is spread out to collect moisture from the air, so it naturally collects more snow than trees that are designed to shed it. With just a little bit of extra weight, lateral branches snap away easily. Yet, coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the World, and live for centuries.
Lovely trees. I don’t feel so bad about the looks of mine now that I’ve seen these old weathered specimens. 😉 It seems I have to prune about half of it at the end of every winter.
They’re near the northern edge of their range in your garden, aren’t they? We don’t have much winter kill, but the wind prunes them way too often.