Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gifts from the Hydrangea

I write often about the old hydrangea in my back yard because it is what I see from the window
Neighbor Antoine Helps
Clean Up After the Storm
Hydrangea 6-23-15
where I eat my breakfast, because it is old and persistent, and because it keeps offering me gifts. Early last winter a heavy snow storm weighed it down and brought it to the ground. I mourned because I thought I had lost it. Then this spring little green nubbins turned into
leaves, and it was back. It had lost some branches, but clearly it had survived the winter once again.

Yesterday I heard the familiar cheep of the cardinal, and as I walked around, I determined that it was coming from the hydrangea. A ruffle of leaves led me to look on the side near the driveway. I walked as close as I could, trying not to scare it off, and sure enough, there was a female cardinal hiding under the leaves. I was particularly glad to see it was a female, not because I don't love the bright color of her male counterpart, but because of her subtlety, I don't see her as often, and I like her muted colors.

Then this morning from my peripheral vision, I could see a commotion in the yard. I turned to see two squirrels chasing each other up the tulip tree and down, over the fence and back, and into the hydrangea. One went off out of my vision, but the other stayed on the ground below checking out what goodies had been left there--seeds from the tulip tree, I suspect.

At other times the hydrangea has offered me chickadees who made a home in a hole in the old branch, sparrows hiding from the blue jays, and, most amazingly, monarch butterflies whose life began hundreds of miles away. Before long the blossoms will come with their wonderful scent, and the bees will be busy again.

So this morning I am just stopping for a moment to be thankful for my old friend and all the gifts it has shared with me. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Trees and Transition

When I moved into my house 33 years ago, there were two very large box elder trees in my back yard. I appreciated the shade, but before long there was a problem--box elder bugs. I soon learned that the two trees differed in that one was male, and one was female, and the seeds of the female attracted these pests. They did not appear to do damage to the tree, but as Wikipedia explains, "their congregation habits and excreta can annoy people." Yes, indeed, excreta can be annoying!

In the fall of the year they would swarm and cover the side of my house and Sunny's house next door. Sunny, a charming 90 something inveterate gardener, volunteered to pay to have the tree removed, but winter came, the bugs disappeared, and I forgot about them. That is until Easter Sunday when sitting around the dinner table with all my family, the bugs (who evidently had been hibernating in the cellar) woke up and started flying all over the room. This was not the way I intended to celebrate the resurrection!

OK, I gave in. The yard, after all, was really too small for two large trees, so I had the female tree removed. No more bugs. Well, no more box elder bugs. It wasn't long before I discovered that the other tree was infested with carpenter ants. Removing it became an issue of safety. So now I had a bare yard with no shade.

At Mulak's Nursery, Bonnie suggested a tulip tree would grow quickly and provide good shade, and soon the sapling was taking root in my yard.

She was right. It grew quickly, and the yard soon was shaded once more, and every spring it produces yellow "tulips." These were here this morning. I learned--once again from Wikipedia, source of all information--that the tree is related to the magnolia, and I can see the resemblance.

Today the tree towers above most of the others around. It took a beating in the October storm of 2011, yet it continues to stand and leaf and flower.