Subscribe via Email

If you're not receiving email notifications of new posts, subscribe by entering your email...

Choose Plantings for Your Favorite View

Section of the view from my dining room, hydrangeas, roses and lilac

Section of the view from my dining room, hydrangeas, roses and lilac

Do you have a favorite chair? Is it near a window? Does your dining table sit near a window? Do you enjoy the view from your window?

Oddly, our new house in Greenfield does not have many windows that look out at the garden. Only one upstairs window (in my office) gives a view of the back yard. The kitchen window is too high to see much of anything except the most westerly area of the garden. Fortunately there is the dining room window which looks out onto a section of the South Border, which will ultimately be the most floriferous view.

Last week my husband and I were having dinner and admiring the view of newly blooming roses, I was so happy to have this joyful view. Then I realized that the view from a window is not usually a part of garden planning or design. Yet a view that will please, whether flowery or serene green, can give us hours of pleasure.

I am looking forward to enjoying a better view of my garden. We are about to embark on a kitchen renovation which will not only give me a kitchen where I can cook and bake more easily and efficiently, it will also give me new windows that will allow a fuller view of the garden. The windows will also help define and frame an area I might want to concentrate on as I plan new plantings. They will give me another chance to create a beautiful view from inside the house.

When planning a vignette, a limited view of a small space, you have the advantage that accrues to a small space. You can plant something special that might be quite expensive, but can also be the star of this relatively small space. I’m already thinking about an intersectional peony like Bartzella.  Intersectional or Itoh peonies are hybrids of herbaceous and tree peonies. An Itoh peony would be ideal because it would have strong stems that keep the flower heads high and don’t get beaten down in the rain like herbaceous peonies. In addition, because of because its primary and secondary buds, it has a long bloom season.

If flowers are what you long for, but no longer feel up to a whole garden full of demanding flowers, it is still possible to create a flowery view. You might consider an annual bed. Just a few flats of starts will give you a riot of color. I can imagine tall annuals with gentle colors like sweet peas, cleome or cosmos or the brilliant colors of zinnias. These can be fronted with low growing annuals in companionable colors like blue Felicia daisies, pale marguerite daisies, osteospurmums (another daisy-like plant) in shades of pink, purple, blue or white, and salvias.

An annual bed might also be an experimental bed, an opportunity to try out different flowers, colors and flower forms. Starting this kind of bed will not be costly, and will not chain you to a choice, because all the frost-bitten plants will end up in the compost pile at season’s end. Just remember this is an experiment so be sure to keep a few notes so you can repeat the flowers you like next year.

A different way to have flowers in your view is to plan a perennial selection that will give you one or two flowers for each season. For example you could begin with daffodils, then have astilbe, achillea and daylilies. Dahlias have a long season of bloom, especially if you keep cutting them for bouquets. The more you cut, the longer the season and the greater the bloom. Some smaller dahlias will begin blooming in midsummer but you can have dahlias with all their shades of color and form until the first heavy frost. One autumnal choice that surprised me was the Japanese anemone that blooms into the fall. And of course, there are asters and mums, which also have many colors and flower forms.

You could plant for the birds. Perhaps you could have a small tree like a dwarf crabapple near the window along with a bird feeder and a birdbath. An expert birdwatcher once told me that the sound of water is the best way of attracting birds. The tree branches and foliage would give the birds protection and shelter if they became alarmed. My eyesight is such that I really need to be able to get pretty close to birds if I am going to learn to identify them.

In my new garden I am concentrating on having more green than color. Green is not a single color and a green view could include bright shades like golden threadleaf chamaesyparis contrasting with dark green mugo pine. Perennials like hostas are available in dozens of shades of green from brilliant chartreuse to dark green, to blue-green. Variegated hostas will also provide a symphony of greens brightened with shades of white.

Garden art on Hawley Tour

Garden art on Hawley Tour

Another view could be a piece of art set against shrubs and flowers. I’ve never managed this, but I did get to the point in Heath where I demanded neatness of the view of the backyard. Wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, buckets of weeds, all were forbidden to mar the view of pink, white and green kiwi foliage rambling high on the shed wall above the roses. Serenity was what I wanted with my first cup of coffee in the morning.

So, what view do you have that pleases you? Flowers?  Greenery? Statuary?

What view would you like to have? When will you get it?  If not now, when?

Between the Rows  June 25, 2016

 

Garden Planning IV – Review and Renew

 

Redvein Enkianthus

            Before I end my discussion about garden planning, I want to add a few words about the view from the house, or more specifically, the view from a window.

            We spend time in the garden working, and time socializing in the garden, but we can also enjoy the garden when we are inside the house. Do you have a kitchen or dining table by a window that looks into the garden? When you look up from your newspaper or book, do you look across the room from your reading chair and out a window?

            Our dining table is right by a large window looking out at the Lawn Beds, and across the lawn to an ancient apple tree. The field beyond that is bordered by trees with hills in the far distance. This is an expansive view of the garden and the landscape beyond. A more intimate view is from my reading chair back towards the tractor shed which is hung with the lovely white, green and pink foliage of a hardy kiwi vine, fronted with several pink rose bushes, and an edging of annual blue salvia. It is such a pleasure to look that this Shed Bed garden, that as disorderly as I often am, I try to keep this area neat.

            What would you like to look at from your reading chair, or from your table? Flowers? Birds flitting and settling on a feeder? A burbling fountain set beneath a flowering tree? I have been told that the sound of water will attract birds to the garden even more surely than a well stocked feeder.

            What kind of garden tableau would please you? It only takes a little planning to create a view that will give you immense pleasure.           

           I hope I have not led anyone to believe that garden planning is ever done once and for all time. When a garden plan is implemented unforeseen obstacles may arise, as may unforeseen opportunities. We must never let a beautiful plan get in the way of a beautiful result. A plan must always be flexible.

        Even after a garden plan is beautifully in place, enjoyed by the gardener, and admired by visitors, time will bring change and alterations will be required. We all know this, or come to know it after only two or three years of a gardening career. I remember a time after I planted my first perennials under the late Elsa Bakalar’s tutelage, when she came to visit and looked at the garden. She suggested, gently, that it was time to divide the yarrow and bee balm.

         “What?” I couldn’t believe it. I thought the whole point of perennials was you put them in place, cared for them and they were perennially there, no more thought or work required. It was a simple lesson, and is relearned when plants need to be divided because the clump gets too big, or when a plant grows taller, wider or more vigorously than expected or planned, or when you realize that a particular plant like plume poppy has spread itself all through the garden.

Plume poppies, Macleaya cordata, which is not really a poppy at all, looked beautiful in my garden. Plume poppies are tall, up to eight feet, with large slivery blue scalloped leaves, and plumey blossoms. They increase by sending out new rhizomes. They are stunning, but to say they grow vigorously is an understatement. That kind of growth was not part of my plan, and I ripped them out. Gardening Goes Wild takes a different view of the plume poppy.

Redvein Enkianthus – nevermore

This past fall I cut a redvein Enkianthus shrub down to little nubbins. Years ago I planted this shrub in the middle of the North Lawn Bed because it was described as growing gracefully tall, producing little bell-like flowers in June, and good fall color. It is disease and pest resistant, not fussy about soil, or dry weather. It sounds like a wonderful plant, and in many ways it is.

When I chose Enkianthus I somehow did not take in the fact that it was a very slow grower. That was my mistake. And I found the little bell-like flowers very small indeed. Both of those disappointments would not have mattered if it took the graceful form promised – layered branches spreading out three or four feet from the center of the plant. Mine grew into a widening dense column, with no grace at all.

            I made another mistake. I did not take into consideration the growth of the other plants around it, the ginkgo trees, the weeping hemlock, also very slow growing, and the fast growing low junipers. The whole area was too crowded, something had to go; I chose the Enkianthus. Now there is breathing room.

            Calculating how big and how fast plants will grow is not always easy. We can research a plant, read the nursery label and make our best judgment, but we will not always be right. Then something has to go. Sometimes we will simply not like a plant after we have seen it in our garden, and sometimes a plant will not like our garden, dying a miserable death. Either way, the plant leaves the garden, and we have to come up with a new choice, if not a new plan.

            Garden planning is never done. How can it be? Time brings change to our garden, we are always learning about new plants, and visiting inspiring gardens. Keep planning. Keep gardening.

Between the Rows   January 25, 2014

Walking in the Woods Towards a Christmas Wreath

Storm damage in the woods

On Saturday my husband and I walked up what we call The Lane, the remnants of the old road that once led all the way to the next town of Rowe. We walked up the hill between two fields and into the woods.  We have done some logging in the woods, but when we walk there these days the extensive number of trees and limbs that have been toppled and broken are due to the big ice storm in December of 2008, then Hurricane Irene that did  devasting damage throughout the county in 2011 and the recent Sandy storm this past October. It is amazing to think that we have had these three severe storms in less than five years, when we had nothing like them in the previous 25 years.

We picked our way through the fallen branches to a large plantation of princess pine. We carefully clipped off a few dozen plants without disturbing the roots so  this planting could continue to grow.  We also collected branches from the white pine trees that have begun encroaching on our northern field, and a single very large red pine in the same field. We were collecting these branches to make Christmas wreaths. I was all inspired to make more Christmas wreaths after my lesson at Chapleys with the Greenfield Garden Club.

I made a final small harvest of greens from the Lawn Bed. The fountain juniper, Goldthread chamaecyparis,  and even the holly bush gave up a few of their branches for wreaths. I spent esterday afternoon on the piazza enjoying the mild weather while I wired the greens onto forms. I’m not done yet, but I think I’ve made a good start on my Christmas wreaths. Ornaments and ribbon to come.

Homemade Christmas wreaths and me

 

Garden Ornaments, Fairy Houses and Hypertufa

Garden ornaments

Garden ornaments were everywhere at the New England Grows trade show in Boston this past weekend. Concrete and ceramic Buddhas, saints, rabbits, wooden trellises and rain chains . These containers reminded me of the hypertufa workshop that the Bridge of Flowers will be scheduling in April. I want to make a garden trough for alpines. Or succulents.

Miniature conifers

As I wandered around I saw this display of miniature and dwarf conifers – suitable for Fairy Houses. I only know about the Fairy Houses that children make out of bark, pebbles, moss and other natural bits and pieces but I doubt that they are in the market for miniature plants.

Fairy Garden landscape

I didn’t have to go far before I found this booth selling small items to outfit a fairy landscape and house.

Fairy Garden

It became clear to me that adults want fairy houses and fairy gardens as much as young children. We all want magic; some of us find it in the hidden places of our gardens – even if they are not  as well furnished as these. What kinds of ornaments do you have in your garden?

Ice and Snow and Fog – January

Cottage Ornee

The view from my bedroom window on January 27, 2012.

White Birch and Green Conifers

Ice is heavy.

Iced branches

And to think I was planning to collect forsythia branches to force today.

Yellow Birch

View from the Welcoming Platform. I have photographed this tree in every season and every weather. It is always beautiful.

Snowy stream 1-25-12

Temperatures hover at 32 degrees and the stream keeps flowing.

Foliage Follow Up – January 2012

Orchid cactus

I rarely participate in Foliage Follow-up, but Pam Penick at Digging has prompted me to take a good look at the foliage around me at this time of the year.

I have owned this orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) for a number of years. I pay almost no attention to it which is shameful, because it would bloom regularly and magnificently if I did. You can see I don’t even give it the pedestal it deserves. For the past year it has lived in a bright rarely heated guest room where it seems happy even if it doesn’t bloom.

I am making a new year’s resolution to prune it back and repot it in the spring.  I think I will go upstairs and prune it this very morning.

I do have other succulents. Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus which are among the easiest plants to grow.  They even tell you when they need watering. Before any serious damage is done to the plant the succulent ‘leaves’ will begin to shrivel slightly and feel limp. It just takes regular watering to bring it back into fine fettle.

Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii

This particular Christmas cactus lives in my bedroom, right next to a plump jade tree.

Jade tree, Cassula ovata

This jade tree is over 20 years old. My daughter cared for it during the two separate years we were living in China. She is as reluctant to prune as I am, and it grew so much more heavily on one side that the plant was leaning so dangerously that she propped up the stem with a small flower pot.  I finally did prune it  so that it was not only more attractive, but safer in its pot. Then a couple of years ago I left it right next to a north window in our unheated Great Room for the winter and I thought I had killed it for sure. It never got watered and became shrivelled and frozen, but I resurrected it in the spring when I gave it a radical pruning and watered it on a regular schedule. The leaves are now fat and healthy, if a bit dusty.

This citrus scented geranium is another plant I have had for several years. Still full of life, but another plant that is in serious need of pruning and repotting. Next month. I promise. I will also be able to take cuttings and start raising another generation.

Scented geranium roseScented geranium foliage takes many different forms. Check the online catalogs like Hobbs Farm and Logee’s Greenhouse to see the full range. Scented geraniums do produce small flowers, but it is the scented foliage that is the appeal.

Prostrate rosemary

This prostrate rosemary did beautifully in its pot out on the entry walk all summer where it is hot and sunny. I brought it in and put in in the south window of the unheated Great Room which did go down below freezing yesterday, but it still looks fine. Unlike my upright rosemary which got nipped by cold in the Great Room earlier in the season and which I am trying to revive in a warmer, but still cool, room.

This is what foliage looks like outdoors this morning. I am glad for the snow cover before temperatures plummeted. Four degrees above zero this morning.

Pam, thank you so much for Foliage Follow-Up.

 

Christmas Extended – For the Birds

Pine cones, peanut butter, birdseed and ribbon

Christmas celebrations end for us on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. The wise men have finally arrived, the last gifts have been given and the party is over. But maybe not quite. When I take the Christmas tree down, I put it outside and decorate it for the birds. The ornaments are simple, but tasty, peanut butter smeared into pine cones and then rolled in bird seed.  A tie can be ribbon, yarn or twine, no matter.

Suet for the birds

I use an mesh onion bag to hold a piece of suet. Birds really appreciate suet to help them keep warm, although temperatures yesterday were again over freezing.

Suet and pine cone bird feeders

I tie these ornaments on my Christmas tree which is propped up by the brush burn pile. So far I have only seen bluejays taking advantage, but maybe that’s because blue jays are about the only bird I can identify. Except for robins.

 

Our Christmas Trees

Christmas tree 2011

Many family Christmas memories revolve around the Christmas tree. These stories rarely have to do with the magnificence of the tree. In fact, Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree may be our culture’s most famous Christmas tree, standing for the true meaning of the season.

We have many family stories about our Christmas trees beginning with our first Christmas in Greenfield in 1971.  I was a single mother of five children when I came to town. Our life had changed and so had many of the family routines and rituals.

As a gift, a new friend invited me and the children out to the Heath wilderness (as yet totally unknown to us) for a picturesque outing to cut down our own tree. There had been snow and frigid weather, but that afternoon was relatively warm and sunny, a perfect day for a holiday outing.  The boys had disappeared, but the three girls aged 7, 9, and 10, and I set off with our friend caroling and laughing.

We got to Heath and started trekking through the woods. Unfortunately, though our friend was kind, he didn’t know much about Christmas trees, or even about the woodlot he drove us to. We found nothing resembling our fantasy Christmas tree. Even worse, the sun had softened the snow crust and the going was hard.  Kathy, at 7, was floundering and falling in the deep snow. Everyone was getting colder and wetter as the sun hid itself.  I decided that the next tree we saw would be the perfect tree. No arguments allowed. We cut it down, dragged it out to the road, and lashed it to the car. The car heater conked out and we were exhausted. There were no carols or happy chatter on the way home.

Happily, Henry, the man I had recently met and  would eventually marry, met us at the door. While I got the girls into hot baths and their warm nighties, Henry set up the tree. The trunk was crooked and it took lots of  guy wiring to hold it stable. The sparse branches started to drop their needles almost immediately and my two sons just hooted in derision when they finally made their appearance.

I said the tree gave us lots of scope for ornaments. Unfortunately, somehow, in the move from Connecticut, all the Christmas ornaments disappeared, including all those my children had made in school over the years. There was no money for a treeful of ornaments, so we all sat around the table to make lots of big construction paper decorations, some of which still go on the tree every year.

That was our first Christmas tree with Henry. In 1975 we moved to New York City to live in his ancestral apartment. One year there we had a magical tree. A friend came in with presents and an angel he had made for the tree top. He gave it a casual toss across the room – and it landed gently, and perfectly, just where it should.

After four years in the city we moved to Heath.  The boys were out on their own so only the three girls made the move with us the day after Thanksgiving.

This time it was easy to cut down our own tree. It was growing right in front of the kitchen window, blocking the light and the view. It was big and beautiful and shapely. It was also a blue spruce, with stiff branches and the prickliest needles. It nearly killed us to get it cut down and into the house, fighting us every inch of the way.

From our elderly neighbor Mabel Vreeland we learned about snowbelts, and over time we planted a triple row of evergreens, tiny seedlings, purchased from the Conservation Service, along our road.  Our plan was to over -plant so that we could thin the snowbreak by taking out a Christmas tree every year. And that is what we have done. No longer do we trek through unfamiliar woods, but just down over our field. We don’t pay much attention to the snowbelt and sometimes the trees are small, sometimes tall, sometimes quite odd, but we can always say we planted them and grew them ourselves.

This year we have what I think of as a dancing tree. The trunk twists first one way and then the other. The branches go up on one side and down on the other.  If it were a Jules Feiffer cartoon character it would be dancing an ode to the solstice. There is lots of scope for ornaments.

No matter what the Christmas tree looks like – and when we spent a year in Beijing it was a potted osmanthus decorated with shiny ribbon and a handful of sequined ornaments – to me the evergreen tree (even the osmanthus) is the place where we gather with beloved family and friends to celebrate the generosity of the season.  And I don’t refer to all the shopping at the mall, but to the thought and kindnesses that we render each other throughout the season, the care we take of others when we make donations to the Food Bank or Warm the Children, and the prayers we utter for peace on earth, good will toward men.

Between the Rows   December 24, 2011

Trees in my Landscape

As I look out my window today the ground is a tapestry of beige, green and white. The meadow grasses have died back, but the lawn is a brilliant green because it has loved this long cool, but not frozen, autumn and there are still patches, large and small, of the snow that keeps tantalizing us. Winter may be coming, but it is shy this year, stepping out and then retreating.

The winter garden can be a challenge for gardeners, but today I am looking at the trees in my landscape. Two are particularly important to me. Right next to the Cottage Ornee is an ancient apple tree. Even when we first moved here over the 30 years ago, the tree had been damaged. The main trunk had begun to rot and to hollow out. By the time we had young grandsons there was enough room to allow them to slide down the interior of the trunk from the tree house to the ground. I want you to know we did not encourage this pasttime, but their mischief did not seem to damage the tree.

Over the years it has lost two great sections to ice. Again and again we thought irreparable damage was being done, but the apple tree carries on, blooming every spring, dropping immature fruit on the metal roof of the Cottage all summer and giving me enough apples for applesauce every fall. In the winter it is a veritable sculpture.

The other tree stands alone in a field to the west of the house. This is an old yellow birch, with a graceful spreading shape. This tree is noble  in every season and every weather. I have taken hundreds of photos of it veiled with the earliest spring green, throwing deep shade in summer, nearly hidden in autumnal mists, and a crystal vision, encased in winter’s ice and frost.

October 18, 2011

We have planted trees for our daughters and grandchildren. For the girls we chose lindens (Tilia cordata) but they have not faired well. Only our daughter Diane’s linden, and her daughter Caitlin’s remain, both have suffered greatly, but so far these two are surviving. I enjoy lime flower tea which is actually made of linden flowers. Every winter I promise myself I will harvest the small fragrant linden flowers but so far I have not done so. Next spring I am sure I will absolutely pay attention to bloom and harvest time.

We planted gingko trees in the Lawn Beds for our five grandsons, in their honor, but also in memory of our China sojourns. One of the five trees did not last long, but the other four have done well over the past 13 years. The boys are growing tall, but not as tall as their trees. Those trees do remind us of how quickly time passes, and how brief is childhood.

People always ask me about the foul smelling fruit ginkgos produce. We have not had to worry about this, and probably never will. First you need to have male and female ginkgos; at the moment we do not know the sex of our trees. In addition, the female trees do not bloom or produce fruit until they are mature, which we think will be sometime after our time on this earth.

Recently I wrote about the Harvard Forest. Since then I have been paying more attention to my own woodland. At the edge of our west field is a white pine woods. I knew that the pines had crept east into a southern slope that is not really visible from the house, but all of a sudden I realize that the pines are also creeping east and north. Soon I will have an ever larger ‘old field white pine’ forest.

After getting snowed in a couple of times during our early days at the end of the road we took the advice of our elderly neighbor Mabel Vreeland and planted a snowbreak along the road. The oldest of those trees, mostly white pine, but with a few Scotch pine and balsams, are now over 25 years old. We admire them from our dining table window, and give thanks for them all winter long. The road crew appreciates them too. No longer do winters snows drift six feet deep over the road.

We purposely over planted so that we would be able to take out our Christmas tree every year. This has resulted in some Charlie Brown Christmas trees, but we think ours all have an inner beauty, even if it is not apparent to others.

I think trees are an important part of our domestic landscape. They can offer shelter and food for birds, cooling shade for our house in summer, and protection from the wind in winter. It just takes a little planning.

What about the trees in your landscape? Do you have a grove? A ribbon of trees between your and your neighbor? Do you have a magnificent specimen? Do your trees carry you back in memory, and into thoughts of a hopeful future?

Will you plant a special tree in 2012? Many trees grow faster than you think, but don’t put off planting your tree. Plant memories and hope this year.

Between the Rows   December 17, 2011

 

Our Christmas Tree History

One view of our 2011 Christmas tree

We have had many different kinds of Christmas trees over the years. Below is a column I wrote in 2005 that chronicles our history in Christmas trees.

Many family Christmas memories revolve around the Christmas tree. These stories rarely have to do with the magnificence of the tree. In fact, Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree may be our culture’s most famous Christmas tree, standing for the true meaning of the season.

We have many family stories about our Christmas trees beginning with our first Christmas in Greenfield in 1971.  I was a single mother of five children when I came to town. Our life had changed and so had many of the family routines and rituals.

As a gift, a new friend invited me and the children out to the Heath wilderness (as yet totally unknown to us) for a picturesque outing to cut down our own tree. There had been snow and frigid weather, but that afternoon was relatively warm and sunny, a perfect day for a holiday outing.  The boys had disappeared, but the three girls aged 7, 9, and 10, and I set off with our friend caroling and laughing.

We got to Heath and started trekking through the woods. Unfortunately, though our friend was kind, he didn’t know much about Christmas trees, or even about the woodlot he drove us to. We found nothing resembling our fantasy Christmas tree. Even worse, the sun had softened the snow crust and the going was hard.  Kathy, at 7, was floundering and falling in the deep snow. Everyone was getting colder and wetter as the sun hid itself.  I decided that the next tree we saw would be the perfect tree. No arguments allowed. We cut it down, dragged it out to the road, and lashed it to the car. The car heater conked out and we were exhausted. There were no carols or happy chatter on the way home.

Happily, Henry, the man I had recently met and  would eventually marry, met us at the door. While I got the girls into hot baths and their warm nighties, Henry set up the tree. The trunk was crooked and it took lots of  guy wiring to hold it stable. The sparse branches started to drop their needles almost immediately and my two sons just hooted in derision when they finally made their appearance.

I said the tree gave us lots of scope for ornaments. Unfortunately, somehow, in the move from Connecticut, all the Christmas ornaments disappeared, including all those my children had made in school over the years. There was no money for a treeful of ornaments, so we all sat around the table to make lots of big construction paper decorations, some of which still go on the tree every year.

Better angled view of this year's tree

That was our first Christmas tree with Henry. In 1975 we moved to New York City to live in his ancestral apartment. One year there we had a magical tree. A friend came in with presents and an angel he had made for the tree top. He gave it a casual toss across the room – and it landed gently, and perfectly, just where it should.

After four years in the city we moved to Heath.  The boys were out on their own so only the three girls made the move with us the day after Thanksgiving.

This time it was easy to cut down our own tree. It was growing right in front of the kitchen window, blocking the light and the view. It was big and beautiful and shapely. It was also a blue spruce, with stiff branches and the prickliest needles. It nearly killed us to get it cut down and into the house, fighting us every inch of the way.

From our elderly neighbor Mabel Vreeland we learned about snowbelts, and over time we planted a triple row of evergreens, tiny seedlings, purchased from the Conservation Service, along our road.  Our plan was to over -plant so that we could thin the snowbreak by taking out a Christmas tree every year. And that is what we have done. No longer do we trek through unfamiliar woods, but just down over our field. We don’t pay much attention to the snowbelt and sometimes the trees are small, sometimes tall, sometimes quite odd, but we can always say we planted them and grew them ourselves.

This year we have what I think of as a dancing tree. The trunk twists first one way and then the other. The branches go up on one side and down on the other.  If it were a Jules Feiffer cartoon character it would be dancing an ode to the solstice. There is lots of scope for ornaments.

No matter what the Christmas tree looks like – and when we spent a year in Beijing it was a potted osmanthus decorated with shiny ribbon and a handful of sequined ornaments – to me the evergreen tree (even the osmanthus) is the place where we gather with beloved family and friends to celebrate the generosity of the season.  And I don’t refer to all the shopping at the mall, but to the thought and kindnesses that we render each other throughout the season, the care we take of others when we make donations to the Food Bank or Warm the Children, and the prayers we send for peace on earth good will toward men.

This year's tree with an ornamented history of our family

Between the Rows – December 2005