Archives for February 2014

Winter Blooms

On a recent walk, friends and I saw several winter-blooming shrubs which we thought we knew, but which, it turns out we only sort of knew. A few days later, the most unknown of these plants appeared the Saturday in Homes and Gardens as the Chinese Paper Bush. If you don’t still have the Saturday homes and Gardens section, here is its address in the internet at Oregon Live. Chinese Garden in Winter

Chinese Paper Bush

Chinese Paper Bush

Chinese Paper Bush

Chinese Paper Bush

 

 

 
Photos from The Oregonian

 

According to the internet, Chinese Paper Bush is also called Yellow Daphne and also Edgeworthia. Here it is in the Portland Nursery website: Portland Nursery: Chinese Paper Bush

 

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

After discovering the Chinese Paper Bush, I explored neighbor gardens and found very different winter flowers. Witch Hazel (which comes in several flower colors), and  Winter Hazel (lovely tubular flowers in a soft yellow-green) are some others you may want in your garden. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) can be found at Portland Nursery. I have also seen yellow and orange versions of this plant in neighbor yards. Portland Nursery: Witch Hazel

 

 

 

And here is Winter Hazel which has wonderful contrast between the flower color and the chocolate stamens. Winter Hazel can also be found at Portland Nursery. Portland Nursery:Winter Hazel

Winter Hazel

Winter Hazel

 

 

So now we can keep these winter bloomers straight – maybe. And if we find a space for one or more of them, they will give us joy in late winter, even before the crocus are up.

Hunting Trees

Hunting Trees

Bear & Deer

Bear & Deer

Two and four year olds work hard to hike over tree farm land, but they get to see bugs. They get to run around pretending to be bear and deer. They get to pet the trees and the wild grasses.

Ben at tree farm 2013

Learning to Saw

And this year, our ten year old got to use the saw. That’s my saw and pruner tool-belt he is wearing. And his sawing tutor is with him.

This December, as in most years, our family went Christmas tree hunting on our tree farm. Hunting is the exact word in our situation. We have to scout to find a tree that might be suitable.

Walking over such uneven ground is not easy for short legs. It is a lot of work for adult legs on a tree farm where some of the unevenness is old tree branches and the sleeping hollows used by wild animals. One of our tree farm animals is a burrow-builder. His tunnels cave in under-foot. The hike is not at all a groomed trail in a national park.

We hike over hill and dale and are happy to find a tree which may have five natural leaders or a tree that leans to one side, but not too much. We rarely find symmetry. Some trees have three-foot leaders that would bend under the weight of a paper angel. We’re glad to see them gain that much height in a year. How else are they going to get above the browsing animals?

mountain_beaver-9243

Mountain Beaver

Hidden among our lumber trees, we plant special Christmas trees each year – just enough to give each household in the family a tree as each year’s planting comes of age. That means, we plant five times as many Christmas trees as we’ll need, expecting that we’ll lose some to the predations of deer, elk and the little varmint known as mountain beaver.

Mountain beaver, Aplodontia rufa, are not tail slappers with ponds and large dental frontages.

They are little chipmunky sized vegetarians who love tasty tree bark. No bark equals tree death. At least the deer and elk leave most of a tree as they nip away.

grand_fir2

Grand Fir

Grand fir is the number one pick of the family. Douglas fir, a close second, is wonderfully bushy and full of character by age twelve, but it loses its needles sooner indoors. Noble fir grows better at higher elevations, and doesn’t have enough branches to hold all the child-made ornaments we collect. Grand fir stays dark green and glossy all during Christmas, has many branches and is not loved as food by deer, elk and Mountain Beaver – at least not so far. Your kids will love it too. Especially if they step in a Mountain Beaver tunnel on their way to discovering the perfect, imperfect tree.

On the rest of the tree farm, we plant 400 trees per acre, lots of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock, and usually some types that may never bring in any money. We just want to know more about them – coast pine, spruce, madrone, an occasional fruit tree near our water source. Over the years, nature and pre-commercial thinning open up the growing trees to more sunshine until, as they mature, we end up with 250 trees per acre on the average.

That is, our children and their children will end up with those 250 trees per acre. And it is for their sake that we love to take them to the farm, for any excuse. One of those excuses is the annual hunt for a Charlie Brown tree to help celebrate Christmas.

The Whole Crew

The Whole Crew

Here is our four-year-old with her own bedroom tree. She found it. Her brother cut it, and she hung her self-made ornaments on it that afternoon.

Her Own Tree

Her Own Tree

Photos by Rae & Stephanie Richen