If you love trees, this has been a year of heartbreak.
Not only did we lose the top of the nation's oldest Sitka Spruce - that grand old matron on Highway 26 who started life about the time King John of England was signing the Magna Carta in 1215 - but on our own Peninsula, thousands of trees are down.
In our session on trees at the Eye of the Storm, Lori Buckwalter, president of the Sunset Sands Home Owners Association, said, "80% of our home owners have trees down on some structure or another."
I know that many of us see trees as a crop, as one ingredient in the economic machine called the Pacific Northwest. Some see trees as a liability when they come down over power lines or crush a neighbor's shed. Others of us see trees, or rather forests, as part of the heritage, beauty and culture of where we live.
Trees give a place life, freshness, and adventure; and, of course, they provide a place to live for our wild neighbors.
But I feel a little like a possum in the daylight - I can't find my way around anymore. I still sometimes miss the turn at Pioneer with those big trees in an inert heap. And late one night last week, I completely missed my left turn off Sandridge at 227th. I went back the next morning to take a look - yup, acres of trees slashed.
So, we know trees are controversial, something that would probably be inscrutable to trees themselves could they speak.
At any rate, with so many trees down after the Big Blow, Eye of the Storm-Troopers spent some time talking about the issue. As promised, Kathleen Sayce, Bank Scientist for ShoreBank Pacific, offers some advice:
"Living with trees is a little like living with elephants: both are darling when young, impressive in maturity, and at times awesomely dangerous. Sometimes it takes an event like the December storm to remind us trees can also die unexpectedly. Trees need management throughout their lives when they grow next to homes. Planting a tree is committing to multigenerational management, which is to say the sapling you plant today may be a problem for your children and grandchildren.
The following is a summary some of the "right tree in the right place with the right care" wisdom from knowledgeable plant people in our community, so that you can plant new trees that will do well. Note that many people have strong likes and dislikes based on personal experience. The following list includes several trees I would never plant in my yard, but they might be just right for someone else.
The most successful trees to plant are disease and insect resistant; grow slowly over most of their lives; do not have toxic seeds or leaves; do not break off branches in most storms; may provide showy leaves, flowers or fruit some time during the year; and tolerate winter wet and summer drought. No one tree perfectly meets all these criteria, but many come close.
Basic care considerations: Don't let ivy grow into trees; ivy slowly kills trees, impairing growth and adding to the canopy area; ivy-swathed trees may tip over due to windthrow, or die under vines. Pay attention to microclimate. If you live on a dune, don't plant trees that like wet feet; if you live in wetlands, don't plant trees that like dry feet. If your neighbor cuts down trees on his property, your microclimate will change. Adjust your plantings accordingly. A good article about dangerous trees ran just a few weeks ago; know the danger signs, especially with large trees, and remove trees when needed. Don't plant trees and ignore them; they need management throughout their lives. Fall is a good planting time for trees; you'll water less the next summer, and plants establish and begin growing more easily when fall-planted. Supplement local soils with compost, nutrients and mulch for improved tree health.
Many of the trees that came down during the December storm were native. There's nothing wrong with our native trees. The problem is that most grow very rapidly to quite large sizes; additionally, some of them don't live very long. This means, in terms of managing big elephants in small yards, that they quickly reach impressive sizes, and may die earlier than expected. If you have space for them, our native trees are great. "
Native trees that do well in coastal yards:
Noble fir, Abies procera, shapely when young; amend soil. Grand fir, Abies grandis, shapely when young; amend soil. Western red cedar, Hogan cedar, green giant cedar, Thuja plicata, two varieties - green giant and Hogan - are slower growing than species, make good yard and screening trees.
Fast growing evergreens trees for hedges, windbreaks and screens (may need regular pruning; some might not look as good after 10-15 years):
Cherry laurel, Prunus lauroceras, needs regular pruning to keep tidy. Low-growing cherry laurel, Prunus lauroceras 'Otto Luyken,' slower growing variety, to about 6 feet tall. Leyland cypress, Cupressocyparis leylandii, green-foliaged varieties do best; blue-green and gold foliages look shabby 15-20 years out. Pacific wax myrtle, Myrica californica, shrub to small tree, tolerates pruning; birds like berries; native. Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, eventually huge, space widely; good where large windbreaks are needed with ample room.
Slower growing evergreen trees:
Alaska cedar, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, graceful fine drooping foliage. Deodar cedar, Cedrus deodara, graceful foliage. Norway spruce, Picea abies, very symmetrical when young. Sugi, Cryptomeria japonica, brittle, flags in winter (foliage turns red in wind, cold, salt); clusters of round cones. Mugo pine, Pinus mugo, low, not more than 8 feet tall. Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, blue-green foliage, orangey bark. Japanese black pine, Pinus thurnbergii, very attractive shape; showy young shoots (white) against dark foliage. Austrian pine, Pinus nigra, very shapely when young. Giant sequoia, Sequioiadendron giganteum, flags in winter, slow growing on dry sites, faster on wet, eventually very large. Coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, flags in winter, slow growing on dry sites, faster on wet, eventually very large. Yew, Taxus baccata, several varieties; also used for hedges. English holly, Ilex aquilifolium, spiny leaves are annoying; several foliage colors.
Slower growing deciduous trees, all have fall color in leaves:
White-barked Himalayan birch, Betula jacquemontii, showy white bark; many birches do well here, bark colors vary. Hawthorn, Crategus spp., fragrant flowers; fruits. Mountain ash, Sorbus spp., white flowers, red berries. Red maple, Acer rubrum, many varieties. Norway maple, Acer platanoides, many varieties. Flowering pear, Pyrus spp., look for disease-resistance, range of forms. Flowering plum, Prunus spp., look for disease-resistance. Flowering cherry, Prunus spp., look for disease-resistance. Pin oak, Quercus palustris, sturdy, slow growing.
In other Eye of the Storm news, we just got word from John Patterson, Mr. Solar, that the Solar Expo in Portland is on during the proposed date of our Peninsula "Local Solar Power" workshop, April 19. But our session is still on - we'll host Anthony Stoppiello and Jim Dolan for a half-day of solar exploration. Don't miss it!