Category Archives: Trees

The Flower to Watch

Last week, the small but heavy scented stars of jasmine had my nose.  This week, the lightly scented but enormous magnolia blooms had my eyes.  Born and raised in the north, the southern magnolia hasn’t always been a favorite.

I missed the round pink balls that dotted the magnolia tree in my grandparents New York backyard.  It may be my fondness for the tree’s home, but that magnolia made the southern version’s dark leaves and plain white blossoms seem drab in comparison.

To my exhaustion, John loves southern magnolia trees and has never stopped trying to convince me of how beautiful they are.  We’ve been together eight years; he’s pointed out the magnolia around the corner a hundred times.  He even brought home a seedling once, but after all that, he may have finally won that argument without saying or doing a thing this week.

The trees are speaking for themselves.  The blossoms are gigantic when open, and their crisp white color pops off the dark leaves.  The scent may not command the air like jasmine, but dip your nose into the petals for a sweet citrus-y bonus.  Full bloom isn’t here yet, so keep watching.

Natural Room Fresheners

I may have finally found the bright side of the grapefruit massacre…the citrus blossoms.  In the three years we’ve lived in this house, the blossoms have never been so thick on our grapefruit tree.  Every time I yank a grapefruit, a shower of petals rains down on me.  This morning, I got a whole branch.  Since the incident, I can’t reach anything–fruit, blossoms or branches–without the long arm of my citrus picker.  Since it didn’t hit me, the branch falling was a real treat.  I got to bring the good stuff inside.  Although the sweetness drifts in the windows here and there with the breeze, bringing in even a few blossoms makes a huge difference.  This small bouquet is scenting our kitchen and dining room.  Next up…soap! 

And Mom, your grapefruit are on their way!

Spring Seeds and Memories

Spring is here.  Stems are sprouting, and seeds are dropping.  Today I collected Milkweed seeds and the last of the Cassia seeds.  The first Cassia already sprouted.

But the real fun was had with someone else’s seeds today.  Cooper and John came home from a bike ride with a giant Mahogany seed a little over a week ago.  Today Cooper brought it out from his room and asked if one of us had cut it open.

The actual seeds look like Maple seeds, but you can’t stick them to your nose – there’s no seam to split open…I tried.  That was my childhood memory; John went straight to the helicopter trick. 

It’s fascinating the strange and unexpected things that trigger memories.  The first time I cut parsley as an adult, the smell overwhelmed me.  It threw me back to my late grandmother’s kitchen, making bread crumbs.  That was always my job.  I’d cut the parsley from the garden and then climb up on my stool by the sink to wash it and put it in the food processor with the toasted bread.  It’s one of my more vivid memories – maybe because it was something I could do myself, maybe because I still have a scar on my chin from falling off the stool, or maybe because of no other reason than that smell.  

One of Discovery Health’s How Stuff Works discusses smell and memories, “When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory…Because we encounter most new odors in our youth, smells often call up childhood memories.” 

Is there a sight or smell in your garden that brings back a childhood memory?     

Another Thanks to the Grapefruit Tree

One of my favorite books as a kid was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.  The boy never appreciated his tree, but I always knew I would appreciate mine, and I do…very much.  Beyond expressing my overall adoration for my grapefruit tree, I’ve blogged about its fruit, juice, spiders, and haircuts

Today I’m loving my grapefruit tree because it’s keeping me young, or at least smelling that way.  “‘It acts as an olfactory Botox,’ said Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, a neurologist, psychiatrist and founder of the Smell & Taste foundation. “Pink grapefruit has a positive effect on mood, and, in our society, positive is associated with youth.”

Instead of drinking it, maybe I’ll start bathing in grapefruit juice.  At the very least, I’ll have to incorporate it into my latest obsession - making soap.  Speaking of, I may owe my friends and family an apology for their Lavender-Chamomile soaps, “Rose reminded them of grandma, and lavender evoked equally gray-haired imagery.”  Oops, nothing but pink grapefruit next year!

The First Harvest

A grapefruit tree

+ Vodka

= Happy Hour

Not all the grapefruit are ripe yet, but there’s enough to cover the first round…TGIF!

Sweet Gum Trees & Christmas Songs

Christmas songs were written for Floridians.  Without them, December 25th would pass us by.  We wouldn’t know any different because the sun would still shine.  It’s December 1st, and it’s only just beginning to feel like fall, let alone winter.  The temperature is a crisp 55 degrees right now.  Although it’s only feeling like fall today, there’s one spot in Sarasota where it’s been looking like fall for about a week now. 

There’s a huge tree on the corner of Ringling and Shade dropping leaves like it’s growing up North.  John and I were stopped at the light last week, and there were leaves scattered everywhere across the intersection.  It was the first visual spark of fall I’ve experienced in a long time.  Those cues don’t always exist in Florida.  The feelings of fall – going back to school and approaching holidays - become dulled with consistently warm weather.  Floridians wear shorts on Christmas!  There’s no physical sense of seasons when the air is still warm and the trees are still green.  But don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it.  Southerners have a lot less chores – raking, shoveling, changing out wardrobes and tires – I’m thrilled to say none of these things are part of my life.     

John identified the tree as a Sweetgum.  Judging from the grooves in its bark, which are characteristic of Sweet gum trees, he’s right.  Sweet gums can be found from Florida to Connecticut: Gardening climate zones 6a-10b.  The name, Sweet gum, is derived from its sap.  The sap can be boiled down into a medicinal balsam to help treat a variety of conditions including ring worm and dysentery.  The trees, themselves, are useful in reforestation efforts because of their rapid growth and insect resistance.  Good to know, but I’ll keep the rake in the garage and continue to admire them from stoplights.      

My Sweet gum source: http://www.sfp.forprod.vt.edu/factsheets/sweetgum.pdf

Grapefruit Got Me Down

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post.  I’ve been in a terrible depression over my grapefruit tree.  John asked me if it would be okay to cut it back.  We walked outside; he pointed to one stray branch toward the bottom.  “That’s the only one that will come off the bottom; I swear,” he said.  “The top will be trimmed into a giant puff ball,” he said.  ”You’ll love it,” he said.  You know where this is going, right?  His tree trimmers came in and maimed my tree!  I feel bad even looking at it, like it’s naked and it doesn’t want me to look.  

The giant puff ball has been deflated.  Now John’s scrambling and repeating, “It’ll fill in in no time.”  Well, will it fill in before my orchid takes a nose dive out of it’s pot to escape the now unrelenting glare of direct sunlight?   

With so few branches for shade, it’s officially on suicide watch…and the lights, mirrors and random black wire?  They fared far worse than the orchid.  The lights were snipped, the mirrors were cut away as compost, and what did this black wire do???

Really, we have no idea what that black wire did.  Oh well, we’ll deal with that bill some other time.  Here’s my guy in his heyday all dressed up and ready to throw a grapefruit.

And here is the last surviving decoration - one small mirror circa my Garden Spells craze.

My Family Tree

I haven’t seen my sister since last August.  She’s on a Family Hiatus in Ireland for a year.  We seem to keep in touch through our blogs more than anything else.  It’s my favorite distraction to check in and see what small glimpse of their day I get to share in.  Today my nephew, Dylan, was fascinated from a far by a snail.  Wednesday, she wrote about a tree that reminds her of me and my tree.  Although there are a few palms and cherry trees in our yard, there’s only one she could be talking about - Grandfather Grapefruit.

I love this tree!  Beyond its grapefruit and blossoms, it’s home to mockingbirds, spiders and air plants.  My orchid has thrived under its protective branches, and ball moss lives on its bark.

Grandfather Grapefruit makes me smile and so does my sister.  Of course, I knew this before reading this month’s All You magazine, but they backed up my findings with research:

Having a sister makes people happier and more optimistic, according to a 2009 U.K. report by researchers at the University of Ulster and De Montfort University.  The reason?  Female siblings give support and encourage their family members to communicate their emotions-which decreases stress, the study’s authors say.      

Thanks sis!  I’ll be thinking of you under the shade of the grapefruit tree.

Happy Easter!

If I could give you one thing today, it would be the feeling of my backyard.  It’s 70 degrees without a cloud in sight, and Grandfather Grapefruit is wearing his intoxicating cologne of citrus blossoms.  The sweet smell is wafting from fence to fence filling every available nook and cranny in the yard.  With John here next to me, I’m exactly where I want to be today.  I hope you are too.  Happy Easter!

Weather Report

I’ll let the palm tree take this one…

“It’s windy.”