Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Evolution - Word for Wednesday - October 19, 2011

Today's "Word for Wednesday" theme is Evolution, or Evolve.   

"Word for Wednesday" is a biweekly meme hosted by Donna at Garden Walk Garden Talk . Donna proposes a  word for participants to express in some way in photographs of things in our gardens.  Most of the words are concepts with multiple related definitions that can be interpreted and expressed in many widely disparate ways.  Evolution is no exception.

From a scientific perspective, evolution refers to the process of change over time in inherited traits in any living thing... birds, bees, butterflies, and begonias included (as well as human beings).

As someone fluent in Mendelian inheritance, I am intimately familiar with the concept as it applies to biology.  From a strictly biologic perspective, the metamorphosis experienced by Monarchs and other butterflies and moths, the pollination (and cross-pollination) of flowers to produce seeds, and the development of hybrid cultivars all demonstrate different aspects of evolution.  

Evolution as a process of growth, development, metamorphosis and change can be applied to anything - a point of view, a fashion trend, even technology.  We recently showed the evolution of the Masonic Center Garden.

I pondered how best to portray the evolution our garden is undergoing.  For those who attribute evolution to the effects of Mother Nature, she has certainly been the impetus for change here, although not quite in the way that Charles Darwin would have envisioned it.  A series of  Nor'Easters in February - March, 2010 and this summer's Hurricane Irene that have had a huge impact on our garden beds that will affect what we are able to grow in each bed for years to come.

In this photograph, you can see a very large pine tree in the left rear of our property that shaded several garden beds in that area of the yard.

One of the 2010 Nor'easters brought severe flooding and sustained winds at 90 mph that toppled this pine and another similarly sized pine which stood on the opposite side of the yard.


Each of the two pine trees were at least 40-50 feet tall, with trunks that were almost 2 feet in diameter.  We never appreciated just how much they contributed to the shade of some of the beds until they were gone.

Likewise, several beds on the north side of the yard were in deep shade from willows growing on the neighbor's property.

One of two willows that stood just over the property line in the neighbors' yard. Last summer they removed one of them that had become diseased. This summer, Hurricane Irene destroyed this tree as well. Three other trees in the middle of their yard have also been removed. The trees completely concealed the sights and sounds of the street beyond, and along with a large maple tree that is still standing,  cast that entire quadrant of our yard in deep shade.

Hurricane Irene destroyed this tree and several others were also diseased, so the property opwners had all of the trees removed, a decision we completely support even though our deep shade gardens are now in full sun for much of the day.

This view was completely shielded by the two large willows shown in the photo immediately above this one.
We can now see the street as it curves past the neighbor's home. This photograph looks out over the area where the willows (there were a total of 5 that have been removed) formerly stood. For reference, you can see the top of the sun clock in the lower right edge of the photograph.
As luck would have it, we have been blessed with three tuliptrees that recently sprouted on our property (we'll be posting about them soon!).  In the spring, two of them will be moved to the side yard near where the willows were removed.  In a few years, we hope that some of the privacy and shade that we lost will be restored.  Until that happens, some of the shade gardens are now going to be in bright sun for the foreseeable future, so it will be interesting to see how the plants in the shade beds will fare next summer.

As for our full shade foliage garden, it is still going to be in partial shade, but our plan for that bed is currently evolving. It will remain a dedicated foliage garden, but our plant choices will have to be modified to fit with the changing landscape and lightscape.

Evolution.... we have chosen to embrace the changes taking place in and around our garden. In the spring, we will rebuild several of our beds as we move trees and perennials to parts of the yard that best suit their needs.


  1. Actually the tree in the second last photo is very beautiful. Too bad it had to go too. Evolution can't be stopped. The diseased trees have made way for new trees.

    I have not heard of tulip trees and would be keen to know more about them.

  2. Hi Cathy and Steve, is this Steve talking? Now i found someone who is very familiar with the Mendelian laws, which was also ingrained in our minds in school. Somehow for me the more knowledge i had on genetics and ecology, the harder it is for me to post for Evolution. It could have been easier if i did not know anything about it. So I twisted it a bit and take evolution of things and utility, and i enjoyed what I did. Who cares about melanism, etc, etc. LOL.

  3. Large trees can be a cursing and a blessing both. In your situation it forces you to make your future decisions. I do hear the Tulip trees grow really fast so that will be to your benefit.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  4. I enjoyed your careful blending of one definition of the word into the next. Evolution seems to be inherent in just about everything. The weather is a great factor in the development of many things. And Hurricanes are one of the most destructive that turn things around to start anew. I always feel bad for the downed trees, but that is just nature and a little of 'survival of the fittist' in a way. Thanks for joining. Another post to make one think.

  5. One, the tree was stunning. It caused us a lot of extra work as leaves and twigs from it blew into our pool constantly. (It's typically very windy here.) But we loved the tree probably as much as they did so we wouldn't have dreamed of complaining. Two or three years ago, the tree was damaged in a Nor'Easter and that started the downward slide. In fact, in that same Nor;Easter, we experienced severe flooding that damaged the lower level of our home. The blue trailer was holding the small bits of furniture we salvaged while it was reconstructed.

    Hi, Andrea, it's Cathy mostly this AM as Steve just left to work at the clinic.... although we generally do this together.

    Cher, tuliptrees grow amazingly quickly.... four feet a year. We have a post about our experience with them that will be published sometiome in the next week or two. We've been working on it for a while. One of them sprouted in 2009, two sprouted this spring. The two year old tree is now 12 feet tall and we have to have a professional come and move both of them. But they are beautiful. Still, it will be a while before they produce the kind of shade we had, and it won't be in exactly the same areas, so there will be a lot of replanting and reconfiguring going on over the next couple of years.

    Thanks, everyone, for dropping by!

  6. Donna, thanks so much for dropping by. We felt very badly that all of the beautiful willows had to come down as well, despite the amount of extra work they often caused us. But between the hurricanes and the disease, they had no choice. I'm not sure what their plan is for their yard at this point, but we may offer them one of our tuliptrees (we have three).

    The changes wrought on us and our gardens by the weather and other external factors beyond our control have been tremendous and have caused us to think, change our philosophy on certain things, regroup, and head off in a different direction in some respects.

    I think it's safe to say that we illustrate "adaptability" as a trait quite nicely LOL.

  7. How sad that the trees were lost but now your garden will evolve in new ways you had never imagined or is what I love about evolution...not knowing and enjoying it when it happens...

  8. Glad to meet you through W4W. I really enjoyed your evolutionary post. Trees and their growth definitely affect a garden...while the tree grows, the difference is subtle, but when one is destroyed, the difference is immediate; oh, we've been there, done that, too many times, and often the change has come about from our own hands (and chainsaw.) But change is good, and allows a person to rethink and replant the garden with new and exciting materials. Evolution, indeed.

  9. The evolution of your garden is magical even though some of it is not by your choice. And I really like the Masonic Center Garden...a wonderful transformation.

  10. Hey Steve,

    Well you certainly looked at evolution from many different situations. I don't know how many people would have looked in loosing the big pines. So sorry for their loss.

    And of course the biggest evolution in your life has to be the mainet Masonic Lodge.It must be a kick to drive by the Lodge regulary

  11. Gosh, sometimes evolution happens whether we like it or not. A gardener's job is never done.

  12. Oh, what a sad day it must have been to lose such a large tree - and shade! I've seen shade gardens when the trees were lost - and have been amazed at the plants that can still live in so much sun. I hope that is the case for you.

  13. Note to Patrick from Steve... it is (a kick)!

  14. To Donna... It is very sad to loose such huge trees. We never thought we would see such sun, but we also had the dilemma of what to do with the tuliptrees, so that has been solved.

    To Karen, gad to meet you through W4W as well! Well, the chainsaws were not ours, but honestly, if they had been our trees, we would have had them taken down as there was no other option, sadly. I can't say we;re actually excited about the changes, but it does open up some other options for us in both the foliage garden and the white garden (where we struggled to grow white roses with no success!)

    To Sage Butterfly ... thanks so much! Glad you liked the Masonic Center Garden... it is coming along beautifully!

    To Tufa Girl .... you're right, NEVER done!

    To Holley ... it was sad to lose the trees and the shade for sure. Trees that large, you think they'll be there forever! We aren't going to do anything drastic (except for perhaps putting a white climbing rose on the shade garden trellis LOL).

    Like you, we have "shade" plants loving where they are in the "sun" gardens, and so we'll take a year to see what's what, what is working and what isn't in the newly sunny shade gardens. The only thing I'm concerned about is my chocolate cimicifuga which has gotten quite light since the trees came down. The stems are still chocolatey brown but the leaves have lightened considerably. It's currently in a perfect place for me, but that may no longer be a perfect place for it.

  15. It is sad to loose huge old trees but thanks to the camera, we can still retain the memories. Mother Nature has given you new ones and now you can even view the clear blue skies from the same spot. I'll be looking foward to see the progress of your tulip trees. We have some African tulip trees in the neighbourhood. Love your Evolution post!

  16. Hi Cathy - I understand your sadness for losing the shade in your garden. Before I became a gardener I thought that sunny flower beds were ideal but now I realise the value of shade in the garden, dappled shade especially, if only because it requires hardly any watering. Having said that, I have noticed my annuals in the dappled shade growing horizontally to reach more sunlight. I'll watch this space to see how you overcome this challenge - and I'm sure you will.

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