Tag Archives: Virginia trees
“Plants are also integral to reweaving
the connection between land and people.
A place becomes a home when it sustains you,
when it feeds you in body as well as spirit.
To recreate a home, the plants must also return.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer
“In the rain forest, no niche lies unused.
No emptiness goes unfilled.
No gasp of sunlight goes untrapped.
In a million vest pockets, a million life-forms quietly tick.
No other place on earth feels so lush.
Sometimes we picture it as an echo
of the original Garden of Eden—a realm ancient,
serene, and fertile, where pythons slither and jaguars lope.
But it is mainly a world of cunning and savage trees.
Truant plants will not survive.
The meek inherit nothing.
Light is a thick yellow vitamin they would kill for,
and they do. One of the first truths one learns
in the rain forest is that there is nothing
fainthearted or wimpy about plants.”
“As dreams are the healing songs
from the wilderness of our unconscious –
So wild animals, wild plants, wild landscapes
are the healing dreams
from the deep singing mind of the earth.”
Appreciation, always, to Anna at Flutter and Hum for hosting the Wednesday Vignette each week. Please visit her for links to other beautiful garden photos from around the planet.
There are still a very limited number of A Forest Garden 2016 garden calendars left, if you wanted one and didn’t order it in December. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Posted in Garden Tapestry, Mistletoe, moss, Moss, Native Plants, Nature Photography, Oak, Photography, Summer Garden, Symmetry, Trees, Use of Native Plants, Vines, Wednesday Vignettes, weekly challenge, Winter Garden, Wordless Wednesday
Tags: Bare trees in winter, Colonial Parkway, Forest Garden, Jamestown Island, Mistletoe, Nature Art, Nature Photography, Summer garden, Virginia trees, Wednesday Vignettes, winter garden, Wordless Wednesday
Did you know there was a time, not too long ago, when the most prized plants growing on regal British estates were trees imported from, “The Colonies”? I had no idea how much 18th Century British gardeners coveted North American plants- particularly our trees.
Isn’t it interesting how things are forgotten over the years, and we assume that how things are in our own experience is how things have always been. I grew up on the East coast of North America, making annual trips to view the colorful forests cloaking the Blue Ridge Mountains each autumn. I’ve always had brilliant autumn foliage to enjoy in my own yard, and lining the streets of whatever town I happened to visit. We in Virginia accept these things as part of the normal progression of the seasons. We savor them, but don’t take notice of what a rare treat we enjoy.
It was the book, Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession, by Andrea Wulf, which opened my eyes and my mind to the treasures growing here, as weeds in the woods.
Prior to the 17th century, European, and specifically British gardens, had a limited palette of plants. The formal geometric schemes of lawn, hedge, topiary evergreen shrubs, roses, and very few summer flowers were the norm. Green and brown were the main colors found in the garden for most of the year. Hardscape paths, stairs, fountains, arbors, and structures were the relief from all of this green lawn and green hedge. Gardeners overcame and reshaped nature when creating a garden.
The notion of working with nature was born in the colonies, and exported back to England in some measure toward the second half of the 18th century.
As European ships sailed abroad to explore and claim the world, they took as treasure not only gold and silver, but also botanical treasures from all of the lands explored. Now, very little of the plant material collected actually made it back alive to a gardener in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, or the Netherlands. When a voyage lasts many months, things happen. Things like hungry mice and storms; gnawing insects, pirates, salt spray; and unmitigated heat and cold on the deck of a sailing ship.
But whatever seeds, bulbs, cuttings, roots, and even live plants did miraculously make it home and into the hands of a skilled gardener, were loving tended and coaxed into growing in specially built hot houses and garden plots.
Plants were grown out for seed, sold, traded, and propagated in great botanical gardens across Europe. Botanists befriended ships’ captains and crews in hopes of bribing them to bring home new specimens. And, as colonies were established, relationships sprang up between the colonists and avid collectors “back home” in Europe.
The fledgling scientists of the Enlightenment realized that every new species of plant contains tremendous gifts. Aside from their beauty and use in an ornamental garden, plants contain useful chemical compounds to heal, create new products, nourish, and enlighten. Some of this research continues today in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil and other inaccessible and remote corners of the world
The colonial era was an exciting time for discovering countless new species of plants. The gardens of Great Britain and Europe reflected the explosion of diversity by welcoming previously unknown flowers, trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables into their evolving and increasingly naturalistic garden schemes.
Remember, the great forests of Britain were decimated long before this era. When Maple, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Sycamore, Cedar, Dogwood, Sassafras, Magnolia and other colorful tress and shrubs from America grew in the first garden plots of importers, they were a novelty. The aristocracy quickly fell in love with these new plants, and clamored for a seed or a cutting to grow on their home estates.
Benjamin Franklin helped build the relationships that enabled this trade between his amateur botanist friends in the American colonies and his contacts in Britain. The story told in Andrea Wulf’s book unfolds with the drama and personality of a good novel, and I recommend it to every like minded gardener, no matter which side of the pond you call your present home.
For the purposes of this post, let me just mention a few of the trees growing wild right here around Jamestown, which were collected in the Colonial era and sent back to England. These trees, common to us, opened up a whole new way to design and enjoy gardens. They were grown for their beautiful form, fall color, interesting bark, and some for their flowers.
Eventually, gardening became a passionate pursuit not only of the aristocracy, but of all Britons. As we admire their beautifully tended gardens of trees, shrubs, and flowers today, so they admired the wild and beautiful plants we sent back to them from, “The Colonies”.
Here is a partial list of trees and shrubs introduced to Britain from the American colonies:
Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple, 1725
Aesculus pavia, Red Buckeye, 1711
Betula nigra, River Birch, 1736
Callicarpa americana, Beauty Berry, 1724
Catalpa bignonioides, Southern Catalpa, 1722
Chamaecyparis thyoides, White Cedar, 1736
Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree, 1736
Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood, 1722
Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon, 1629
Euonymus atropurpurea, Burning Bush, 1744-6
Fraxinus americana, White Ash, 1724
Hydrangea arborescens, Wild Hydrangea, 1736
Juglans nigra, Black Walnut, 1629
Juniperus virginiana, Red Cedar, 1664
Kalmia latifolia, Mountain Laurel, 1734
Liriodendron tulipifera, Tulip Poplar, 1638
Magnolia grandiflora, Southern Magnolia, 1734
Magnolia virginiana, Sweet Bay, 1688
Pinus strobus, White Pine, 1705
Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore, 1638
Sassafras albidum, Sassafrass, 1630
All photos by Woodland Gnome