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David Nash’s Ash Dome

This is an aside from my posts about my Europe cycling trip. I’ve read a few books on Nash and I liked his totems at Kloster Schoenthal, but I haven’t visited Ash Dome and am unlikely to ever do so (it’s location is secret and apparently it’s dying of ash dieback). I only know about it from videos and photos on the internet, but I think it’s great and an interesting contrast to the Tree Museum. The Tree Museum is about the ability to transplant and display mature trees; Ash Dome is about the patience to train trees as they grow in situ. In any case, Ash Dome is a terrific project, and when I recently mentioned it to an arborist and a landscape architect, neither one had heard of it even though they seem like the exact target audiences for it. So… Ash Dome.

David Nash – Ash Dome from Culture Colony on Vimeo.

All three videos are worth watching for anyone interested in trees or sculpture from trees. The first two focus on Ash Dome, the third is more generally about how Nash describes his working process, compiling clips from a longer videoabout an artist residency he did at college in North Carolina. He’s an oddly compelling talker. His conception of art as stiff and constipated or loose like diarrhea is not one I’ll forget any time soon.

The Tree Museum

Happy new year. I’m still posting things from my bike trip from Amsterdam to Bologna last summer. This is another garden, but quite different from the others. It’s branded as a Tree Museum, which is a great concept, but I’d describe it as a sculpture garden, with the trees as the sculpture. Maybe those are not mutually exclusive terms; it certainly has the rarefied air of a museum. The creator is a Swiss landscape architect/nurseryman who specializes in moving large trees. Over the years he built up a collection of trees and at some point he decided to create a garden to display them. I love the way the walls are used to frame the trees.


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Nyssa sylvatica

Along with the Hawthorn, another underappreciated tree in the Bay Area is Nyssa sylvatica, Tupelo. It’s not a flashy tree for much of the year, so it’s not well known around here. It’s slow growing, but in return it is long-lived, has strong branches that rarely need pruning, and its roots rarely cause damage. It handles drought and poor drainage. The regular species (the photo below) is a little nondescript but the cultivar ‘Wildfire’ (above) has red in its new spring growth. Both species and cultivar have beautiful fall color. Supposedly they can drop dried fruit, but I’ve never seen that happen. An added bonus is that whenever I see one I hear Tupelo in my head, one of my favorite Nick Cave songs.

The three in the photo above are in their third year. The one below is about ten years old. It’s the first one I ever planted, in a garden that was at one time known as the garden of death. Twelve years ago during a major remodeling one of the workers parked his Hummer in the front yard all winter long and compacted the soil so badly it became the type of clay you’d use to make a pot rather than grow plants, the heaviest clay I’ve ever seen. Almost everything died when they first planted. When we were hired, we found standing water would form anywhere we dug a hole. But the Nyssa never seemed to mind. It has grown slowly but steadily in the spot where a plum tree had been unable to survive. It looks after itself better than almost any tree I know.

Flowering Hawthorn

My parents’ front garden has a Hawthorn tree that makes a beautiful show of flowers every year. It almost flowers too well; I like to see the green leaves along with the white flowers but the leaves can be nearly completely covered.

I don’t know a whole lot about Hawthorns, though I grew up with this one. They seem underappreciated and under planted in the Bay Area. I guess they can be prone to fire blight. Gophers like the roots and ate the only one I’ve personally planted. But my parents’ one has grown without trouble for over thirty years. It’s my favorite element in the entire garden, ahead of the plants I chose and planted, the various ceramic sculptures, or the wall and patio I built.

A few more photos from the front garden are below. (more…)

The Tule Tree

TuleTree

Happy new year. I’ve been on a trip to Oaxaca, skipping out on a lot of the rain and mudslides we’ve been having. I’ll probably have some posts related to that at some point — among other things a sinkhole opened in one of my gardens where EBMUD punctured a storm drain — but for now I’ll be posting about Oaxaca. Its stonework, ruins, art, and plants are the stuff DryStoneGarden dreams are made of.

TuleTrunk

One of the first things I did was visit the Tule Tree, a Montezuma Cypress with the world’s widest tree trunk, 46 feet across at its widest point, 147 feet total in diameter. I recommend clicking on the photo to get the full size view. The people in the left corner give a sense of scale.

TuleChurch

The tree is beside a church in the center of a town. One legend says it was planted 1400 years ago by a priest of the Aztec wind god, another legend says it was a walking stick planted by a king or god. More recently, someone planted hollyhocks, roses, and a lawn around it, creating a distinct ‘world’s biggest ball of twine’ vibe. The topiary collection includes a dinosaur, a teddy bear, and kissing ducks.

TuleDucks

TuleTrunk1

But in spite of that, a 1400 year old tree has a presence powerful enough to overcome any indignity presented by its surroundings. The trunk is truly superlative.

TuleTrunk2

Tule2

And even more than the trunk, the canopy is magnificent, like an entire forest in a single tree. The branches droop down nearly to the ground, giving a wonderful sense of enclosure, and the trunks rise up like the clustered columns of a gothic cathedral.

Tule1

I’ve been in groves that felt like a cathedral, but I’d never had that feeling from a single tree.

Tule3

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.

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