Sunday, November 02, 2014


Our magnolia and our oak trees are having their yearly contest to see whose leaves can hold on the longest as the fall season does its annual foliage danse macabre.
The gingko down the road is also in the running.  It is the last vestige of a nursery specializing in rare trees and Japanese Gardens, which did business at that address in the 1920s and 30s.  When Mars and I first moved to Brimfield Road there were a pair of these trees, aka Maidenhairs.  Last year one was taken down.   It’s unclear why.  The only other local place I have seen this species is on the lower level of Constitution Plaza in neighboring Hartford where the fan-shaped gingko leaf design is replicated in the pavers beneath a row of the trees
The Chinese deciduous is apparently the oldest species of tree on earth – “a living fossil that has been essentially unchanged for more than 200 million years.”  However its foliage will be completely out of the running for leaf longevity after the first frost.  I learned this many years ago when I used to go out running early on weekend mornings. 
 It was seven a.m. and just around 32 degrees F. as I started down my driveway – around the bend and out of sight of the persistent pelting noise that disrupted the otherwise almost complete quiet.  When I turned the corner and looked towards the sound I saw a yellow waterfall cascading down into an identically colored pile on the snow shelf beneath the narrow tree.  By the time I returned from my three mile jaunt the gingko was totally devoid of its foliage, which was now all self-stacked and ready for the town’s leaf collectors to vacuum away.
In our own yard I know that the oak will once again be victorious – even though most of the magnolia’s leafage is still largely green.  In fact, some of last year’s winners are probably still hanging around.  Three years ago during the surprise Halloween snowstorm the snow-laden magnolia leaves dragged its branches down onto the electric wires connecting our house to the town grid taking them to the ground.  The anniversary of that event has just passed.  My hope now is that the magnolia self-defoliates in time for me to rake its droppings to the curb for the town to retrieve them.  They are much larger and crunchier than those from the oak and maple trees that I’ve been dragging across the lawn – and thus equally more satisfying.      
More likely though I’ll end up gathering them into a pile and mulching them to tiny pieces during my mower’s last act of work before its seasonal sabbatical.  This is nowhere near as gratifying as raking.   The dried leaflets usually require several passes on what will undoubtedly be a cold, gray November day when all I really want to do is get the whole thing over with, use up all the gas, and swap the positions of the mower and the snow blower in my garage.
 Mars and I have the magnolia professionally trimmed every other year.  As far as I can see the gingko requires no care whatsoever.  Except for the one week of the year when the magnolia’s maroon-and-white petals visually dominate our corner of the world, a gingko would be the arboricultural star of our premises.  Plus Mars and I would have an auditory alert of the year’s first frost.
No wonder the tree has been around forever.

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