just bulldoze the forest into one big pile and light a match, shall we? Who
needs big, messy trees when we can commune perfectly well with nature while
steering our riding mowers across our monotonous and overmedicated lawns? At
least the lawn makes a nice change from condos and concrete. Though Miss Snippy
shies away from bandwagons of all types—finding the ride uncomfortable and the
destination uncertain—she feels the time has come to chain herself to a tree:
metaphorically if not physically.
late, Miss Snippy’s heart is breaking at the sight of woodland ripped down acre
by acre around her once sylvan little village. I guess we just can’t have
oh why do so many landowners (not to mention developers!) feel that the only
good tree is a dead tree? Miss Snippy has seen mature firs and big-leaf maples
chopped in half, leaving naked poles jutting skyward like some bizarre, pagan
shrine. We have seen lovely woodlands razed, only to be allowed to re-grow into
thickets of Scotch broom, evergreen blackberry, and a host of other invasive
non-natives. The homes of other species are plowed under to make way for ours.
What are we doing? More importantly, where does it end?
Snippy was interested to learn, from the book Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon, that plants—photosynthesizing
plants—may well be responsible for creating Earth’s current atmosphere.
Photosynthesis, a magical process to which all life on Earth owes its
existence, is in itself reason enough to revere plants. But, as if that wasn’t
enough, the vegetation that once flourished in the primeval swamps gobbled up
huge amounts of carbon dioxide, enough to change the composition of the air
itself, and took it to the grave. Mankind is now busily releasing all this
back into the atmosphere by burning these ancient
fossil fuels, while simultaneously eradicating the huge forests that act to
recapture the gas. We all really do owe a tree a hug.
Miss Snippy firmly asserts,
and you fellow gardeners will agree, that the only excuse for removing woodland
is to create garden. Of course, if it’s nice woodland, it’s best to simply add
to the gift you’ve been given; think of it as redecorating your house rather
than burning it down and starting over. The garden of Heronswood is a good
example of native forest interplanted with many wonderful things. How
satisfying to possess such an appropriate venue for Arisaema, Asarum, Cardiocrinum, Trillium, Polygonatum, Disporum, Uvularia and the lovely pagoda dogwood, Cornus alternifolia.
There are many ways to work
with nature: mature trees may be limbed up or thinned to augment a view without
killing the tree; some homeowners are willing to leave a handsome,
view-blocking deciduous tree in situ as a reason to welcome winter; and big,
sturdy trees make excellent scaffolds for climbing hydrangeas or Clematis
When augmenting existing
woodland, Miss Snippy finds it necessary to keep new plants well watered the
first year or two, since existing roots are greedy. We also suggest the
addition of a good quantity of rustic garden seating from which one may watch
the gambolings of the towhees, chipmunks, and banana slugs. Remember, even if
your banana slugs are as big as wiener dogs, they are native and should be
protected—though you are allowed to salt them with your tears as they
skeletonize the Kirengenshoma.
If you are the proud owner
of a wooded or shady site, let go your dreams of turfdom. Lawn wants at least
half a day of direct sun. And even the slightly shade-tolerant fescues will be
patchy at best beneath conifers, which are notoriously heavy drinkers. Let the
moss have it: that’s Miss Snippy’s advice.
But what if you have no
woodland? What if the developer left your lovely new tract house enveloped by
nothing more than dry and rocky subsoil? For non-gardeners, Miss Snippy
recommends a heavily-starched American flag and a derelict dune buggy. If,
however, you aspire beyond your own personal moonscape, consider planting a
mini-woodland. Start by replenishing the soil with at least four inches (more
is better) of a good three-way topsoil (loam, sand, and compost). Consider
including columbine and mahonia for the hummingbirds, serviceberries for the
song birds, and some Queen-Anne’s-lace and asters on the edges for the
butterflies. And, please, plant a tree.
Miss Snippy’s Gardening Glossary
Water sprouts, suckers, and spurs
First of all, if you have a
waterspout in your garden, run for your life. A waterspout is a type of tornado
that pulls ocean water upward. The term you may be searching for is water
sprout: rapidly-growing, vertical shoots that arise from the trunk and branches
of trees. If you’re feeling scientific, call them epicormic sprouts. Water
sprouts are often triggered by tree topping and other severe pruning. Suckers
have a growth habit similar to water sprouts, but arise from a tree’s roots,
base, or from below a bud union (as on grafted trees and roses). Water sprouts
and suckers are usually viewed with annoyance by gardeners. On the other hand,
spurs are fruit-producing stubby branches employed by certain varieties of
fruit trees and vines. Spur pruning encourages the formation of spurs.