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Tree, Line by Zander Olsen

I really like this photo by a photographer from the UK. It’s great how it plays with my eye, but also how it seems to satirize or exploit the practice of painting tree trunks white. He has more photos on his website.

The Tree Museum

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

While I’m posting about the value of trees, here is someone who really values his trees. Swiss landscape architect and tree collector Enzo Enea has created what he calls a tree museum for his collection. Explains Enea:

“This is a collection of trees I’ve gathered over a span of about 20 years. They come from construction sites; they would have been cut down to make way for new buildings. I needed to build a space to display them all and I wanted the trees to be seen as objects, so I set them off against sandstone.”

Inhabitat has details of the museum, World Landscape Architect has a video interview, and Arch Daily has photos of many of the trees. It reminds me of the work of Myoung Ho Lee, who makes photos of trees with a giant canvas hanging behind them. Lee’s work showed up on various blogs last year, including DryStoneGarden; the tree museum seems to be getting a similar, well-deserved run. Some of the trees are very cool, including one that is full of staples from decades of serving as the town bulletin board.

I really like the combination of the walls and stone, and if I lived just a little closer to Zurich, I’d go check it out. There are few things in the world better than a tree with a backdrop that showcases its character.

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

The Tree Museum by Enzo Enea

The Real Estate Value of Trees

$195,140 worth of birches?

$195,140 worth of birches?

We once had to do a lot of talking to convince a client that he didn’t want to chop down a healthy live oak that was just beginning to develop the kind of dramatic architecture that can’t be purchased with anything other than time. Since then, I’ve been wanting a dollar value for what a tree can add to a property, a number that’s easily cited and perhaps easily dismissed, but undeniably monetary and specific. A number like $8,870, the number that a recent study came up with after looking at how the presence or absence of street trees affected the sale prices for homes sold in east Portland during 2006-7. (The houses with trees also sold an average of 1.7 days quicker.) It’s obviously one of those statistics which can’t be applied too literally, but the researchers seem to have made an effort to account for some of the other variables that might surround the real estate sales. And though it is somewhat mercenary and doesn’t account for the many environmental and aesthetic benefits of trees and there probably isn’t a direct causal relationship, it might help people appreciate their trees more. What homeowner could hear that stat and not go right out to get a street tree? Personally, I’m sure I’ll cite the number at some point in the future, possibly to our landlord who knows that Anita and I are responsible for adding six street trees to our block. Shouldn’t that get us $53,220 credit towards our rent?

In a somewhat related note, I’ve always liked this planting of birches in my neighborhood and this post seems like the most reasonable time to mention it. The planting has an impressive total of 22 birches, which is 19 more than anyone else ever has. I’m pretty sure the birches count as ‘good overall tree cover,’ rather than as individual $8,870 trees, but there’s no question they make the house more valuable and desirable. The trees do the sun-in-winter, shade-in-summer thing for the house, and the planting always looks remarkably good, even when the understory needs maintenance. Designers talk about being bold or committed; 22 birches shows a serious level of commitment. Props to whoever planted them.

And in an unrelated note, the New York Times did a feature on Humphrey Slocombe, the ice cream store I mentioned a couple of posts back. The article’s a little heavy on the ‘wacky San Francisco’ angle, but then the ice cream parlor is actually pretty wacky and it’s hard to imagine it existing somewhere other than San Francisco. As an explanation for the unusual flavors, the proprietor says, “I just got to the point that I felt I’d have to kill myself if I ever made another crème brûlée or warm chocolate cake again.” Haven’t we all.

The Living Bottle Tree

bottle tree

Bottle Tree in November

I’m intrigued by the Southern and African tradition of making bottle trees to trap evil spirits, but living in California I don’t know much about it and I hadn’t ever seen one in person, so I was pleased to discover one in my neighborhood. It’s in front of a house with various symbols painted on the front door and the utility box, and while I was taking the pbotos a guy whizzed past me on a bicycle and said, “Careful! They’re witches!”





Felder Rushing has a great collection of photos and a short history of the practice. And there’s a massive flickr collection. Traditionally, it seems to have been done with a dead tree or with sticks stuck in the ground; Crape Myrtles are the iconic species. Nowadays many are constructed of metal or some other material, rather than an actual tree. Very few seem to be from a tree that is still alive.

The Utility Box

The Utility Box

I don’t want to mess with any witch juju, but it seems okay to show the utility box which has the same stars and moons as the front door. It never would have occurred to me to adorn a utility box. It’s surprisingly pleasing.

The Bee Tree

‘…a hole in back you could put your fist in, if it were a small fist and you wanted to put it there…’ Hemingway, A Natural History of the Dead

The last few weeks we’ve been working in a yard that has a wild bee hive in an old silver maple. Apparently, they vanish each winter and a big, noisy swarm returns in the spring. On cold days, the hole in the trunk steams faintly. The bees are mellow in the morning, but in the late afternoon they make a loud buzz like every cartoon representation of an angry bee swarm that I’ve ever seen. It’s a little disconcerting, though they are far too busy to pay any attention to me.

I bet there’s some nice honey in there, but I’m sure not going in after it.

One of My Favorite Oaks


Quercus garryana or lobata

This is one of the best oak trees I’ve seen, in a Lafayette yard where we did some work a couple of years ago. I was back to check on the pondless waterfall this past week (still no leaks or pump problems, knock on wood), and I was glad to see the oak is just as amazing as I remember. At the time I thought it was a Garry Oak, but apparently the various arborists and oak experts who have looked at it have given several different ID’s, saying it could be a Garry Oak, a Valley Oak, or a hybrid between the two. They also differ on their estimates of its age. Everyone agrees, though, that it’s big and old and beautiful.

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