Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What's Your Name Bud?

The shy leaf buds of a salmonberry bush.

January is a time of letting go of the old growth and embracing the new spring buds, blossoms and catkins. There are still some dead leave clinging to trees, hanging on against the January winds until they drop and become mulch for this year's new growth. The seeds that dried out in the summer and fall heat are waiting to sprout up and create new life. When you take a walk in January, pay particular attention to bark and buds. Which trees call out to you to reach out and touch them? Look at the textures and colours of bark. This time of year in Vancouver there are red osier dogwood twigs that contrast with silvery bark of oak trees against the soft grey morning fog. Look at the colour palette and the diverse sizes and shapes of spring buds: from soft ivory grey to bright purple and yellow-green. Test yourself: can you tell the name of the bush or tree by looking at its buds?

This week I see bright yellow hazel catkins for the first time, along with the snowdrop buds. I needed to go out to the garden to remove the wire mesh covering from my crocus bulbs so they can grow up unimpeded. I say a spell of protection under my breath to keep the squirrels away from the tender bulbs. I dare not repeat the words I used because I would frighten the children. I pass an alley laid with the corpses of Christmas trees waiting patiently to be mulched and the scent of the pine sap hits me like a balm. I feel badly I cannot salute each Christmas tree by name and vow to learn my evergreens this year. We owe it to our trees to be able to address them properly because they give us so much: clean air, fruit, nuts, building material, medicine, food, and and beauty. It's a good time of the year to marvel at the contrast between our coniferous and deciduous trees. Look up and celebrate the branches, bark, buds, and catkins of your friendly neighbourhood trees. Go on a walk with a good tree guide in your pocket. (Sometimes you can find fabulous vintage guides in the used book store.)

P.S. Don't forget to take notes of those berries that are attracting groups of birds to winter feasts.

High: 8 degrees C
Low: 2 degrees C

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