Black Walnut Society Officially Unveiled

Do you garden under a Black Walnut tree?  Have you searched the internet seeking lists of species that grow under Black Walnuts only to discover that the lists are sometimes contradictory, or that (even worse) they are waaaaay too short to satisfy your jonesing for plants?

Is your Black Walnut tree interfering with your gardening pleasure, making you irritable, or adversely affecting your overall life enjoyment quotient?

Have you cut down a Black Walnut tree or had thoughts of cutting one down?

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Life and Limb

You really could not pay me enough to do this kind of work:

That was the view from my back deck a couple of days ago, as crews removed two stately, gigantic white oaks from the lot of my neighbor to the rear.  A third massive oak had blown over during Hurricane Irene, quite close to their house, so I guess the homeowners figured they didn’t want to chance it with these other two.  I am very sad to see them go, but have been thoroughly transfixed by the precarious process of removal.

Being afraid of heights, I cannot even imagine scaling a tree that large.  I don’t care how many ropes are attached to me or how big the spikes on my boots — it’s terrifying.  I’d always thought that tree removal of this magnitude could only be done with a cherry-picker and a crane, but these guys were doing it freestyle. 

In the picture below, you can see the huge piece of branch that the crewman just cut as it plunges to the ground.  Ropes are attached to these pieces before they’re cut so that they won’t crash into the roof of the house, but then they swing wildly back and forth before they hit the ground, sometimes coming close to knocking the climber out of the tree.  Ack!!!

Here’s a closer shot of the climber, with his chainsaw dangling from a rope: 

Just looking at these pictures makes my stomach queasy and my palms sweaty.  Not surprisingly, tree trimming is one of the most dangerous — and most unregulated — jobs out there.   And of course we all know the quality of work varies immensely from crew to crew — and that good work costs.

I honestly can’t imagine the price tag for removing those huge oak trees.  (They’re not done yet — they’ve already been at it for 3 days and still aren’t finished.)  Last year, we had a mature ash tree fall in a storm, and it cost us $1000 to get it all cut up and hauled away.  That price may have been inflated since it was a bit of an emergency (the tree actually fell right in front of my neighbor’s front door — oops!) but it seems that even a nice crown thinning on a large tree often pushes a grand.

I hope that guy who’s climbing those huge white oaks is getting some serious cash for risking his life, but I sure am glad it’s not coming out of my pocket.

American Holly, American Beech, American Graffiti

The gorgeous American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) has long been a favorite canvas for young couples in love and other graffiti artists.  My favorite nearby park is filled with beeches, tulip poplars, red oaks, and American hollies.  At this time of year, the beeches call attention to themselves, with their parchment leaves still clinging on, their smooth gray bark, and of course — on many of them — hearts and initials adorning the bottom six feet of trunk. 

F. grandifolia, a favorite tree, along with one of my favorite H. sapiens

 

Decorating Your Decapitated Crape Myrtle This Holiday Season: An Illustrated Guide

‘Tis the season for making boxwood wreaths, garlands of fresh pine, and of course donning the mangled remains of your professionally landscaped front yard with holiday fairy lights and other whimsical decor.

Are you a traditionalist?  Why not adorn the hacked-off stubs of your once majestic crape myrtle with strings of white lights?  Really put a lot of them on there and wrap them tightly (think: binding severed limbs with tournequets) then sit back and enjoy the show.  Once the sun sets, those twinkly lights will really set off the freakishly stubby quality of your tree, and admiring neighbors will understand that you are a homeowner who is definitely in charge of his landscape, by god!  Why, you have the power to transform a beautiful vase-shaped tree into a ridiculous parody of itself!

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National Christmas Tree Mysteriously Disfigured!

The 2011 National Christmas Tree needs a prune. http://www.wjla.com

I saw this posted on a local news blog last week and was kind of intrigued.  The picture clearly shows an odd bump at the top of the tree, but I couldn’t find any explanation for it, nor could I find out if the bump is still there. 

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Junk on the Trunk

Here’s a few pics I’ve taken recently of some cool-looking tree trunks.  The first was taken at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale, VA, one of my favorite garden haunts.  They have a few mature crape myrtles in front of the visitor center there with the prettiest cinnamon-brown bark you’ve ever seen.  It helps that the folks there know how to prune crape myrtles; it really makes a difference in showing off the smooth bark.   With its coloring and muscle-like texture, the tree trunk reminds me of the flank of a thoroughbred racehorse.  I believe this is cultivar ‘Biloxi’.

Crape Myrtle 'Biloxi'

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Juglans nigra — The Tree that Poisons Other Plants (Part 2)

Poisonous and messy, but gorgeous! (http://tree-species.blogspot.com/

So yesterday I wrote about how the Black Walnut poisons other plants and is an all-around nuisance to have in the yard.  The Mid-Atlantic Gardener’s Book of lists places this tree on their list of “Trees That Have No Business Being in a Landscape” alongside the likes of Canadian Hemlock and Silver Maple (both of which I have and like — hmph!) 
 
I pretty much go along with the belief that this tree is a major pain in the ass.  My largest Black Walnut branches out over our pool, and it drops crap into the water and on the pool deck basically all summer.  In the early summer it sheds big yellow catkins, then a little later it’s the giant green nuts, followed shortly thereafter by the leaflets and really looooong leaf stems that get stuck in everything.  The decaying nuts leach out a dark-brown liquid that will stain a patio or deck and if you pick one up with bare hands they’ll be stained for days.  All of this might be tolerable if the valuable nuts didn’t require industrial equipment to remove the hulls, but alas, home harvesting of black walnuts is waaaay more trouble than it’s worth (at least for me.)
 
So why not cut them down?  Because they are gorgeous!  They have a lovely, light-filtering canopy and fantastic, spreading branch structure.  So yeah, this tree has many flaws and  leaves irritating messes behind all the time, but it is handsome and lovable anyway.  Sort of like your spouse.