Saturday, January 15, 2011

How Does Your (Winter) Garden Grow?

Margaret Roach, who blogs at A Way to Garden, has an amazing slideshow of conifers, perfect trees at any time of year, but especially so during these dark Winter days. She doesn't include one of my favorites, Cryptomeria (beloved as much for the creepy name, as for the perfect shape and rapid growth), known as Japanese Temple Pines. I have three of them and they keep the deep Winter garden both interesting and alive. However, just Roach's one picture of weeping Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula,’) has thrown me into a deep fit of longing. I really, really, really need some of those. That tree reminds me of C.S. Lewis' comment in Surprised by Joy about seeing Rackham's illustrations of Wagner for the first time:
Pure "Northernness" engulfed me: a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity . . . and almost at the same moment I knew that I had met this before, long, long ago . . . And with that plunge back into my own past there arose at once, almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I had now for years, that I was returning at last from exile and desert lands to my own country; and the distance of the Twilight of the Gods and the distance of my own past Joy, both unattainable, flowed together into a single, unendurable sense of desire and loss, which suddenly became one with the loss of the whole experience, which, as I now stared round that dusty schoolroom like a man recovering from unconsciousness, had already vanished, had eluded me at the very moment when I could first say It is. And at once I knew (with fatal knowledge) that to "have it again" was the supreme and only important object of desire . . .

Well, it's a lot, but that's what trees can invoke in me.

Landscape Guy and I were talking earlier this week about a rather nascent notion of his to begin planting trees in blighted towns in America's South East. In Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, Michael Pollan has an entire section devoted to planting trees; one of his principal points is that trees are one of the things that we plant almost certain that they will outlive us, and that, on an anonymous basis, is what drives Landscape Guy towards this vision. And there is, for me, something both alchemical and magical about planting trees, fully aware that they will be here, giving shade, providing succor to birds and squirrels, and supplying oxygen long after this old Witch has shuffled off to the Isle of Apples to settle down on the warm grass with the other Ancestors, drink tea, and watch bemusedly as our progeny do their best.

What have you planted that you expect to live beyond you? What one tree do you really, really need?

Picture found here.

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