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About Trees

I love trees! I can honestly say I have contributed to the environment by planting my share. Trees provide sustenence and food for wildlife and provide building materials, food, and even medicine for us humans.

Trees have a true symbiotic relationship with humans. We, of course, breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, while a tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, as much as a ton in its life time, and gives off oxygen. In one year a couple of trees can produce enough oxygen for a family of four, and even man's carbon emissions from automobiles can be balanced by lining a road with trees.

There exist ancient trees that have towered over the rise and fall of civilizations and still live into the twenty-first century, but the average life expectancy of the modern urban tree is about eight years. Why is that? I suspect multiple reasons. Perhaps the trees that succumb at an early age are planted in small planting holes completely surrounded by asphalt and concrete. What do the roots find under solid surfaces? How much water is there, and what sort of soil organisms grow in such an environment? And how hot do the roots become in the summer? In truth, only ten percent of a tree's nutrients come from the soil, while ninety percent comes from the air. So, what about air pollution? Smoke and other contaminants may coat leaves, making it difficult for them to absorb water and nutrients. Maybe the trees are chosen because they are cheap or they are trendy, but they aren't right for the space or maybe they are prone to disease. I suspect another cause of early death is lack of care. Trees are planted and then often forgotten. Who waters them during drought or fertilizes them when needed? Some communities care for their trees, but I suspect many cities just don't have it in their budget. So city trees have to be tough. There are plenty that do survive, and who doesn't appreciate the beauty they contribute to hard urban edges?

Trees also prevent soil erosion by stabilizing the soil and by slowing and filtering rain water. Ever notice those naked hillsides where developers have stripped the land and then did little or no replanting? It should be against the law! Before long, the slopes are covered with deep vertical gouges from water run-off, and this puts the land below at risk for flooding. 

Trees increase property values; some estimates say up to twenty percent. Here in the South trees are especially valuable for the shade they produce. They reduce air conditioning costs in the summer and make an outdoor space more enjoyable. Not only do the trees block the hot sun, but water actually evaporates through their leaves, thus reducing the air temperature below. Trees can also provide windbreaks and reduce heating costs in the winter, and they can be used to provide privacy or screen unwanted sights.This Arizona cypress helps to screen a neighbor's workshop.

Even when a tree is dead, its stump may continue to provide nutrients and shelter to multitudes of animals and small organisms, until finally it decays and returns to the earth, helping to replenish the soil. Following our tornado in 1990, we cut the trunk of an uprooted oak tree into segments. We placed the sections of the trunk in a grouping in the woods, providing a great dining hall for wildlife. After twenty years, some parts have rotted away, but some remain:

And after all that, trees are beautiful. This time of year I appreciate their beautiful foliage:This Chinese pistache tree is loveliest in its fall colors.
Top: Woodlands behind the Lady Garden. 2nd row: Japanese maple; dogwood. 3rd row: Trident maple leaves silhouetted against the sky; Evergreen Southern magnolia leaves will make great holiday decorations. Fall and winter may be the best time of the year to appreciate trees' interesting forms:1st row: trees in woodland garden; Japanese maple in front garden. 2nd row: Japanese maple "marriage tree", photo taken last winter; shot taken last March of what I fondly call the "nostril tree", located in Atlanta's Piedmont Park. 3rd row: winter photo of tree in woodlands beside lower lawn; winter photo of trees behind house.This is also a great time to notice many different bark textures and patterns:Top: trees in the woodland garden. 2nd row: This crepe myrtle has watermelon pink blooms through the summer, but now its lovely form and peeling bark draws attention. 3rd row: river birch; trident maple. 4th row: close ups of river birch and trident maple, showing their exfoliating bark.

As a reminder, for those of us who live in milder climates, fall into winter is a great time to plant trees. And remember, when you are out there working hard to dig your hole, you are doing a good deed for us all!


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Reader Comments (18)

Hi Deb, I enjoy this post very much. The first photo is absolutely breathtaking. I appreciate trees very much and have been admiring their beauty. I use some of the thick cut branches as a bed border. I like the natural look.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOne

We have 100 year old trees on our street in the city. The city has been trying to remove them, but the neighbors got a petition. But the city turned around and decided we needed a new street, sewers and sidewalks. They dug so deep to the frost line that all the huge trees are now coming down in bad storms. The roots were so severely damaged that the trees, already in maple decline, could not recover properly. Weakened on the street side, the trees fell into the street. We have lost quite a few and the city is getting there way.

I enjoyed the post quite a bit. You have many good points.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I love your tree appreciation post! Great photos too. I crammed as many trees in to my small plot as I could, they add beauty, height, privacy, shelter for wildlife, dynamism, fall colour and lovely sounds in the wind. Hurrah for trees!

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPlantaliscious

Dear Deborah, Great minds as they say....This is a most interesting posting and raises some very important issues. I do sometimes think that trees are overlooked and not fully appreciated for their essential contribution to the health of our environment as well as the beauty they add. Your own contribution of trees is indeed impressive, not only in quantity but also in variety. Such a wealth of beautiful forms and, as you say, the delight of shady woods in the unbearable heat of mid summer.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEdith Hope

In the north we love our trees too - they're really the framework for everything we do in the garden, and learning to love their skeletal state in winter helps get us through the long cold days.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCyndy

Great post! One of my pet peeves is wrong tree in the wrong space. It happens so often, especially by builders. I am having to deal with this right now. This week I am sadly having trees taken down that are now dying because they were damaged during the building process and are too close to the house. They will be replaced! I too love the bark of trees. Beautiful photos as always!

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

You are a blogger after my own heart. I started gardening by planting trees. I didn't consider myself a gardener then because initially I had no flowers and all the garden clubs and garden blogs were exclusively about blooms. But trees captured me the same way you have expressed here. And your photos of bark and trunks and structure show trees at their best.... love it.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

A tree lover here, big time, and so enjoyed this post! I MUSTbe surrounded by trees and too love fascinating bark, especially birch, awesome to photograph. Blessed, I have one sentinel American Elm, a lone surviver of Dutch Elm disease, hanging over my old house.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoey

Such majestic looking trees captured beautifully on camera! Nowadays we are taking for granted the trees will be here forever. But slowly green lungs are dissappearing in our towns and forests bcos of development, illegal loggings and indiscrimate burnings, well at least in a few countries in South East Asia. So we as gardeners are actually doing our part in planting new trees and nurturing them for future generations. Keep on gardening!

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterp3chandan

A landscape without trees is stark and harsh, and almost lifeless. Our last house was newly built, in a typical new housing subdivision. The topsoil was stripped, the trees that were there (it was an old walnut orchard) were almost all removed. The most depressing sight when we first moved in was that there wasn't a single tree anywhere in view from the house. We hated it so much we spent a little extra to purchase a more mature tree to transplant in the garden, desperate to see something vertical and green. Even that one tree made such a difference, and over time we added a number of smaller ones before we moved. Here we have so many beautiful trees, I have no idea how many there are. We're so lucky to be surrounded by so much beautiful forest. I agree, even the fallen trees have a unique beauty and purpose. I hope I never live anywhere that's treeless again.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

I'm a big fan of trees, too. they have such a huge impact on the atmosphere of a garden, as well as providing so many benefits. I like the privacy they provide, all of the wildlife they attract, the lovely green canopy overhead, the protected space for plants underneath, and watching how they change over the seasons. Your pictures show the wonderful variety of their features, and I especially like your golden coloured Chinese pistache tree .

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNorthern Shade

I love trees too -- all different trees. I especially appreciate it when people plants a variety of trees. Here in the Houston area, we are EXTREMELY fond of our live oaks, but there are so many other beautiful trees that are probably better suited for small front yards! Wonderful pictures as usual -- thanks!

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Barrow

A wonderful post on the value of trees. I love them too, especially the Chinese pistache that you mentioned. It is a must have!

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip

Hi Deb,

What a great post! As a Certified Arborist, I love helping people with their trees. I have quite a few and cannot understand why some people choose not to have trees in their landscapes.

I like how you spread out remains of your tree around your garden....you definitely have the big picture in mind and how trees can still be beneficial, even after they are dead.

The Chinese Pistache in our area are just beginning to turn color :-)

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle / azplantlady

I love trees too, and this post!

I see trees planted in urban situations and wonder how they live for even a year. The Honey Locust lining the main street of downtown Smithfield manage to live but always lose their leaves in July.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Bay

Hey Ms. Debbie!
Just thought about you and decided that I would check out your blog.. I loved your post about trees!! I really do find them amazing and have decided that wherever I end up living will have to have a bunch..haha. I hope that things are going well for you and that your ear is better. Miss seeing ya!

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHaley

a lovely thoughtful and thought provoking post, I like trees and have planted many in my little acre because I like them and as a wind break, some have grown well others did not cope with the strong winds we get, trees also provide leafmold compost but mine aren't big enough for much of that,
I don't agree with curbstone valley farm about a treeless landscape being lifeless, where I live and in much of europe we have moorland which is relatively sometimes completely treeless but teams with life not the same kind of life that likes a tree habit but life it also has a wild raw beauty,
like the autumn light photos in the next post too,

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrances

What a great post Deb! I moved from the flat bushy fields of northern NY to the beautiful Alabama woods and I sure do have a lot to learn! I am surrounded by beautiful trees of all kinds and have a lot to learn about gardening with and around them. Your gardens are such an inspiration! I have a woodland walk in the planning! Thanks! I'm so glad I found your blog!

November 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEve

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