Fake lawns yesterday, blue trees today! What is this gardening blog coming to! We saw these trees on the boardwalk along the Fraser River in New Westminster this fall. They brought up the same emotions the fake turf did. At first a moment of horror and then a slow appreciation of the intention behind it.
The cobalt blue trunks paired with the lemon colored leaves are reminiscent of our Peace Country skies and aspen branches in the fall. Read that description again and it kind of sounds like I am the fashion announcer chatting up the crowd while the trees waltz their way down the catwalk! In this case it is a boardwalk and the trees aren’t going anywhere. I wonder what they think of their blue trunks? Does it mess with the birds or the insects?
It certainly messes with the human eye. As we hurry about our lives we barely notice the trees that give us the very air we breathe. Paint a tree cobalt blue and, well, you stop to notice them don’t you? And that is precisely the intention behind The Blue Trees in New Westminster. The artist behind The Blue Trees is Konstantin Dimopoulos. He has painted trees blue in 14 cities across the globe because it is a colour not naturally found in nature and it is the colour we would all turn if we didn’t have trees.
As we rush about our daily life we take trees for granted. We all know they help provide the very air we breathe but in our rush to get to work, pick up groceries and tend to the zillion things on our to-do lists, they fall into the backdrop. We stop noticing them. We take them for granted. Paint them blue and no matter how stressed or harried, we will pause to stare. And if we notice the trees today, then maybe, just maybe, we will think about trees and their role on our planet tomorrow. If you want to learn more about this award winning art installation click here.
In the Peace our most common trees are aspen, willows, pine and spruce. Aspens are the most widely distributed tree species in North America. Which makes them the lungs of North America. We all notice their lemon drop foliage in the fall. Everyone has appreciated their smooth white bark with the black diamond etchings silted with lichen that we imagine as faces or other images. Sit outside on a summer evening and the sound of the leaves in the wind is our background music. Even if you think you never notice the sound, if someone recorded it and played it, you would smile and think of summer.
Here are 10 fascinating facts about the aspen..
1 – First Nation people used aspen leaves to treat burns, headaches and swollen joints. The bark was used for stomach ailments and urinary tract infections.
2 – In mythology the aspen’s leaves rustling in the wind were believed to relay messages from the other side. If they listened meditatively the aspen would sing to them the mysteries of life. The wood was thought to hold magical powers and weapons made from it could be used to kill werewolves and vampires.
3 – It is often quoted that the aspen tree is “born of disaster” in reference to how it is frequently the first tree to reclaim areas that have been wiped clean by fire, landslides or other such disasters.
4 – It has been argued that aspens hold the title to being “the largest living thing on earth”. This theory is based on the trees ability to grow vegetatively, running its roots across the surface of the ground sending up new shoots along the way. Anyone who has a lawn near a stand of aspen has witnessed the tenacity of these aspen shoots! The trees that grow from these shoots share the identical DNA of the parent tree and can cover enormous tracts of land. A grove of 47,000 aspens in Utah – all spawned from the same tree – are thought to be the largest living organism on the planet. At an estimated 80,000 years old, they are also thought to be the oldest stand of aspen in existence. The aspen is actually a short-lived tree with a life cycle of 60 – 200 or so years, but was able to keep regenerating in Utah because of the frequent lightening strikes and fires. The grove is named Pando.
5 – Aspen bark provides important food for rabbits, mice and other rodents, including the beaver who also likes to use the tree to build its dam.
6 – Products made from aspen include (somewhat ironically) matches, as well as fine paper for newsprint and books and animal bedding. It is also used to make OSB (oriented strand board) and lightweight lumber.
7 – Aspen can grow upwards of five feet (1.5m) a year and reach mature heights of 66 – 82 feet (20-25m) though of course this varies widely depending on soil, moisture and climate.
8 – The aspen is dioecious which means each tree contains both male and female organisms and is self-pollinating.
9 – The aspen is hardy from zone 1 – 8 and so can grow almost anywhere that has a cool climate but detests the heat. It is kind of the opposite of a snow bird.
10 – Bronze Leaf Disease has become prevalent in aspens over the last decade. This fungal attack usually starts showing itself in mid August with diseased leaves turning a reddish brown and often staying on the tree throughout the winter. Affected trees can die within three to five years. Industry, chemical drift from farming, climate change and drought have all been considered as contributing factors, but no one knows for sure. Whatever the underlying cause, there is no doubt that a stressed tree is a susceptible tree and anything we can do to keep our forests healthy is a no brainer.
Whatever grabs your attention, be it blue trunks or brown leaves, noticing our trees is a good thing. Caring for the ones we have and planting a few come spring is even better. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago. The second best time is now. Well, it’s -18 out there right now, so not right now, but soon. Spring will be here before you know it! So get out your favourite catalogue or log on to your favourite plant source site and let the tree choosing begin. And when you have chosen a tree or three, phone the local nurseries and see if they will be stocking it.