Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Backyard willow

I can't see a weeping willow tree without being reminded of the one that towered over my childhood home. Probably I'm remembering it wrong, but my father told the story that ours was a gift from a neighbor who couldn't get it to grow in their yard, so we ended up with this wisp of a tree that languished for a few years before it set about dominating our home landscape. There were other trees, lesser trees, that grew in the side yards; a few messy sycamores and a crabapple, but the weeping willow overshadowed them all.

Planting it in the middle of the backyard wasn't a wise choice, as it eventually grew so large as to block all sun from the patio and my brother's vegetable garden. It was twice as tall as the house and its roots found their way into the sewer pipes. The limbs were a constant threat to roof and windows. Eventually my father had it cut down after a large part of it came through the kitchen window one night during a storm.

Once it was down, the backyard never felt the same; there was too much sun and too much space. No more would it be one of the first trees in the neighborhood to show color in spring. There weren't any kids in the house by then to climb it or attach a rope swing to it.

I wonder if the new family that owns my dad's house now will plant some other tree in that empty space, although I suppose it doesn't look as if anything is missing to their eyes. But I remember the tree that stood so tall there, and am reminded of it when I see the first green of a willow's wispy branches. All that's missing from this one is the rope swing.

18 comments:

A Girl From Texas said...

I grew up with a weeping willow in my backyard, too. I loved that beautiful tree. I can't remember if we had to cut it down or not. It was always filled with cicadas during the summer time.

LauraHinNJ said...

A girl from Texas: Hi! Thanks for coming by. Funny that you should mention cicadas because that's something I remember about ours too, and was going to mention how my older brothers liked to torture me with the shed skins that were all over the trunk and lower branches.

I hope others will share mention of a childhood tree.

KGMom said...

My husband's family had a huge willow tree in their backyard--they lived near a creek, so was a perfect spot. The leaves were so graceful floating in the breeze.
For me the strongest tree recollection from childhood is eucaplyptus trees with leaves silvery on one side. They rustled wonderfully in the breeze.

KGMom said...

My husband's family had a huge willow tree in their backyard--they lived near a creek, so was a perfect spot. The leaves were so graceful floating in the breeze.
For me the strongest tree recollection from childhood is eucaplyptus trees with leaves silvery on one side. They rustled wonderfully in the breeze.

Mary said...

Laura, I share your sentiment with weeping willows. In Maryland, our farmer neighbor planted a 10-foot tall willow in our back yard (an offspring from his largest). By the time we left Maryland, that weeping willow grew ten times it's height and we loved it's beauty. Chloe especially loved the squirrels who spent hours inside...

After a storm, the clean-up of leaves and branches was a chore but we all loved that tree and I wonder how it's grown since we left.

The weeping willow trees always hold memories and I thank you for sharing yours. Lovely post.

bunnygirl said...

My next door neighbors in Muncie had a big willow in their front yard. We kids had a fine time running through the curtain of those long droopy branches and sometimes trying to swing on them like Tarzan.

Thanks for sharing one of your special memories. There's nothing like a favorite childhood tree!

Susan Gets Native said...

The neighbors across the road from my parent's house have one that has been there as long as I can remember. They didn't have kids my age (they were older) but they loved me and let me come over and play in their yard. I would sit under that willow and pretend I was a princess in a castle, or a fairy in a forest kingdom...
I want to plant one in our backyard, but FAR away from the house. Maybe back where it's soggy. They like damp, right?

Cathy said...

Lovely story, Laura. As I read it I knew it would evoke memories of beloved childhood trees from all your readers. Mine was an English Linden or Bass Wood. In the Spring it was a lofty fragrant canopy that hummed with bees. I still hear it.

Jimmy said...

I just love willows...we don't have any near my house, but I know some places along the river. I also love yellow trout lilies.

Lynne said...

Aw Laura, we had a weeping willow in our backyard too. My Mom planted it from one branch from her brother's yard. We played under that tree all summer. We'd braid the branches, use sections as pretend whips, use the leaves as tickets for our plays and talent shows.
Thanks for bringing back the memories.

Dr. Know said...

We had a small willow in our yard as a child but it never amounted to much as the conditions were too dry and the soil was mostly red clay. My impressive willow story would be the one my grandmother planted years ago in her yard in Indianapolis. Last I saw it, it was huge; much larger than the two story house that she raised her 8 ill-behaved children in. Although she is long since gone, the tree remains.

As for personal memories, we had acres of undeveloped forests surrounding our neighborhood which included huge oaks, beech, hickory, etc. Amidst these forest friends was a patch of bamboo that had somehow taken hold and spread for what seemed like miles. Under the thick canopy of fronds, nothing else grew, and raindrops never directly impacted. Smooth, sandy soil interrupted by tiny rivulets of water which flowed from subterranian springs. It was a totally surreal place where I spent many hours studying Zebra Swallowtails, spiders and their webs, snakes, and other such wildlife. Clumsily climbing to the top of the canopy revealed a lawn-like spread of green leaves nearly as far as the eye could see. Completely different species of insects lived above the cool, diffuse area below.

But the oddity tree in our yard was an old hickory which had been pinned, presumably by lost since exterminated indigenous Indians, to point in a southerly direction. The tree's trunk grew straight upwards for 20 odd feet above the ground where it bent sharply and extended horizontally for another 60 feet. Very odd tree I spent many summer days climbing.

Dr. Know said...

Forgot to mention one additional factor concerning the willow in our front yard. It may have had trouble competing with the constant pruning it recieved while cutting switches which were used to discipline my two sisters and I into submission. Ouch! You know, on second thought, perhaps willows aren't that cool after all. ;-)

Liza Lee Miller said...

Weeping Willows are so lovely.

Backyard trees can be so troublesome. My old house had a HUGE sycamore tree. Utterly beautiful but way to big for the yard. Someone had pruned it badly at one time. It was great for the shade in the summer but pretty ugly in the winter when all its leaves were down and . . . oh, the dinner plate sized leaves were a pain to deal with but it was lovely shade in the hot summer.

Of course, now I have 23 redwoods in my backyard so I can certainly relate to the dangers of tree limbs falling! Yikes!

Lovely memories, Laura.

Jayne said...

My childhood tree was a mimosa which we climbed (since it wasn't so very tall) and carved initials into and just spent hours curled in it's crooks talking with friends. I remember the sadness when my dad had to cut it down. It felt like a part of our childhood was gone. Funny how trees can bring back so many memories.

vicki said...

I thought of you, with all that NJ rain and storming. Glad all is well and I hear from my brother that it will be warm and sunny for you by the weekend.

Willows, like birch, are so full of water that they split easily and become difficult to maintain when they get really large. But like birch, they are so lovely. Your beautiful picture reminds me of the birch by our Michigan cottage- as does that gorgeous trout lily. A little homesick.

LauraHinNJ said...

KGMom: Our creek was across the street in the neighbor's yards. Lots of fun hours spent there.

Mary: Yes, they make it obvious when they're happy by growing so well. I hadn't remembered the after-storm clean-up.

Buunygirl: "We kids had a fine time running through the curtain of those long droopy branches" - thanks for sharing that! Curtain is the perfect word.

Susan: Yep, they'll be happy with damp.

Cathy: Thanks - I'm not sure I know that tree; Linden sounds very familiar though?

Jimmy: They are very pretty right now.

Lynne: Fun stories! Thanks for sharing them.

Dr. Know: Did you have to go out and cut your own switch? My FIL dud that to my husband and his brothers - talk about adding insult to injury!

Liza: I imagine your backyard redwoods to be wonderful!

Jayne: Our neighbors had a mimosa - very interesting trees! They cut theirs down, but it was a sickly tree for some reason. I haven't seen one in years.

Vicki: I'm gald to hear that it might be sunny here someday soon!

I haven't seen very many large birches here, probably for the reason you say. They are pretty, a lot of people plant weeping birches which I really don't care for.

A Girl From Texas said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I couldn't remember how to find you again.....

TDharma said...

lovely writing, L. You've inspired me to post something about some famous local trees.....