Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Venerable Tree April 17, 2010

Out for a stroll the other morning, I spied an unusual traffic mediation on one corner:

Tree protection

I had come from the other side of the street, and didn’t notice at first that the mini bollards were to protect a massive specimen tree. Huh, the city getting involved to protect a tree from getting bonked into by negligent motorists? Must be a special one…

Then I saw the plaque:

Scarlet Oak Heritage Tree Sign

I had heard about Seattle’s Heritage Tree Program, initiated by Plant Amnesty and now co-run by the City of Seattle. But I don’t know that I had ever seen one if its beneficiaries/honorees before.

As you can see from the sign, the Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) is not native to the Pacific Northwest, but this particular tree has thrived in our climate. I hope that future generations of Seattle residents continue to protect and enjoy it. If all of our parking strip street trees lived so long, we would be the greenest city around!

Scarlet Oak trunk

Scarlet Oak reaching up

Scarlet Oak from down the sidewalk

As all gardeners know, every day is Earth Day. But I hope you have/had a happy one today anyway!

(I should add, after seeing some of the comments, that it’s true that this is probably this tree’s least showy season, and that no photo can truly capture its magnificence, but I thought that its massive arm-like branches and immense trunk were still impressive enough to show. Great idea to go back when it’s leafed out and again in the fall to see the scarlet leaves. I will try to remember to do so!)


Top That!?! January 9, 2010

Filed under: pruning,trees — greenwalks @ 9:04 pm
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No wait, please don’t! Topping is a popular but damaging method of controlling a tree’s height. Certified arborists and anyone with half an iota of aesthetic sense rail against this practice, and yet it persists. Why? Ignorance, most likely.

Sadly, these young-ish trees in my neighborhood, in no danger of growing into power lines or falling over onto anyone’s house, were recently topped (i.e. butchered), by “professional” gardeners no less. It makes me so sad and angry to see them when I pass by, to think of how nice they used to look and how ridiculous they seem now.

Tree pruning disaster

Trees for the parking strip need to be carefully chosen with the site’s limitations in mind. Of course, this is true of any site, and any tree. If you don’t want a tall tree, plant a dwarf variety! You can’t just hack off the top every few years and expect it to look, and be, fine.

Tree butchery


I will freely admit that I know next to nothing about correct pruning and always make a hash of anything I try to shape. For trees, I leave it to the pros, the real ones, certified arborists who really, truly know what they’re doing!

In other tree-pruning news, did you read this squib in the New Yorker about “citizen arborists”?


The Curtain’s Going Up December 28, 2009

Filed under: flora,trees — greenwalks @ 9:24 am
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… on the annual Witch hazel show! Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’, with its unusual orange flowers, takes pride of place in my garden every January and I noticed while passing by it yesterday that the very first blossoms have begun to unfurl. They will slowly cover the tree and if all goes well, should be in full flower by mid-January. I didn’t plant this tree, but am grateful to the previous gardener here who did.

Dec 27 09 1st Witch Hazel 'Jelena' Flower

Is it showtime, or almost, for any of your favorites yet this winter?


The Ravages of Wind December 2, 2009

Filed under: trees,weather — greenwalks @ 1:12 pm
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A few weeks ago, Seattle was ripped by a series of powerful wind storms. Still nothing to match our legendary Hanukkah Eve blowout of 2006, when everything from telephone poles to Douglas firs went belly-up overnight, but still some pretty strong gusts that knocked out power and did some damage to the unsteadier trees.

Just up my street, this one met its end:

Wind-snapped tree

The trunk just snapped off, luckily missing any humans or property. I’m not sure what kind of tree it is, or if it’s on the city’s list for approved parking strip trees. If anyone has a guess, please speak forth. It was planted in a group, which is often the MO for street trees that come free from the city.

Another breakage point, showing the leaves closer up for you ID experts:

Broken-off limb

Bark detail – does it look like the inside of the trunk was diseased?

Shattered trunk

Poor thing. I always mourn the death of a tree. I’m glad nobody was hurt – this would have made a pretty big dent in anyone’s head:

Big limb down

One unlucky fellow did lose his life during this set of storms. He was just out with his wife, walking their dog, when a big limb in a local park came down and that was it. I admit I’m a chicken – when the winds start to blow, I make a dash for the house and try to stay in until it’s all over. I try not to look at our big cedar too closely, although I’ve heard they tend to be pretty good at staying upright.

I will be curious to see what, if anything, is chosen to replace the poor broken tree on my street. If it were me, I’d go for something different!

(For those curious about Seattle parking strip tree planting procedures, permits, and lists of approved street trees, click here.)


Skywatch Friday – May 22, 2009 May 21, 2009

Filed under: Seattle,sky — greenwalks @ 9:33 pm
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In the sky over Seattle, a clash of the titans, tree vs. clouds:

Tree vs. clouds

And the winner is… clouds!

Cloud array

To see more skies all over the world, click here to check out Skywatch Friday.


Skywatch Friday – Another Tree April 23, 2009

Filed under: digressions,sky — greenwalks @ 9:02 pm
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I just can’t seem to resist putting a tree in my sky shots. I know there are plenty of great sky views with no trees in them, but I seem not to look up unless I’m examining branches, a canopy, leaves, twig-borne flower petals, or other arborific views.

Park Tree Through Monkey Bars

Afternoon sky through unknown tree and red monkey bars at Meridian Park playground, Seattle, WA, USA in April, 2009. Head over here to see the many lovely and varied views of the sky from all over the world this week.


Blossom Time March 30, 2009

Spring in Seattle means many things – rain of course, more cyclists on the city’s bike paths, a plethora of flower bulbs adding color to the landscape and, my favorite of all, blossom time for the city’s multitude of flowering trees.

It seems like the first to bloom are normally the ornamental plums, but due to the longer and colder than usual winter, this year everything’s getting going at the same time. Plums, cherries and apples all seem to be bursting into bloom at once, so maybe the usually-later ones are playing catch-up with the slowpokes.

I pass this particular tree many times a week, and had always marveled at its odd shape. It’s a small flowering cherry currently covered with ginormous blossoms. I don’t think it’s been well cared for in a while, since it has a lot of suckers (all flowering!) near the base. But even the strangest pruning can almost be redeemed by masses of fragrant blooms. I wish I could post these in Smell-O-Vision!

Flowering cherry

The Prius has become the car of Seattle (replacing the Volvo 240 – what can I say, I’m behind the times, I still have one of those but no hybrid yet), so I left it in the shot to epitomize this part of the world in spring – a parking strip flowering tree and a PC vehicle. What could be more Seattle? I guess I could have posed someone there with an REI fleece vest on, holding a latte. That might have been a bit too much, though.

Cherry tree & black Prius, how Seattle

What most signifies spring to you?