Following My Tree: April

Finally, the snow is melting and the ground that has been hidden for so many months is beginning to re-appear. Today temperatures rose to 15C or so, a big change from what we’ve been experiencing. And the sky was bright and beautifully blue.

 

The linden tree is framed between two old maple trees, planted over 100 years ago.
The linden tree is framed between two old maple trees, planted over 100 years ago on the big lawn at Glen Villa.

 

Despite this, not much is happening yet to the tree I’m ‘following’ this year, a linden or basswood, or (to give the tree its proper name) my Tilia americana.

On a warm day I can fool myself into thinking I see buds forming. And maybe I do.  Spring doesn’t linger in Quebec. Some years, the season jumps from winter to summer in so short a time that a sleepy-eyeed city dweller misses spring altogether.

 

Are those really buds?
Are those really buds? I have to use my imagination — and a magnifying glass.

 

Today I was able to walk across the big lawn without slogging through piles of melting snow. As you can see in the photo below, the snow has almost disappeared, lurking now only in shady spots. The lawn is nowhere near green; instead it is a soggy mess. With the earth still frozen, the melt-off has nowhere to go, creating perfect conditions for mud and water that pools on the surface.

 

The lawn is partly underwater, and very soggy.
There is a hint of green in the grass on the right-hand side of this photo. Or so I tell myself.

 

Underneath the tree a wire mesh cover is protecting the muscari bulbs planted last fall against marauding squirrels. It’s pinned into the ground at the edges and held in place with strips of wood.

 

Squirrels in the fall dug up most of the bulbs we planted the first year we tried this.
Squirrels in the fall dug up most of the bulbs we planted the first year we tried this.

 

I first planted bulbs under the tree some eight or nine years ago. My idea was to have a circle of blue that matched the shadow line of the tree, a bit like a blue bruise on the ground to mark the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The first year I planted scilla, but for some reason the following year I changed my mind and planted muscari, or grape hyacinth, instead.

I added muscari annually for three more years. After dividing the space into quadrants, I planted one quadrant each fall, leaving a path between the sections to allow easy access to the bench that circles the tree.

That was a mistake — leaving a space lessened the impact.  Last fall I decided to complete the circle by filling in the empty bits.  I also added more bulbs to the quadrant already planted since the muscari has not multiplied as quickly as I thought it would. I’ll do the same this fall and the next two years as well. That means a lot more bulbs and a lot more hours, but I think the end result will be worth it.

 

 

This photo from May 2014 shows three quadrants and the empty paths between them.
This photo from May 2014 shows three of the four quadrants and the empty spaces between them. It’s not nearly blue enough.

 

The linden tree has a naturally rounded profile but careful pruning over the years has enhanced that shape. Shortening heavier branches lightens the load and helps prevent the tree from splitting any more than it has already. The stubby branch ends are not attractive but since they almost disappear as soon as the tree leafs out, the trade-off is worth it.

 

A stubby: that's what people in Quebec call a short beer bottle. This is just a stubby branch.
A stubby: that’s what some people in Quebec call a short beer bottle. This is just a stubby branch.

 

The linden tree is not the star of the spring season in Quebec. That honour goes, without question, to the sugar maple. Yesterday we held a sugaring-off, the celebration that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

I’ll be writing about that celebration a little later this week, and about how we make maple syrup. I hope you’ll return for a virtual taste of the best syrup in the world!