May 29, 2005

Planting and killing trees

I planted a tree this week, the first one in years. It's not that I don't know how: my parents started me young on landscaping grunt work. Or give me a hoedad and a burlap bag of bare-root seedlings, and I know what to do. But here in the forested foothills, my usual job is to be "mechanical fire"--thinning and pruning the pines, junipers, and Gambel oaks so that a forest fire does not do the job all in one hot and windy afternoon.

It was a little hackberry from Blossoms, a nursery in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. M. has been agitating to try more berry species that can can survive our violent springs.

I grew up thinking of hackberries as good drought-resistant shelter-belt trees, with the berries a bonus for the birds. But they are edible, in the sense that chokecherries (which grow here already) are.

The Eastern forests, meanwhile, lost a huge source of timber and of food for wildlife when the American chestnuts died, but the American Chestnut Foundation thinks it has turned the corner on bringing them back.

Likewise, things are looking better for American elms.

And speaking of elms, here is a poignant story about a gardener and her tree.

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