June 30, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Three Heritage Trees

If you are a long time follower of this blog, then you would be familiar with many of the tall stately trees that we have on our property. I am very attached to every tree for various reasons, but most revolve around the fact that I could tell you the story behind every tree ( and plant, for that matter). A benefit , or burden, of now living with a garden where I was raised, and for that matter, where my nearly 98 year old father was raised. This past weekend, we cut down three of the tall Colorado Blue Spruces that his father had planted in 1938, ( look at them in some of these photos - talk about old!), two 90 foot tall specimens that were starting to reach the end of their life, as they have begun to loose more branches and sap which weakened these giants. It's sad, but it also opens a new door. Now we have more sunlight, and we all were surprised about how much larger the yard looked again.
It's really all about scale, since these spruces towered far above our heads,and were twice as large as any other tree on the property, they helped demonstrate a trick which many of the greatest landscapers of the late 19th Century employed - tiers and scale play - tall trees, medium trees and small, short trees, all help create an outdoor experience which feels natural, as if nature planted it, but in  a perfect way, which we often don't notice at first. You can see this in old estate landscapes that are still maintained, or in some of the great Olmsted parks like Central Park in NYC. At home, you can try to not plant all of the specimen trees and plants while they are at the same age, or you will end up looking more like a nursery rather than a garden in the woods.

This Golden needled Japanese Spruce, 'Skylands' is a more manageable scale for our garden, and it provides a balance to the super-tall giants behind it. I know that I need more trees at this mid tier level, but there is much more to consider. The garden has become over-grown and out of scale over the past 50 years, so we continue to remove large masses of vegetation, uncovering some of the more formal aspects to the garden, before I decide how I am going to re-design it. With 3 acres to work with, this is not small task. But it is starting to look a little less weedy already.

I am continually embarrassed with the garden,and often never invite guests to see it ( many crazy outbuildings and trashy areas, tall weed areas, etc), but I also know that many other gardeners who are plant lovers have gardens like this, a fact that doesn't really make me feel better about it.So my strategy is to try and open-up some of the weedy areas to see lawn or low, planted herbaceous areas again ( yay - more gardens to plant!). When I was a child in the 60's and 70's the lawns were massive, or so they seemed, because it took an entire day to cut them. Hey, I am not a lawn-dude, but, it might look a little better to have some very low vegetative areas too. I think that I need that 'carpet look' in areas.

So long old spruce. I was trying to remember why I was so emotional about these two stately blue spruces, but they provided the anchor-tree look as we viewed the garden from the picture window, a formal design earlier, these two tall spruces looked like two church steeples, and I can remember many many winters when I would turn the spotlights on in the back, and watch the snow gather on their branches during blizzards. Then, they must have been 40 feet tall, this year, they were 80 - 90 feet tall, and I still loved how they looked in the winter. Now, it's time to move forward.


  1. Sigh.. I will remember them too. Lots of old memories. It would be interesting to post some of the old pics of the garden. How much the property changed... for better my dear!

  2. Felicidades por tu magnífico blog, estoy buscando alguien que me oriente sobre como cuidar los rosales enanos, tengo en mi despacho dos en tiestos de barros y uno de ellos en iguales condiciones se me muere, lo riego casi a diario con poca agua, pero no me crece todo lo que quiero. saludos. Julián.


It's always a good thing to leave a comment!