ACHOO!

The drought has ended. The rains have ceased for the moment. The sun is shining. The sky is blue and temperatures are rising. Yesterday morning I jumped at the opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of a morning outdoors. Coffee and smart phone in hand, ready to catch up on emails and texts surrounded by gardens and a symphony of singing birds, I lowered myself into a chair.

The serenity didn’t last long. Within two minutes, the surface of my coffee and my phone were caked with yellow. Folks, it’s pine pollen season in New Hampshire and it caught me by surprise.

Pine Pollen 2017

Friends in my home state of Virginia have been experiencing the yellow storm for weeks. Perhaps the heavy rains have been masking the explosion in New Hampshire until now.

Pine pollen is arriving over the land like snow flurries. The pines have large pollen grains making them easy to id and those grains have large cavities or ‘bladders’ that allow them to be blown over great distances. When the breezes hit the pines surrounding us, I now see the billowy clouds of yellow moving with the currents. We may not like it, but it’s doing what it must to preserve its species.

Windows and doors are now closed. Car stays in the garage and I drink my morning coffee indoors. It will be a nuisance for awhile but is not suppose to terribly affect our allergies.  Pollen counts are high for oaks, birch, and ash trees that are the likely culprits contributing to my cough, scratchy eyes and throat when I work outdoors.

To see the pollen counts in your neck of the woods, check out this site: Pollen.com. It was there that I discovered that we are near our seasonal pollen peak on the NH Seacoast.  Yay!

 

 

 

 

White Pine Musings

To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is
more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.  
Helen Keller

White PineIt’s fall and the time of year for the white pines (Pinus strobus) to drop their soft, golden innermost needles. These are the 3rd year needles that drop swiftly after yellowing and cover everything beneath. For me, it’s a welcome opportunity to do as I have always done as a Virginia gardener.  I rake piles and piles of needles and create the most beautiful mulch for borders.

pine needlesIn the spring new needles will replace the old on white pines and the annual needle drop will again be scheduled for next fall…. only there won’t be a spring or next fall for these old trees. The home association has voted to remove them all.

I understand some of the rational for removal. The trees are large, a soft wood growing too close to homes. I’ve seen pine trees snap in two and several pines uprooted around the yard during storms in Virginia. These pine trees shade several yards and homes including ours. We could use a bit of passive solar energy during the long, cold winters. Finally, mister gardener complains about not finding one single spot with enough sun to grow a simple tomato plant.

Still, I’m sad and sentimental when a tree goes. I may be the only resident who will miss the trees, but I’m sure my birds will miss them… and the squirrel that nests in the treetop will miss them. Insects like the two-spotted pine cricket will miss them. My connection to trees most likely comes from my childhood when there wasn’t a tree I couldn’t climb… limbs or no limbs. I loved the adventure of exploring the treetops of any variety of trees. (Yes, I have climbed these white pines, too, pruning out a truckload of dead limbs.)

Life will go on. I have a landscape plan for this area of the yard but plans will have to wait until the tree work is complete and I see just how much sun will come our way. Right now the area is a holding nursery for hostas that will find a permanent home elsewhere come spring. Sigh…

The Longleaf Pine

I’ve got a thing for pine trees.  The very first trees I put in the ground in Gloucester were loblollies My longleaf pine in the Secret Gardenthat are now sixty feet tall and limbed up not to interfere with our view of the river.  Ten years ago, I found a small longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) at a local nursery and snatched it for our yard.  It now stands 25-feet tall, on its way to 100-feet, and I am infatuated with it.

I buy needles from North Carolina’s longleaf pines for garden mulch and the remarkable needles are over a foot long.  My longleaf pine stands in the middle of my new Secret Garden and I love to walk under it and be awed by its carpet of fallen needles at this time of year.

At one time, longleaf pine forests dominated the southern landscape from Virginia south through nine states and covered over 90 million acres.  It is what the first Europeans witnessed in discovering the new world. In today’s fragmented environment of developments, highways, farms and cities, it’s hard to imagine seeing these pine forests that often stood alone as the only species.  Amazingly, the tree’s survival depended on fire.  longleaf and loblolly needleFrequent fires in dryer areas moved quickly through southeast forests where longleaf pines over ten feet tall survived and thrived. Where there was fire, you could find a longleaf pine forest.

Sadly, in the last 150 years, the longleaf pine forest has been transformed from a forest that dominated the southern landscape to protected pockets of forests in most of the nine states.  Used for lumber, turpentine, pitch, tar, cleared for development or agriculture, 97% of the original longleaf pine forests have disappeared.

Today the tree is being seen for sale more often at nurseries in the Tidewater area.  I bought one last Great prices for 10' longleaf pine!year and two more this fall at great prices for 10’ trees.  My purchases won’t restore the longleaf pine forest in Virginia but perhaps we will see an effort to re-establish the forests on large tracks of private lands in Virginia. If more is not done, it is possible that we see the demise of the remaining forests and the unique habitat that depends on them.

To protect those forests and educate the public, the Longleaf Alliance (LLA) was established in 1995. The group coordinates partnerships between private landowners, forest industries, state and federal agencies, conservation groups, researchers, and other enthusiasts interested in managing and restoring longleaf pine forests for their ecological and economic benefits.  Learn more here.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

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