Look up, look up, at any tree!
There is so much for eyes to see:
Twigs, catkins, blossoms; and the blue
Of sky, most lovely, peeping through
Between the leaves, some large, some small,
Some green, some gold before their fall;
Fruits you can pick; fruits out of reach;
And little birds with twittering speech;
And, if you’re quick enough, maybe
A laughing fairy in the tree!
-Song of the Tree Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker
So many precious trees (and lives) are lost during these big storms, tornadoes, flooding and fires that ravage the earth every year.
Thousands of trees in New York City’s Central Park and all along the eastern seaboard have been ripped out of the ground, trunks broken in half and their limbs snapped off from the snows and winds. The loss is unimaginable and, in some cases, irreplaceable.
In the introduction of the beautiful book, The Meaning of Trees – Botany, History, Healing and Lore, author Fred Hageneder says, “Trees and humankind have always had a symbiotic relationship. Throughout the centuries, trees have offered us shelter from the cold and the heat. They have provided us with a multitude of nutritious fruits, leaves, flowers and roots for food and medicine. They have given us wood with which to make our tools, weapons and toys, not to mention timber for houses, fences, boats and bridges. But perhaps most significant of all, trees have provided fuel for fire which, once it was tamed hundreds of thousands of years ago, became the engine of civilization. Trees are our strongest allies.
“The entire spectrum of human existence is reflected in tree lore through the ages: from birth, death and rebirth, to the age-old struggle between good and evil, and the quest for beauty, truth and enlightenment.
“Our ancestors recognized that there is a vital balance in life: you take and you give. So they celebrated the forces of nature by offering them gifts, songs, prayers and blessings to revitalize the natural world – a world of which they felt themselves to be an intimate part.
“Many cultures saw (and still see) everything in creation as imbued with spirit, which means that all living things are regarded as sacred.”
Every year our trees drop their leaves and needles to replenish the nutrients in the soil, provide food for the micro and macro organisms and protect the roots from the harsh winter conditions. They are a marvellous and free gift to us gardeners because leaves provide most of the nutrients you’ll need to have healthy soil and rich mulches. Layer leaves into your compost bin with wood chips, grass clippings (find piles in vacant lots or remember to store some for next year) needles, rotten apples, Halloween pumpkins, kitchen compost, etc., and just see what you get for next year’s gardening season: beautiful, black, rich, wonderful soil loaded with worms and microbes. Make sure there is sufficient moisture between the layers and cover it up so that nutrients are not lost from rains and snow, and keep a handy pile of mowed or shredded leaves too for your mulches.
So let’s take a moment to honour and appreciate our beautiful, precious trees that grace our streets, parks, gardens, public spaces and yards. I can’t imagine what our world – and our gardens – would be without them. I sure hug ’em, because I love ’em.