Hands down, my favorite tree as a main character in the Avatar film is The Tree of Souls, the giant willow tree that is the Mother tree, that is the sacred soul ~ the connection to spiritual and guiding forces.
There were also those magical floating trees. Ahhhh…
It was pure heaven for me. And seeing it in 3-D is about as magical as it gets for a tree and nature lover like me.
Ents are trees in Lord of the Rings. Their leader is Treebeard of Fangorn forest. They are similar to the talking trees in folklore around the world.
In researching my homage to trees for Arbor Day this year, I learned more about The White Tree of Gondor that stood as a symbol of Gondor in the Court of the Fountain in Minas Tirith.
There are the apple trees in The Wizard of Oz, the Whomping Willow Tree in Harry Potter and the Tree of Life in The Lion King.
Why do trees so often inspire not only filmmakers but poets, fine artists, musicians and well, all of us?
It’s said that trees symbolize our personal development, uniqueness and individual beauty. “Just as the branches of a tree strengthen and grow upwards to the sky, we too grow stronger, striving for greater knowledge, wisdom and new experiences as we move through life.”
Trees can live long lives. Did you know that olive trees are with us for hundreds of years? Same for the redwoods, those noble kings of the forest.
We honor our trees, on more than just Arbor Day. There is even a top list of famous trees:
1. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Sri Lanka.
2: General Sherman, USA.
3: Burke & Wills Dig Tree, Australia.
4: Major Oak, England.
5: Methuselah, USA.
6: Boab Prison Tree, Australia.
7: El Arbol Del Tule, Mexico
And while there’s a special place for readers who fondly remember the coming of age story as depicted in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I think that most of us have a favorite tree we fondly remember from our own childhood.
I used to read in the crook of a cherry tree in our backyard.
Perhaps you enjoyed your grandparent’s oak tree.
Picking peaches; apples with family.
Or the lovely pink of ornamental cherry trees. Ours is a showstopper. Every year.
It’s easy to see how trees inspire the artist in all of us. Trees are integral to a poet’s or filmmaker’s or author’s story.
They are also important to our own stories.
Trees give us a sense of place; they can readily convey a time of year, a romantic meeting spot. While in Havana, I was shown how lovers communicated with each other, writing on the Clusia rosea or Autograph tree’s special leaves.
Trees With Benefits
Trees provide oxygen; a habitat for other creatures. Trees are good for the economy and they reduce energy bills. They provide many resources, such as food, to a community. Trees mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect and store and sequester carbon. They hold water. And hold our hearts in exultation when we take in their glories.
I am a card-carrying tree lover. An unabashed tree hugger.
While I see too much disregard for our trees ~ cutting down for utility company convenience, not enough maintenance, including pruning, trees still manage to work hard taking care of us. I’ll focus here on what we can do to celebrate Arbor Day and our trees.
In no particular order, here are some of my tips for showing your tree love.
1. Grow Native Trees:
I’ve used so many of these beauties in my garden designs over the years. They will reward you with incredible beauty and your pollinators will thank you.
The Butternuts of Belfast
Eastern Red Oak
Eastern Red Bud
You can research native trees for your area, looking into what the Native Plant Society’s suggest, as well as Rutgers on what native trees and plants to incorporate into your landscape.
And while I’ve never grown trees from seed, this group advocates how to grow native trees in your landscape
2. Plant Canopy or Understory Trees
All too prevalent now is the loss of the understory trees due to the proliferation of deer. I can’t go down this “deer hole” now but please do use and protect your understory trees ~ some are included in the list above, such as the Red Bud and Dogwood.
Other understory planting include shrubs and perennials including ferns, agastache, Joe Pye Weed, amsonia, hydrangeas, azaleas and viburnum. I adore ours. They are just budding out now and getting ready to bloom amidst the rhodie and peonies.
3. Plant Trees in Groves or Groups
First, make sure you are planting in the best Soil. Then, position the trees for the best visual effect. As trees compete for adequate sunlight, they end up growing toward each other, and they create enough shade by closing the gap.
Moreover, arborists also believe that the roots of trees planted close to each other have a strong network that helps them communicate and look after themselves.
Which brings me to one of my most-adored tree queens, tree-whisperer and one of my all favorite “sheros”: author and Ted talker, Suzanne Simard.
While researching her doctoral thesis some 20+ years ago, ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi buried in the soil – in other words, she found, they “talk” to each other.
(photo courtesy of NPR)
Simard wrote the book, Finding the Mother Tree, The Hidden Life of Trees. Simard shows us a truly fascinating story about how, against the accepted “wisdom,” she proved how trees communicate. Her discovery is made all the more possible by technology ~ we didn’t previously have the tools to “hear” what the trees were saying to one another. Now, we need to hear them…
I also listened, enraptured, to a webinar featuring Simard, not too long ago.
She is so impressive and inspiring. I urge you to read her book and Follow her.
I not only learn so much from Simard, but I also found a kindred spirit.
I heard her quoted response to what she thought about the fantastical representation of the trees featured in Avatar saying that finally, finally, others would see and understand what she has been trying to tell us for so long.
I loved that.
(Mother Tree from Avatar)
4. Support Your Town’s Tree Commission and The Arbor Day Foundation
According to the organization, which was launched 50 years ago ~ right around the time of the first Earth Day (must’ve been something in the air back then…) “The Arbor Day Foundation has more than one million members and has planted more than 350 million trees in neighborhoods, communities, cities and forests throughout the world.”
They have many celebration ideas and tree suggestions.
I hope you celebrate this Arbor Day with a passion for trees that helps you embrace our noble trees today and every day.
Because it’s the time of year to adore our cherry trees, I’ll leave you here with one of A.E. Houseman’s poems:
“Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now”
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.