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Bottle Tree- you can grow that


IMG_0022In the bleak midwinter,

frosty wind made moan

The earth stood hard as iron

Water like a stone…-Christina Rosetti

Nothing like being an English major- these words came to mind when I started thinking of what to write for a “You Can Grow That” post- what can you grow this time of year? yes, the houseplants, the Christmas cactus, the amaryllis and the paperwhites. But outside? Sigh.

I could flip through my seed catalogs, place post-it notes, sketch diagrams of my new bed in the front of the house where the junipers used to be, but I am mostly just sitting and looking out the windows, these days.  And the view from my desk is a happy little bottle tree.

I got the idea from a craptastic garden we visited in Idaho- I guess you could say a bottle tree seed was planted there.

It used to be an unhappy cherry tree, that died. Alas. (another benefit to being an English major, I get to use words like alas, and nobody is surprised)  I trimmed it back to stubs, and placed blue wine bottles on it.

It won’t last forever- the roots are decomposing underground, and at some point it will tip over. That’s fine. Until then, I have something to catch my eye when I look out my window this winter. And an excuse to buy blue bottles of wine.

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Ummm…should the apple tree be horizontal?


A few more inches fell after this. See the oak tree- it looks like a candy cane.

We had a wet heavy snowstorm last week, and people all over town lost electricity from branches falling on power lines, lots of tree damage all up and down the street. We got lucky- full power all day and just a couple of branches gone from the ash tree in front.
I thought we had gotten lucky until I did a fuller inspection of the back yard. My golden delicious apple tree was uprooted. Completely knocked flat.
It is in a shaded spot, so the snow took a long time to melt from it, the way it has melted from the other young trees and bushes. I was hesitant to go out and mess with it right away.

Do you see the apple tree? Me neither.

That's better.

My plan:  first drive some stakes into the ground (it wasn’t staked previously, and it had started to lean when it was weighed down by apples) then pull it upright, stomp on the soil all around it and add some mulch.

It might not survive the winter, which is really too bad, because it had just started to produce.

I always read in garden design books and magazines about planning for “winter interest.” That means making sure there are evergreens and structures that look pretty in the snow. It is not supposed to be interesting like the Chinese curse,”may you live in interesting times.” Winter interest is not looking out the window and wondering if your trees are going to die!
This storm was unusual, but not unheard of. There’s a reason why this region is not forested- there are enough pre-halloween storms that break lots of limbs, and enough May freezes that kill buds to make this a very tricky place for trees to survive.
I keep trying, though.