The storm left the garden with piles of branches. The worst mess happened to crash right on top of the Children’s Garden bed, which I care for. I had just put in some new woodland perennials and was hoping the snow that had done so much damage to the trees had provided a protective blanket for the young plants.
It turned out that the snow did its job on the ground for my plants and the spruce tree did its job above. Yes, there was a tree that withstood yesterday’s early heavy, wet snow, giving no complaint, and it makes so much sense. What trees suffered most in the storm? Those that hold onto their leaves late into the season. In and around the garden that meant the honey locusts, the Chinese scholar tree (Sophora japonica), and the devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa)—all weighed down by leaf-trapped snow. The spruce, on the other hand, with its evergreen needle-leaves and conical structure is built for snow. It blocked the branches from the nearby deciduous trees and sheltered plants and birds. The one branch I had to release sprang easily back into place.
I was sorry to see the damage to the crown of the Chinese scholar tree that had tossed so many of its branches into my garden bed. I remember when it was planted on the street side of the garden. I watered it in its early days and mulched it with compost from the garden. One of my compost volunteers, Ellis, had been volunteering elsewhere as a street-tree steward, and when she told me that her tree had been knocked down, I suggested she start taking care of this one. She threw herself into the project, babying the tree with a tree gaiter and regularly cleaning away litter. She even put up a little sign at the tree’s base, identifying it as a Chinese scholar tree and requesting neighbors to keep dogs out of the tree pit (a perpetual battle that she boldly took on). Ellis turned 80 during this time and suddenly lost confidence in her ability to care for the tree and the compost, to which she had also been devoted. She wrote me a long note explaining this. She couldn’t bear to come to the garden if she couldn’t take care of her tree.
The melancholy of downed trees was tempered by the sheer giddiness of the early snow, the cold, brilliantly blue-sky day, the exertion of clearing and pruning broken branches, and camaraderie. Two fellow gardeners met me at the garden and kept the job moving steadily. When we parted, I felt my feet take me toward Amy’s Bread. Ah.