Exploding Trees

Many North American indigenous cultures referred to the first New Moon of the year as the Moon of the Cold Exploding Trees.

This is a phenomena that happens when the temperatures plunge so low the water in the sap freezes, expands and causes the trees to burst their bark.

It is not a silent process. People who have heard it liken the noise to gun fire.

Indeed, many a wilderness dweller has been catapulted out of bed on a frosty night, thinking they were under siege, only to realize they were surrounded by trees exploding in the cold winter night.

Nature is incredible, adaptable and resilient…to a point. Sort of like the people who live here. For months we stay surprisingly cheerful, shoveling our driveways, donning toques, gloves and all manner of winter gear before heading outdoors, dealing with cars that refuse to start, ice on the windshield, eyelashes freezing shut and ice. So much ice. We wave at neighbours, laugh at the cold and view the snow as frosting on our fabulous winterland cake of life.

And then one day we fall on the ice, or our scraper breaks while cleaning the windshield or we just get tired of being cold. Whatever the reason, our inside happiness temperature plunges and it just becomes a bit much. We lose our shit. We burst our bark.

Some people go south for a holiday and litter Facebook with photos of snorkelling, surfing and sunbathing. They send up pithy quotes to their northern friends such as, “We woke up to six inches of sand this morning.”

I click the like button, turn up the heat and brew a cup of tea and question the meaning of life. I get through the bark busting days by looking at seed catalogues, reading garden books and doing that magic thing that we gardeners do so well…looking out at our snow covered yard but seeing the potential beneath it instead. You could call it Mind Melting.

Today the thermometer reads -30 C while the weather report tells me it is -40 C with the windchill. It is a Mind Melting Bark Busting kind of a day.

None of our trees have exploded, thank goodness. At least not yet. It is incredible to think how they adapt and more incredible still, to know they are in a holding pattern. Despite the frigid temperatures and their lifeless appearance, they are just biding their time until they reignite in a froth of green buds and colourful blossoms in a beautiful circle of life.

What hope. What beauty. What a remarkable world we live in.




How Much Oxygen Does a Tree Produce? How Much Oxygen Do You Need?

A 20 inch diameter tree sucks up 157 pounds of carbon dioxide and then releases 115 pounds of oxygen back into the air every year.

The average human requires approximately 400 pounds of oxygen per year which means we need four trees for every human in order to more than meet our oxygen requirements.

Grow trees!




Five Fabulous Uses for Springtime Pussy Willows


Harbinger of Spring

When I lived in the country the first pussy willow sightings were greeted with an excitement that verged on crazed. We cheerfully fell in creeks and filled our boots with snow and melt water in our determination to snap off a few branches to bring home. Mason jars crammed with pussy willow branches graced the farm table and window sills until the furry gray capsules began sprouting messy yellow fuzz.


Bee Banquet

Bees are just the opposite. The first grey pussy willow buds are of little interest, but when they become fuzzed with yellow pollen they slam on their brakes and dance for joy. Word quickly spreads through the hive and soon swarms of bees arrive reveling and rolling in the pussy willow pollen. Other than dandelions, there are few early sources of pollen for hungry hives making pussy willows vital for the bees survival.


Pollination Attraction

If you like bringing a few branches of pussy willows indoors in the spring, instead of tossing them out when they sprout pollen, place them in a bucket of water and strategically set them in the garden to attract bees for pollination purposes. If they get used to coming to your garden for pollen they will return when the apple blossoms are ready. And then the tomatoes. And then the squash. You get the picture. No garden? Simply place the pussy willows on the back porch where you can enjoy watching bees enjoy a springtime snack. It’s a great nature project for children and adults alike.


Plant Starter

After the bud and pollen show are over and green leaves have sprung in their place, place the branches in a large bucket of water to steep and then use the water for starting young plants. Willow bark gives off a natural growth hormone that makes an excellent plant starter. It can also be used when transplanting annuals, perennials or even trees to get them off to a great start. Effective, organic and free! Sources suggest you steep the branches for four weeks before using on plants for best results.* see end of article for more details


Propagation Sensation

Willows are very tenacious. When branches are left in a bucket of water they will quickly sprout roots. Simply poke the branch with its newly hatched roots into the ground and water well. That’s it! In a couple of years you will have a whole new willow tree to harvest pussy willows from.

This is a great way to share your willow tree with friends or to propagate an outstanding willow tree that you might come across in the woods. Do so responsibly, of course.

I used to take daily walks down a narrow country road with willow filled ditches on both sides. Every spring there was one willow tree that stood out from the rest. While the others hatched pussy willows the size of a small finger tip, this one gave birth to grey buds the size of a quarter.

My parents lived on a farm four miles away. One spring I showed my mother the willow and she was gobsmacked. She wanted my father to bring his tractor, dig it up and plant it in her garden. “But that’s my spring willow,” I protested. “I look forward to walking past it every year. You can’t take it!”

She grudgingly relented and made do with cutting off a branch, placing it in water and then planting it when healthy roots emerged. To our amazement, the tree quickly filled a corner of her garden and years later, when they moved to town, another branch was cut and placed in her city garden. It too quickly filled a corner of the garden and provided years of enormous vase-worthy spring-time offerings.

As for the original willow, only two years after I talked my mother out of taking it, that narrow country road was widened and the willow was lost beneath the indifferent track of a D-8 Cat. Mom never missed an opportunity to show me her willow and remark, “Good thing I at least took a branch before it was gone for good.”

So if you see an amazing willow-especially one that is about to be demolished- you know what to do.

Think like a mother.

But you only need to take a branch.

*To make willow water plant starter you don’t have to wait for the branches to leaf out; any willow branches at any stage will do. Figure on about a cup’s worth of willow branches per gallon. Some people cut willow branches into pieces and pour boiling water over them to speed up the process, making a potent plant starter in as little as 24 hours.

Oak Trees Go Nuts in Their Fifties

For the first twenty years of an oak tree’s life they don’t produce a single acorn. Many oaks wait until they are around 50 before producing their first large crop.

White oaks will produce mature acorns in a single season, but black and red oaks produce acorns that take two full years to mature.

A 100-year old oak will produce over 2,000 acorns per season, but only one acorn in 10,000 will become a tree, which means it takes all the acorns from five massive oak trees to produce a single offspring.

What happens to the other 9,999 acorns?

Squirrels, birds, deer, bears, mice, raccoons, chipmunks and opossums are just a few of the more than 100 vertebrate species in North America that depend on acorns as part of their seasonal diet. In urban areas the acorns are often collected and tossed into compost bins or even landfills. Acorns that aren’t consumed or tossed don’t always receive the right conditions to germinate and end up simply rotting their way back into the earth. But when the right conditions occur, voila! Another magnificent oak tree is born.

Sprout of oak from an acorn.

The life expectancy of an oak tree varies hugely depending on conditions and species. They can live as little as 80 years or stick around for centuries. An ancient oak on the Pechange Reservation in California is estimated to be between 850 – 1,500 years old. The normal lifespan is usually falls somewhere between 200 – 400 years of age.

How Many Trees on Earth?

According to the most recent study, there are three trillion trees on earth – more than 420 trees for each person on the planet.

This number was reached by using both ground surveys and satellite data by a team from Yale University headed by Dr. Thomas Crowther. A previous estimate put the global tree count at 400 billion – which means we have about eight times more trees than previously thought.

Before we celebrate, Dr. Crowther is quoted as saying, “It’s not like we’ve discovered a load of new trees; it’s not like we’ve discovered a load of new carbon. So, it’s not good news for the world or bad news that we’ve produced this new number.”

It is thought that humans have already removed at least three trillion trees since the last ice age. We continue to deforest the planet at a rate of 15 billion trees a year, while replanting approximately 5 billion.

With 7.5 billion people on earth, we would each only need to plant 2 trees to more than balance out that equation.

little boy helping his father to plant the tree while working together in the garden. sunday. smiling face.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Greek Proverb

Poinsettias Galore

If you’re looking for a poinsettia Dunvegan Gardens in Fort St John has you covered! Though you might want to wait for  a warmer day to take one home. It’s -28 out there right now! Brrrr. On the other hand, it’s a great day to be in a greenhouse.


And no, in case you’re wondering, I don’t get anything from Dunvegan for writing this. The same can’t be said in reverse. Dunvegan gets a lot from me in the way of business, but often I just go out to browse and smell the roses so to speak. So I guess I do get something from them. On days when I am in a funk, a drive out to their gorgeous greenhouse always puts me in a better mood.

I was there a few weeks ago when they were decorating their Christmas trees (if you have never gone out there for Christmas you really are missing out) and I heard one of the workers tell a customer, “We have two seasons here, summer and Christmas.”

Of course, they’re open year round and there is always something beautiful to admire but for sure, summer and Christmas are when the place revs up into full, glorious gear.

Here’s a peek at just a few of their trees…


It’s on my bucket list to see a cardinal…this doesn’t exactly cross it off my list but now I can say I saw a few this winter. One day I am going to see a live one. And fireflies. Though probably not at the same time.


This tree is sort of decorated like the woodsy one we had for years.


And here’s one that goes with my new modern theme.


They even had a tree decorated like summer complete with a pansy inspired garland…their two seasons collide!


And whaaat? A shelf shaped like a giraffe. Very cute, but I think my bird shaped shelf is enough for one apartment.


And if poinsettias aren’t your thing they have quite a few Winterberry plants too. Though not as many.

Okay…enough eye candy and lollygagging about on the computer.