Monday, October 8, 2012

Arborvitae: Worrying About That Which You Can't Change

About a week ago, I was out watering and walking in my garden. Yes, we have had patchy frost here, and for all intents and purposes the gardening season has come to a halt for us, but until the ground freezes and I turn off my outside water faucet, I continue to water. This is especially important when we have received less and a couple of inches of rain each month since May.

The entire quality of the soil has changed, even in my yard where I have watered regularly. I don't think a day has passed all summer when I haven't watered some part of the yard. I don't know how long it will take for the soil to regain its tilthe and friability. It is almost like the living things in it have been burned out from our heat and lack of moisture.

So I am out watering by hand with my 100-foot hose, and I actually see my arborvitae. It has noticeable brown patches. Now, although your typical non-gardener gets excited the first time they notice an evergreen looking like it is shedding its "evergreen"; looking at my arborvitae, I am thinking back on past years. I couldn't help but think the percentage of brown a tad excessive. For the most part, I tend to ignore these two arborvitae that came with my lot when I bought it more than a decade ago. They're 50-75 years old if they are a day.

My big white pine gets a lot of attention because it is so iconic. I water the hosta beneath it, getting twice the bang for my watering buck. The arborvitae, I tend to ignore, not that they haven't received water, not just the copious amounts my white pine probably sucks up.

That my arborvitae might be contemplating throwing in the horticultural towel and calling it a day leaves me flummoxed when juxtaposing it with the upcoming July 2013 garden walk. And if, I have trees dying in my yard, how many other trees might be dying of which the less-empathetic homeowner is oblivious?

So all of you out there, keep right on watering until the ground freezes, if you haven't gotten rain. And, also a warning to anyone contemplating burning leaves this fall-- DON'T! I hate to think of an errant spark. And you hunter's leaning against a tree and thinking about lighting up, reconsider. (Those big bucks can smell that, and we don't need any forest fires; and beside, it's not good for you either!)


  1. Not really crazy about arborvitae, though I wouldn't be happy if some big old specimens died on me. I love white pines, don't think of it as a Wisconsin tree - we only see it here as an introduced plant.

    1. Oh, I think my white pine was planted (and is not a native tree in this location, although it was possible dug out of a northern woods and transplanted here) a few years after my house was built. As I found an old historic picture when the tree was just 10' tall. Later, there is a pic with American elms which came down in the late 1970s, but the white pine remains.