Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Christmas Tree

I love Christmas trees. I love LOVE the smell of pine mingling with the plastic-y burning scent of cheap Christmas lights. I love sitting in a room lit only from the tree lights (and perhaps a fire in the fireplace) with Christmas music silently playing, staring at the ornaments, maybe sipping tea or cider, and...well, that's what we call "having Christmas Tree." Ahh.

Sadly, I did not have my own Christmas tree this year but a visit to New York City to see the crème de la crème of Christmas trees was sufficient.

(Photo by wallyg at Flickr.)

This Manhattan wonder is referred to by locals simply as "The Tree." The first tree at Rockefeller Center actually predated the Center itself (erected amidst construction rubble by workmen in 1931) but ever since 1933, there's been a tree (sometimes 2 or 3) on display at Rockefeller Center. Check out the timeline with photos and stories of all the trees over the past 75 years here. The first tree was a mere 20 feet tall, but today the top branches reach 85 feet! The tallest Christmas tree at Rockefeller reached 100 feet. My grandma, a New Yorker for over 50 years, claims that the best trees were the ones with the big lights all over them. This year, however, the tree is covered in LED lights, and solar panels have been constructed on the roof of the Center to help power the lights. So, as they say, this is the first year the tree has been "green."

You simply must check out the Tree Guy Blog and watch the journey of the tree from its first home in Connecticut to it's last home in the big city. There is a point during which the tree "flies" through the air, and I'd love to have seen it, though I find the whole thing a bit sad. The good news is that The Tree will be recycled in January and if you live in New York City you can bring your own tree to MulchFest 2008 to be ground into wood chips for trees and gardens.

After seeing the big tree, I came home to help my parents put up and decorate their own small tree...and managed to get sap on my jeans, arms, and even the bottom of my slipper. The pine smell is delicious. Here are some more famous Christmas trees:

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Leaves!!!

I could look at these colorful trees all day...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Here's to Julius

"The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful, and the ennobling in man, and for one, I wish to see it become universal."

– Julius Sterling Morton
(founder of Arbor Day)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apple Picking!

One of my favorite memories of this time of year growing up in Upstate New York is apple picking. Every year we'd bundle up, mom would pack a picnic lunch, and we'd pile into the car and head to Littletree Orchards. Other families and friends would usually come, and while all the parents would get out the bushel baskets and begin picking Empires (the local favorite) us kids would run free among (what seemed like) miles and rows and rows of apple trees! The orchard was called "Littletree" for a reason. Even as children, we could reach the branches and pick a perfectly crisp, ripe apple from the tree and rub a shiny spot just large enough to take a juicy bite before tossing it away and running to another tree for different type of apple. My favorites were a huge, green, very crisp variety called (appropriately) Crispin or Mutsu. I also loved the Macoun - some of them were so large I had to use two hands to hold one apple in order to bite into it.

Ahh...I miss those NY apples. They do NOT taste the same anywhere else - they have to be fresh! I don't like apples when I'm not in NY.

At some point after we had worked up an appetite, mom would get out the cider and powdered donuts, and we'd have a snack, and then my dad would organize a contest. We all had to try to find and bring back the best apple in a range of categories, such as: "Largest," "Most Red," "Smallest," (some of us would bring back berries and try to pass them off as apples), and occasionally there was the creative contestant - One year my sister was the self-declared winner of the "Most-Rotten-Apple-Still-Hanging-On-The-Tree" category.

The final hurrah was at the top of the little hill in the clearing, when the boys would have batting practice with icky apples that had fallen onto the ground. It was messy and funny and just a wonderful time.


For the record...I didn't take these photos. I refuse to go apple picking in North Carolina. I can't WAIT to go home for Thanksgiving and have some Cornell Apple Cider. The best in the world! You should all be thoroughly jealous.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Nature's Craftperson

Ok, now it's chilly here, and finally feels like autumn. This little tree looked so whimsical today in the sunny breeze I just had to show you all. It seemed to me that someone had strategically Scotch-taped fake paper leaves to a bare tree skeleton. Seriously! Look at this leaf:

Mother Nature got a bit carried away with the hole-puncher.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Apple pie, apple cider, apple butter

This weekend was full of apples, pumpkins, and tigers. It was a perfect fall weekend (though still a bit hot here in North Carolina).
Prettiest tree of the day:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Festival of the Trees #16 - Fade to Color (Seasons Change)

WELCOME! Welcome, tree-lovers, friends and strangers to the 16th Festival of the Trees, the monthly blog carnival for all things arboreal.

Every year, right about now, my dad likes to say:

"I like fall, the leaves and all."

Ah. Me too. I LOVE this time of year. It thrills me to the bones to smell the crisp air, feel the chill on a perfectly clear brilliant day and hear the crunch of leaves under my feet. And the trees! How amazing that we are surrounded by such color in nature.
Ok...I'm jumping the gun a little. It's only October 2nd, and in North Carolina most of the trees are still green (see the above photo). But autumn in all it's splendor is just around the corner in this part of the world...
So let's watch as the season changes, and the the green earth fades to color...

Let's start with a simple haiku and a colorless tree. Kevin at Rural Cemetery Movements shares a fantastic line drawing at Five Falling Leaves and the season begins to change.

If you're up for a majestic hike in the Pacific Northwest, Marja-Leena Rathje can take you there, to the forests of Vancouver's backyard. It's a wonderful world where the trees are tall or soft and peaceful. The trees are still green here. Explore more of her art and writing here.

Speaking of being Green...It's not easy, especially in the city. But the trees grow on...season after season, and they just adapt and change as necessary.

Karen at Rurality spent a weekend here, at Shiloh National Military Park looking for artifacts and pondering the history of the trees on the battlefield. My favorite are the "Two big Water Oaks near the Visitor's center." Imagine how colorful they'll be in a month or so!

Windywillow has shared a beautiful tribute to her favorite tree - the calming and mysterious Willow. You can enjoy her photos as well as a lovely video clip of willows blowing in the wind. Enchanting!

A thank you to Paul Lester (and the Chinese philosopher) for a thought about the "Usefulness" of trees. Lovely photography. And thanks to Maria for the reflection on the "Pricelessness" of trees.

And now a word about Black Walnuts and Burma. Dave at Via Negativa discusses the far corners of the world and the season change in his own back yard - in the form of Black Walnuts thumping on the roof. And frizzyLogic has some beautiful photos of "conkers," or horse chestnuts (for those Americans who've never heard of a "conker" - myself included). This seems to be the season for nuts, for the WildWoodsWoman has been shoveling acorns off the ground. All this talk about nuts reminds me of one of my favorite childhood trees...the hickory tree in front of our house that got chopped down when the road was widened. So sad. Ah well. Seasons change...

Speaking of seasons changing, Wren of Wrenaissance Reflections takes a moment to remember trees of the past. Notice all the new life surrounding these past trees! And in New Jersey, this is the season of mushrooms. John at A DC Birding Blog spotted some fantastic fungi, clinging to a tree past.

Tall Girl, at Smoke and Ash has witnessed a curious autumn ritual (of sorts) here. She saw some extraordinary trees on a lunchtime walk, as she climbed "nearer to the sky."

Jade Blackwater of Arboreality, gives us a first glimpse of autumn at Tobyhanna. Finally some color! And now autumn, or "The Changeling" slowly begins to "work his magic" through the poetic words of Beloved Dreamer.

And for some real fall color, check out a few gorgeous Flickr sets that I happened upon:
Here and here. The second is autumn in a Japanese garden, and I can't think of a more gorgeous setting for photographs. The set has some breathtaking trees.

And lastly, three of my favorite things in the world are trees, tea, and clay and they are combined here in an amazing ceramic gallery that I've just discovered (Thanks, Mom!).

Well that's it for this month's festival!
Thank you all for your submissions and suggestions. Next month Windywillow will be hosting the Festival of the Trees. Please send your creepy tree-related submissions to: silviasalix (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk. (The deadline is Oct. 26, to give Silvia time to prepare a special Halloween edition!). If you have any questions, you will probably find answers here.

Here's to the trees!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Leaning Tree

Here's a leaning beauty. This one actually caused me gasp in wonder as I was driving along, and I don't think I captured it in the photograph. But it was just so interesting and crooked and wonderful. Why is it reaching? I don't know. Most trees on the side of the road stick to the side of the road. But not this guy. It KNOWS something. I just can't figure out WHAT.

I like trees that lean.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tree of the day - extreme closeup

Weird, dead pod-like-thing hanging from a branch.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

young tree

This could be the tree Egon was painting.

Monday, September 3, 2007

On Fools and Wise Men

"A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees."

– William Blake, (in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oldest tree in the world

"Methuselah", a bristlecone pine, is the oldest known tree in the world. It is, in fact, the oldest still-living organism documented on earth. (!!)

The tree in the photo above is not Methuselah. U.S. Forest service, in order to protect it's anonymity, will not disclose the exact location of the oldest-tree-in-the-world, but you get a 360 degree view of the "Methuselah Grove" here, which is in the White Mountains of California. So cool! These bristlecone pines seem to live forever.

Methuselah the tree is about 4,839 years old. That's very old. This ancient tree actually sprouted in 2832 BC and grew for about 485 years during the life (should you choose to believe this) of the Biblical Methuselah, who supposedly lived to be 969. Of course...the Biblical character would have been living somewhere in the Middle East, whereas both the oldest and the tallest trees in the world can be found in California, USA.

What a life. Imagine the stories...

(The screen shots below are taken from a Nova News Minute that can be viewed here). This is what Methuselah actually looks like:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

**YOUR TREES** [South Africa]

Many thanks to Millicent for sending me these two gorgeous tree photographs, taken on a ranch near Nylstroom, South Africa.

Do you have a great tree photo that you'd like me to post? Please feel free to send it to me at treesifyouplease {at} gmail {dot} com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Egon Schiele

Today's featured artist is Egon Schiele, who lived from 1890 to 1918, and then died of the flu (I'm so glad I didn't live back then). He was young and Austrian. The themes of his work were often death and sex, and many of his paintings are twisted and erotic. He did many self-portraits and looking at his work, you might form an image of the quintessential "tortured artist."

Schiele was heavily influenced by his friend, Gustav Klimt - another wonderful, intriguing painter.

I am choosing, of course, to highlight his few minimalist paintings of trees - some of the best tree art I've seen. More of his work can be seen here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gum tree?

I love this tree. It is a Eucalyptus tree. But I am American. My knowledge of Eucalyptus comes from seeing various bunches of dried (and dyed?) Eucalyptus leaves in too-smelly craft stores or in the houses of women who hang a wreath for every season.

But these guys are the real deal. They could probably tell me whether there are actually pink Eucalyptus trees Down Under, and might even be offended to see what Americans are doing with the "Gum tree" leaves. Or am I showing my ignorance? Is this type of Eucalyptus even called a Gum Tree?

From what I can tell, this tree is a Eucalyptus Cinerea, also called an Argyle apple, Silver-leaved Stringybark or Mealy Stringybark. It's so pretty. And less than 50 steps away from my front door.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Figs and Ficus

My dear friends, I apologize for my absence. I've been indisposed as of late, and am just now resurfacing. (It was a much longer recovery than I could have imagined it would be!)

Let me tell you about my latest discovery. Much to my surprise and delight, there is a fig tree, not 50 paces from my front door. I've often passed this tree on the way to the pool, and noticed the strange, bulbous green growths, but had no idea what they could be. An exited neighbor (a couple weeks ago) enlightened me that it was, in fact, a fig tree, and that there was an abundance of nearly ripe figs just about to burst.

Well, then along came my surgery and it took me quite a while to get out of the house to walk even those 50 steps with my camera. But I have recovered. I took a few (unexciting) photos, but I think I missed most of the ripe fruit, though I imagine they were bursting off the trees last week while I was lying on the couch watching the entire Season 1 and 2 of Grey's Anatomy (pathetic, I know).

I have since learned that fig trees are in the ficus genus, which I found interesting because all I really know about ficus trees is that they are finicky, hard to grow, and they drop their leaves when they aren't happy. (This could be a vast generalization based on the case of the sad little indoor ficus that the BF and his siblings killed by confining it to a dark, dreary room and throwing it only a cupful of water every few weeks. Once I found out, it was much too late to save...)

(In his defense, he's done a remarkable job watering the tomato plants as of late).

You'll see that the fig tree is also right next to a cool Eucalyptus tree. More on that tomorrow...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Song of the Open Road"

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree;

Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.

– Ogden Nash, (1902 - 1971)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ginkgo Biloba

Walking through town the other day, I came upon this Ginkgo tree. I can clearly remember the first time my mom pointed out a Ginkgo to my sister and me - the distinctive shape of the leaves was forever etched in my mind and I've taken pride in being able to identifying a Ginkgo from that day forward. Not that it's difficult. Once you've seen one, you won't forget it. The fan-shaped leaves and bright golden color in the autumn make it easy to recognize.

But I've just learned something fascinating about the Ginkgo tree. It is considered a "living fossil," which basically means that it lived during ancient times, was once thought to be extinct, but then was rediscovered, and still exists today in a form very similar to the fossils of its prehistoric ancestors. The horseshoe crab and the cockroach have changed very little over millions of years, and are also considered living fossils.

Scientists do not know whether the Ginkgo tree still exists in the wild because it has been cultivated and tended for thousands of years by Chinese monks. The monks may have helped keep the species alive when it otherwise may have gone extinct. In any case, the Ginkgo is a wonderful tree. A brilliant example of longevity. And Ginkgo extract has also been used medicinally to help circulatory disorders and enhance memory.

May the Ginkgo live another 270 million years!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Pride of Statesville, North Carolina

Calling all collectors of old postcards! Or Tar Heels! There is currently an exhibit of old North Carolina postcards in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But...if you can't get there to see it, you're in luck – North Carolina Postcards is a digital project that contains over 800 images of postcards from the Tar Heel State online (just a sampling of the more than 12,000 NC postcards held in the Photographic Archives of the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill). It's kinda cool if you're into old postcards or historical images. Or North Carolina. You can search by location or subject, or just browse (like I did. I'm a sucker for stuff kept in the archives of any library).

While you're at it, check out "North Carolina Miscellany," to get more culture, history, and literature from the Tar Heel State. It's a blog kept by the folks over at the North Carolina Collection. I must say, North Carolina has treated me well these past 4 and a half years, though I'll always be a northern girl at heart.