trees


“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” -Greek Proverb

 

Two of my favorite shade trees are real beauties: Horse Chestnut and Copper Beech. Both trees are large, making a commanding presence in a landscape. You will need a fairly open spot not too close to the house to give each plenty of room. Planted on the south-west side of a home will provide cooling shade during the summer. Both are deciduous, shedding their leaves for the winter, allowing the sunlight to warm the house in the winter.

Horse Chestnut, (Aesculus hippocastanum), is a stately 50 to 75 feet tall and 40 to 70 feet wide at maturity. The large, palmate leaves have an opposite leaf arrangement, and are a pretty dark green. Soon after the leaves emerge the tree produces large, white panicles around mid-May. Panicles are made up of individual white, perfect flowers with a yellow blotch at the base. This yellow blotch changes to a pinky-red as the flower ages. The flowers are very showy, and I think, the best features of a magnificent tree. And the bees love it.

Horse chestnut flower 2017 closeup

Horse chestnut is not a true chestnut as it is in a different genus. The nuts of Horse chestnuts are not edible due to their toxic levels of glycoside and saponin. The nuts are enclosed in a green, smoothed shell with some pointed warts. The American and Chinese chestnuts have spine covered shells. Nuts left on the ground through the will break dormancy in spring and start to grow mid-April. Dig the baby trees to move them where you would like them to grow.

 

Horse chestnut nuts May 2017

Horse chestnuts in spring ready to germinate.

Copper Beech trees are not really a copper color. More of a mahogany, but that name was already taken! Whatever you call it, it is strikingly gorgeous. The Latin name is Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ group. There are quite a few named varieties of with the different shades of purple leaves. Popular ones are ‘cuprea’, ‘Brocklesby’ and Purpea Nana’. ‘Purpurea Pendula’ is a weeping cooper beech.

copper beech 2017 very close up

Copper Beech Flowers

Size varies with the many varieties. Some can reach 60 feet tall and 45 in width. Overall shape is an oval to more rounded with age. Flowers are small, not showy and a yellowy green in color. The male flowers hang down while the female flowers are held close to the twig. Flowers are wind pollinated. If female flowers do become fertilized, a spiny husk covering a triangular nut develops. Nuts are edible, but small. It will take ten years for trees to reach maturity before flower and nut production begins lightly and 30 years for a full harvest. It is best to purchase a balled and burlapped or potted tree to make sure the leaf color is to your liking. Seedlings can vary widely in their coloring.

-Carol Quish

Winter finally hit us with measurable snow and cold, real cold that hurts breathing, skin and arthritic joints. Winter weather can also affect us psychologically, putting us in a ‘down’ mood. Well a cure can be had by visiting a warm, indoor plant growing facility. Nothing lifts my spirits more than basking among foliage and flowering plants, and soaking up the heat and sun. They can found locally just about wherever you live or seek them out when traveling. Plant conservatories are living museums of plant material on view, usually not for sale. Garden centers with heated greenhouses are a lovely substitute, and you might just find something to purchase and enjoy at home.

I visited Rawlings Conservatory & Botanic Gardens in Baltimore last weekend while visiting my daughter and new grandson. The baby seemed to enjoyed the outing, as much as a two month old can. He didn’t cry anyway, and he did watch the orange koi fish in the water feature. Rawlings was a great escape outing for the new mom.

IMG_1672

Plants growing vertically to cover the wall.

IMG_1694

Turtle and Koi fish make unusual playmates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rawlings Conservatory has five separate environments suitable to the corresponding plants they hold. The Mediterranean House, the Tropical House, the Desert House, the Orchid Room, and the Palm House all showcase plants from around the world.

The Mediterranean House held citrus trees of various types, lavender, rosemary and scented geraniums to name a few among the many plants in this glass house.

I spotted insect feeding damage on an citrus leaf, but could not find the pest. Even well managed garden settings must deal with some offending creatures. After all, they are part of the environment, too.

IMG_1658

Insect feeding damage on a citrus leaf.

The Tropical House held rain forest plants over our heads and below our feet.

The Desert House contained cacti of many different species. Its  air was warm and dry, perfect for growing succulents.

IMG_1731IMG_1729

The Palm House contained plants typically collected during the Victorian era, 1838-1901. Some palm trees were very large with orchids growing up and into their canopy.

IMG_1752

sago palm, cycas

Sago Palm

The Orchid Room is filled with different types of orchids. The scent was incredible and intoxicating, radiating from the multitude of pots mounted on a metal grid walls to elevate and allow light exposure to the plants within this incredible room. I didn’t want to leave.

 

Find your own escape from the cold at indoor plant venues available around our State of Connecticut at the links below. Let us know in the comment section of ones you would like to share with other readers here.

UConn EEB Greenhouses – http://florawww.eeb.uconn.edu/visiting.html

CT Flower and Garden Show – Feb.18 though 21, 2016. http://www.ctflowershow.com/

Elizabeth Park in Hartford, http://elizabethparkct.org/greenhouses.html

 

-Carol Quish

 

 

 

 

UConn Plant Database photo of young yellowwood tree.

UConn Plant Database photo of young yellowwood tree.

Yellowwood in full bloom, photo from uky.edu

Yellowwood in full bloom, photo from uky.edu

 

Trees with large, showy flowers always attract attention and a closer look. Yellowwood is one such tree not commonly seen here in Connecticut. I am lucky enough to work on the UConn Storrs campus where many more unusual trees are planted and growing well. Behind the W.B. Young Building which houses Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, on the lawn as you exit the south end of the parking lot, is a glorious Yellowwood tree displaying its large, white flowers hanging down like wisteria clusters. As the flowers age, the petals are gently dropped speckling the lawn and mulch white.

 

Yellowwood flower. C. Quish Photo

Yellowwood flower. C. Quish Photo

Cladrastis kentukea is the Latin name for Yellowwood, referring to its native range in the south-east portion of the United States, mainly Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. It is hardy here in Connecticut, as the one planted on campus proves. Research shows it is hardy to zone 4. Locate in full sun and well-drained soil to ensure success with this tree.  It is also sometimes known as Virgilia. The common name of yellowwood comes from the color of the heartwood of the tree. It has a yellow hued wood used for decorative wood working and gun stocks. The color can be extracted from the root to be used as a dye.

V-shaped form and rounded crown of Yellowwood tree. Photo by C. Quish

V-shaped form and rounded crown of Yellowwood tree. Photo by C. Quish

Yellowwood is a medium-sized tree with a uniform, rounded shape suitable for use as a specimen planting or a lawn tree. It makes a great focal point providing great shape, a flowering period and superb interesting branch shape, and interesting bark. The bark is starts out with soft yellow/green twigs, which change to a reddish-brown and finally to a smooth grey to brown at maturity, It has a habit of setting horizontal branches below six feet adding to the structural interest of the tree when it is leafless. The leaves turn from green to clear yellow, orange and gold during the fall.

Yellowwood wood, UConn plant database

Yellowwood wood, UConn plant database

Fall color, UConn Plant database photo

Fall color, UConn Plant database photo

Yellowwood bark, uconn database

Yellowwood bark, uconn database

-Carol Quish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every once in a while, I come across some new way to garden I was unaware of before. At the Hartford Flower and Garden Show a visitor asked what I knew about Hugelkultur, and I had to tell him “Nothing, tell me what you know.” There is always something new to learn, research and read about in all endeavors, but I especially love new gardening ways and tips. He offered what he knew, and I promised to find out more and pass it on.

Hugelkultur is a German word meaning hill culture; the process of planting a garden or plants over or near buried  logs  decaying below the surface. While the logs are  composting below ground, they are holding moisture like a sponge which the plant roots can access. Nutrients are also released from the decaying wood and made available to surrounding plants. It is like planting your garden over your compost pile to feed the plants over a long period of time.

from permaculture.com.uk

from permaculture.com.uk

 

This centuries’ old way to garden is making a comeback with permaculture enthusiasts. It is a self-sustaining  practice, replacing the nutrients which the gardeners remove when vegetables are removed from the garden. It is also thought of as forest gardening. Nobody fertilizes or feed the soil in the forests, but no one is removing the fallen leaves and dead wood; they just rot in place, helping the new seedlings to grow.

Nutrient cycle, from Oregon State University.

Nutrient cycle, from Oregon State University.

The size of the pile should be at least three feet wide and three feet deep or high. Piles can be made above ground is location is in a wet area, just cover the pile with soil several inches thick whether above or below ground. Over the  years, a depression will develop as the material below decomposes. More soil can be added to raise the level for easier gardening. The composting process gives off some heat which rises through the layers to benefit the plants above, perhaps allowing a little bit earlier planting in the spring and some frost protection in the fall.

black walnut fruit , hort.uconn.edu

black walnut fruit , hort.uconn.edu

black walnut leaf, hort.uconn.edu

black walnut leaf, hort.uconn.edu

One word of caution on the species of log used; do not use black walnut as this species of tree releases a toxic chemical called juglone which inhibits plant growth. Juglone is present and active even in dead wood. Other species of wood will not produce juglone. Soft woods such as pine will rot more quickly and hard woods will take longer. Wood will decay more slowly underground where there is less oxygen than it would if sitting on top of the ground and exposed. Be sure any wood used is dead to prevent sprouting from the wood used. Species of wood that works best are alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow.

When the hugelkultur system is first getting started, the soil microbes will be using nitrogen from the soil in order to do their work of breaking down the wood and organic matter. The microbes will eventually return the nitrogen plus more nitrogen from the wood, into the pile. Adding a sprinkling of blood meal to the pile will feed the fungi and bacteria doing the decomposition getting them off to a strong start.

-Carol Quish

 

 

 

 

 

This year the black walnut trees have produced a bumper crop of nuts. They can be seen hanging from the trees, still attached to their branches and on the ground, ready to be gathered. If you notice them on the road side, look up.

Black walnut hanging in tree. Photo Carol Quish

Black walnut hanging in tree. Photo Carol Quish

Black walnut leaves. Photo by Carol Quish

Black walnut leaves. Photo by Carol Quish

black walnut bark

Black walnut bark for identification characteristic. Photo by Carol Quish

They almost look like green apples. Black walnuts have an outer husk surrounding the nut inside. The size of the nut and husk are about 2 inches in diameter and round.

Black walnuts in husks. The green ones have not had their husk rot off as much. Photo by Carol Quish

Black walnuts in husks. The green ones have not had their husk rot off as much. Photo by Carol Quish

The husks need to be removed. Beware the juices in the husk will stain everything they touch, including your hands. I step on them while wearing old gardening boots to get at the shelled nut inside the husk. Use gloves to protect hands from staining. Once husks are removed, soak shelled nuts in a bucket of clean water, stirring occasionally. Drain and repeat. This step is best done outside, too, as the water will turn quite black. Discard any nuts that float, they could be bad or contain insects. Once water is mostly clear, the nuts will need to be cured by allowing them to dry and develop flavor. Spread them on a screen or open container, one layer deep, in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. An unheated garage is perfect for this. Leave to cure for two weeks before cracking one to see if the nutmeat inside will break crisply. If moisture level is too high inside shell, they will mold once stored.

Black walnuts, hulled of husks, but still in shell. Ready for curing. Photo by Carol Quish

Black walnuts, hulled of husks, but still in shell. Ready for curing. Photo by Carol Quish

Once cured, store unshelled nuts in a a well-ventilated space of 60 degrees F or less. Mesh bags or wire basket will keep them well aerated. Humidity should be around 70%. Nuts can also be shelled and the meats kept in the freezer until needed.

Black walnut (Juglans nigra), produces a toxin called juglone in its roots and leaves. It is toxic to a lot of other plants to keep them from growing around the black walnut tree. Nature has evolved this quality as a defense mechanism to reduce competition for the tree. Most other plants will be able to grow and take up the nutrients and water within reach of the black walnut tree. Tomatoes are especially sensitive to juglone.  Best not to locate your vegetable garden within the root zone of black walnut.

-Carol Quish

Most of us know the normal tree fruits we commonly eat this time of year; apple, peaches, plums, even the more unusual quince and pawpaw. Most trees produce seeds to reproduce. Some seeds are housed in unusual wrappings. Take a photo trip through this blog to view uncommon and perhaps under appreciated seed vessels of Connecticut trees.

Cornus kousa fruit 8-26-13, Pamm Cooper photo

Cornus kousa fruit 8-26-13, Pamm Cooper photo

Baldcypress cone. Taxodium distichum. Photo by Carol Quish

Baldcypress cone. Taxodium distichum. Photo by Carol Quish

Horse Chestnut, Pamm Cooper photo

Horse Chestnut, Pamm Cooper photo

Turkey Oak Acorn, Pamm Cooper Photo

Magnolia Seed Pod, photo by Carol Quish

Magnolia Seed Pod, photo by Carol Quish

-Carol Quish

I recently went to Bushnell Park for the first time in my life and was glad I tagged along. My favorite plants since childhood are trees, especially the kinds you can climb up into and take a seat on a limb broad enough to provide a comfortable seat so you can view the world around you from a different prospective. It was while quietly sitting im trees that I first encountered many birds at close range, such as cedar waxwings, that don’t seem to mind being close to you if you are still and seem to be a part of the tree.

Bushnell Park, the oldest publicly funded park in the United States, was named for the Reverend Horace Bushnell, who conceived the idea of an open space in Hartford that would be available for people to enjoy free of charge. His good friend was the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who was involved in the designs for both Central Park in New York City and Forest Park in Massachusetts at the time but recommended Horace consult his Swiss- born counterpart, Jacob Weidenmann, who was also a botanist. Weidenmann became the first superintendent of parks in Hartford, and not only designed Bushnell Park, but also Cedar Hill Cemetery on Fairfield Avenue. Both of these parks are dotted with many notable trees, including those considered state champions.

Bushnell Park has many rare and native trees and originally contained more than 150 varieties of trees. Some have been lost, but many are specimen trees worthy of a walk and a look. You can stop by the League of Women Voters desk at the Legislative Office Building entrance on Capital Avenue and get a free “ Tree Walk “ brochure before heading out. This brochure is highly recommended as, although some trees have labels, many do not. You could also bring a good illustrated tree field guide that includes trees that are from a more southern climate.

Sweet gum looking up the trunk toward the canopy. Photo copyright 2013 Pamm Cooper

Sweet gum looking up the trunk toward the canopy. Photo copyright 2013 Pamm Cooper

The view looking upward along the trunk and into the canopy of mature trees is often just as exhilarating as viewing a tree from a little distance away and getting the the whole thing at once. The bark of old trees is often very different from that of younger trees. Patterns in the ridges and fissures add to the overall appeal of tress, at least for me. One tree in particular, the Sweetgum, has particularly interseting bark ridge patterns. The effect of this patterning in large limbs and trunks, the star- shaped leaves and the pyramidal form of growth makes this a favorite native specimen tree for Connecticut landscapes. An added bonus is the deep burgundy/ yellow/ or orange leaf color in the fall.

American Beech at Bushnell Park, Hartford, Ct photo by Pamm Cooper

American Beech at Bushnell Park, Hartford, Ct photo by Pamm Cooper

The Turkey Oak , Quercus cerris, is native to Europe and is a fast- growing tree that may reach a height of 130 feet when mature. Trunks can grow to a diameter of three to four feet. The park’s state champion specimen has a trunk with a circumference of 17 feet. This tree can tolerate strong winds, but not in a maritime exposure There are four Turkey Oaks in the park, which supply resident squirrels with large numbers  wooly capped acorns which mature in October. Leaves are long and narrow, and are a deep green. The bark of mature trees is attractive, ridged and furrowed with an orange color within the fissures.

Champion Turkey Oak trunk, 17 feet in circumference. Photo copyright Pamm Cooper 2013

Champion Turkey Oak trunk, 17 feet in circumference. Photo copyright Pamm Cooper 2013

Champion Turkey Oak looking up. Photo Pamm Cooper

Champion Turkey Oak looking up. Photo Pamm Cooper

There are many more trees of interest in Bushnell Park, including an incredible Cucumbertree Magnolia and a double- trunked gingko. all within a comfortable walking distance of each other. It can be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon at any season of the year. So go and sit in the shade of one of these on a hot summer day and return in the fall to enjoy the foliage. And if you need a little extra reason to smile, for one dollar, you can go for a ride on the historic Stein and Goldstein carousel. It is hard to be in a bad mood in Bushnell Park, with its magnificent trees, historic monuments, carousel, and surrounding skyscrapers to boot.

Base of an old Magnolia.. Copyright 2013 Pamm Cooper

Base of an old Magnolia.. Copyright 2013 Pamm Cooper

Pamm Cooper