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Sharing a common connection with trees

June 4, 2009
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaegher

It was many years ago that I went camping to Yellowstone with some friends and after we had arrived, and I had a minute to really look around with my biologists eyes, I was totally stunned at the fact that I could not see very far.

The prairie has been a part of me that the hills, valleys, and yes, trees so totally overwhelmed me that I could not see more than a few feet. Yet, I am a person that when the ash trees of our farm and the silver maples of our farm gift us with many, many of their babies each year - particularly the past couple of years - that I can not simply spray them with roundup or rip them out and forget them. I know that many of you have similar thoughts for as many calls that I have fielded this spring and early summer, we have more baby trees then we know what to do with. It is a singular experience it seems for many of us gardeners.

I tend to pull many of them up and place them in a container and then plant them, as we need more trees in our grove. I think that moving them around is OK in my mind since I know that I can walk around any corner of the farm and the rolling hills of our pasture surrounds us and I can still see miles away. Why is it though that trees in particular make so many of us crazy when they become sick or simply 'not right'?

I think, for one thing, is that on the prairie we all know that trees to those who first came here, found them a prized commodity and we also acknowledge this at this point and time. The first time I moved here, my father pointed out to me how the trees all leaned to one side and wondered at what kind of event had occurred to make this happen. It did not take more than a day or two to find out it was simply the day to day occurrence of the winds that we get here. The second reason is that trees often take on a persona similar to humans. Many of us, myself included, have a tree in our yard that is now decorated with 'the face' that we can purchase in the local stores. They are supposed to glow in the dark but mine doesn't.

It does, however, make you look at that particular tree and wonder if it will start to talk to you.

Trees are just a part of our gardens that give our gardens a certain spark. They have presence, especially the big wonders like some of the cottonwood trees that have stood for so very long. They are a wondrous, powerful presence. They are life

Without the trees in my front yard, even though at this time of the year I can not see the end of my driveway which, at times is annoying. I enjoy my trees and lament and yes, pray for them, in the fall when the ice storms hit the area. They are also life giving. The blackbirds, the robins, the sparrows and the mourning doves (my personal favorites) nest in these trees.

They are also a source of entertainment since the squirrels seem to relish in harassing the blackbirds early in the mornings. The very air of which we breath when we are standing in a place that has many trees seems to be different, too. If you don't have a grove of trees you may not notice this until you visit a state park or mountainous region. Researchers have found that there is a unique difference in air that we breath where there is a significant number of trees. Researchers have found 120 different chemical compounds of which only 70 could be identified. This says a lot when we start to lose our trees since there are compounds out there that we are losing that we simply do not know what they are.

I think that many of us, whether we have a love of gardening or not, have some sort of deep connection to trees and the invisible connection that we have with them.

Biologists, and gardeners alike, are often attracted to the study of living things because we feel those connections more so than others. We often feel more wounded when a tree suffers as if it were our own child. To know them, is to love them.

Gardeners, biologists and poets even help us to keep connected to the trees and other living things around us.

Breathe deeply; stop not only to smell the roses but also to smell the trees.

Thank you to those who have been sending me pictures of their prized gardens. I am still looking for more pictures! For more information on this or your garden, you can reach me at 823-4632 or email me at



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