The Second Rule

I taught my children two important rules:

1) Never marry anyone without first living with that person.

2) Every time you think of planting a tree, do it.

The first rule is outside the parameters of this post (too bad, could be fun), but the second one is pertinent to many of us, especially those with Plant Deficit Disorder (always need more plants).

Personally I will plant a tree quicker than you can say “shade, beauty, and increased property value.”  And if you can just get the tree into the ground then it is pretty much a self-propelled project, so even if you are sitting around playing games on your cell phone you can think to yourself, “I am accomplishing something:  I am growing a tree.”

deodar cedar

Here is a  volunteer Deodara cedar tree that I grew for years in my yard while I managed an antique shop, watched every season of Six Feet Under and house-broke the dog.

orchard maple

Maples multiply like rabbits. And they are easily moved. The  big one above was a volunteer that I relocated when it was about four feet tall.  They grow fast.

woods path

Outside my more civilized garden area is what I think of as a wild woods garden.  I add baby trees there often because, as I have told Mr. O a million zillion times, I want a FOREST, a deep dark forest with paths and ferns and birds and maybe a tiger.

tiger in woods

There may be a small tiger already.

I bought ten Douglas Fir seedlings this spring to help fill in the woods garden.  I ordered these trees from a place called Nurserymen online (perhaps there are some nursery women there too, I don’t know) and the trees were really healthy with nice roots and under $4 each with shipping. [That was my personal unpaid review.]

Great Birnam Wood

I have some of those fir trees left, waiting in pots for opportunities.

I call the potted trees Great Birnam Wood and they do troop around the yard sometimes just like Macduff’s army.

Right now they (the trees, not the army) are set to spend the summer parked in a shady little bed that is part of the Vegetable Garden Beautification Project begun last year.  (This year the VGBP includes sunflowers which may or may not survive the wintery spring but don’t get me started on THAT again.) Eventually I will plant the rest of these firs, probably close to other trees.

But some people believe that you should leave big spaces between trees, and between all garden plants…

June flowerbed

But I come from the Jumbled is Romantic school of garden design.  Here in this more civilized part of my gardens you can see that I am quite rational about it and I do leave some space for growth maybe just not quite as much space as most some people.

Fortunately my greenhouse helps me propagate plants, so there is usually a supply of new plants for filling in spaces which is good because I couldn’t afford to buy that many plants, or at least not if I want to support myself in the style to which I have become accustomed which includes food.


Then of course later the plantings get impossibly crowded and in some cases it becomes necessary to move some stuff but I don’t want to talk about that right now. (I also don’t want to talk about the rhododendron with the yellow leaves because I have already dosed that rhododendron with chelated iron TWICE and it is simply time for it to get its shit together.)

ancient oak trees

But back to trees.

Our old house was built in what was already a substantial oak grove in 1858.  Although only a handful of those huge trees remain they dominate the landscape and make me think of the Ents in Tolkien’s books.

One died a few years back and we counted the growth rings; it was around 300 years old.

fallen oak

With our suddenly warmer weather yesterday we had a steady afternoon wind, and it toppled this ancient oak in the neighbor’s pasture.  It was part of the sky-scape seen from my woods garden, and I will miss it forever.

These really old trees tend to partially die at the roots, then, like this fallen one, they continue to the bitter end with beautiful branches and leaves until weather whaps them suddenly with wind or ice or sometimes just days of summer heat.

oak trunk & oakOld oak in the woods garden.

Many of the oaks originally around my house were lost in a terrible storm in 1962 (no I didn’t live here then, I was a child then), so one of the rare things Mr. O and I agree about is fostering new oak trees.

But these oaks, called Oregon White Oak or Garry Oak (or Quercus garryana) are what you might kindly call “mercurial” (or less kindly call “impossible”) in their growing habits when transplanted.

little white oak tree

So when we transplanted oaks from pots they would grow sweetly the first year, or the first four years, then die completely.  Except No! The roots are alive! And then they start over, and grow a new little tree up from the old root for a couple of years, then die back again. But No!… So we have some twenty-year-old trees that are eighteen inches tall, like the one above.

best young oak

This is our only successful oak tree from those early attempts at planting, and now it towers at about fifteen feet. We worship this tree. And it is growing where we see it all the time and smile and coo at it and tell it what a great big nice dear darling not-dead tree it is!

We do now have volunteer oak trees, in all the flower beds, and we don’t move them.

volunteer oak tree by fence

Here are a couple that are much too close to a fence.

volunteer oak tree

Tiny one in a central raised bed.

But the tiny oak trees grow slowly, and I grow (older) quickly, so we will just cross paths cheerfully for a while so some future gardener can sit in their shade.


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in Pacific Northwest native plants, trees and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Second Rule

  1. Cathy says:

    Too funny! Your blog has made my day!

  2. Grace says:

    What a fun post. As a fellow lover of trees, I can relate to your tree worship. I have a 15 foot [I’m guessing] Japanese Maple that I planted ten years ago as a seedling. I’m very proud of it. Best wishes with your forest project. Long live the forest!

  3. linniew says:

    We tree-people must stick together.
    Thanks Grace!

  4. Sheila Read says:

    You made me laugh. What a great post! I agree, you never can have too many oaks. Or trees. I’m running out of room on my property – we have more than 100 trees on half an acre, but they still keep seeding themselves in. I’m trying to keep a little room for the garden! Oaks and hickories especially. I pull those from the garden beds, though I feel a little guilty, because I do love those trees.

    • linniew says:

      I have never met a hickory Sheila, but I pull out tons of maples from the beds. If there were some place to take them, like kittens to the Humane Society, then people could adopt… You are definitely a Tree Planter too, good work!

  5. Alice Joyce says:

    I can’t imaging ever having space to plant trees, so your efforts make me grateful.
    On another note, humor is always!! appreciated in a blog post. It’s something rare and wonderful to be able to laugh out loud on most days. And by the way, the sun has decided to check-out here in Northern California where our dry season has been Seattle-like WET.
    Today, a bit of sun for the first time in ages. Maybe, just maybe summer will return.
    Yours in plant love,

    • linniew says:

      Welcome Alice!
      Sorry your weather needs repair too. (We should call someone…)
      I finally kicked the cucumber plants out of the greenhouse this week and now the cool rain is back. I hope the sunshine endures at your house!

  6. hehe, I too suffer from “Plant Deficit Disorder”!
    Thanks for the giggles xx

    • linniew says:

      Yes I am afraid “Plant Deficit Disorder” is quite contagious too Christine. It can travel through little wires, it’s sprinkled around by wifi AND it’s in the ink used in seed catalogs…

  7. Ginny says:

    We used to live in a little house surrounded on all sides my massive Willow Oaks. Oak seedlings sprouted everywhere, but they especially loved the gutters. Our neighbor waited so long to clean his gutters that he had two foot tall oaks growing in them. I wish I had taken pictures.
    I share you love of trees and am currently nursing along a little evergreen – some variety of pine – that volunteered in my garden. But I do have to pull up countless sweet gum and sassafras seedlings on a regular basis.

    • linniew says:

      Boy I also wish you had taken pictures of those oaks growing on a house. Must have been something like a hobbit hole, which is actually my idea of a perfect retirement home.

  8. Sheila says:

    Lovin’ your trees!

  9. linniew says:

    Welcome Sheila! We will be sure to invite you to our next Entmoot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s