Rising from the ashes

When I first bought my property nearly 19 years ago, I was thrilled with the woodland setting and adored my many deciduous trees. But then I was made aware of the ash borer, an uninvited pest from Asia, and I became distraught over the 24 ash trees on my property and their pending demise if left untreated.

I consulted an arborist and together we determined it made sense to protect 10 of the trees with regular injections, while removing the rest. Over the last several years I have been removing trees. Some of the ash trees I removed were quite large, which meant I had a lot of ash wood to deal with and that’s where I had to get creative.

Cherished bowls made from ash trees on my property

With the first batch of ash trees removed, I asked Carlos Soler, a family friend and amazing woodworker to make wooden bowls for me with some of the remnants. Carlos did an amazing job and I cherish the bowls for their beauty, function and remembrance. You can find other artistic treasures made by Carlos by visiting his site on Etsy

Of course I saved some of the wood for firewood and gave a bunch to friends for the same purpose. But I quickly realized only a certain amount of firewood could be used in a reasonable time without most of it rotting. I still had a lot of wood to manage.

During a visit to Cape Cod a couple of years ago, I saw an amazing natural arbor at a local botanic garden. I showed the photos of the arbor to local chain saw artist Marty Long who was able to translate my vision into reality with collected branches.

An arch made from branches marks the entrance to the woods

In addition to my arch, which now marks the entrance to my woodland trail and invites guests to meander, Marty made a bench for me which I enjoy regularly. Yes, I actually do sit down from time to time – hurray! My new bench provides a great vantage point of the water feature and the woodland trail and gives my friends and me a place to pause, relax and enjoy.

An ash tree transformed into a bench

The last thing I have done with my ash trees is to leave some of them standing about 20 feet tall. This way they are not a hazard to garden visitors, can easily be taken down from the ground if they become a concern, and can benefit wildlife as they decay. Plus, it’s less expensive to take down a tree partially instead of completely!

Trees left standing

My point is, when life gives you lemons, or an invasive pest like the ash borer, you need to find a way to make lemonade. If you have ash trees that need to be removed, let me know how you are dealing with the issue. I am confident if you look hard enough, you’ll find the silver lining and ways to use that wood that enhances the beauty of your garden, provides ecological benefits and more.







Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Trees are my focus for this month. How can we not think about trees in October? They are turning beautiful hues and showing us how nice it can be to let go. 

Trees have also been on my mind because I recently attended a lecture given by Joan Maloof, author and founder of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN). The mission of the OGFN is to connect people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, and publicly-accessible native forests. 
The organization was created because many of the old-growth forests were being logged, developed or otherwise destroyed. The OGFN strives to preserve the remaining old-growth forests in thousands of counties in the United States so all generations can experience a real forest and its native biodiversity.  
Joan’s lecture was given at Haverford College, which hosts an arboretum and some amazing specimen trees. After her lecture I felt inspired and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to sit underneath an elm tree that was a direct descendent of the Penn Treaty Tree. What a magical experience that was. Incredibly peaceful and calming. A ‘stop and smell the roses’ kind of moment.
Official designation for the Haverford Elm

Sitting under the Penn Treaty Elm

Looking up into the branches

Another amazing tree I saw recently was located in Tarrytown, NY at the Lyndhurst estate, former home of New York City mayor William Paulding, Jr., merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Check out this awe inspiring weeping beech tree! You can barely see me in the photo. 

Lyndhurst’s enormous weeping Beech

My next stop to admire trees was Boise, ID – known as the City of Trees. Boise is set in the foothills, which typically consist of grasses and sagebrush, not trees. Early homeowners were encouraged to improve their property with shade trees, which they did. 
The tree-lined Boise River

Trees all over the world have great lessons to teach. I’m certainly not the first to observe this fact. Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench loves trees so much she produced a documentary called ‘My Passion for Trees’. Filmed over the course of a year, the documentary studied trees throughout the seasons and helped Judi use science to tell the stories the trees can’t tell on their own. Judi saw trees in a new light and learned how they communicate with each other and deal with adversity. For Judi and for me, trees aren’t just trees. They are a community of living things who support each other and help us as human beings. 

I hope you’ll join me in living life according to some advice from a tree:

Advice from a Tree

Stand up tall and proud,

Sink your roots into the earth,

Be content with your natural beauty,

Go out on a limb,

Drink plenty of water,

Remember your roots,

Enjoy the view!

Ilan Shamir