Friday, November 20, 2015

Five oaks

This is the time of year when trees become particularly important to me. And of all trees, oaks are my favorites. Here are stories about five oaks.

Years ago, I gave my friend Hilda some evergreen oaks. She lives down on the water of the north side of the Northern Neck of Virginia. The climate there is milder than here, as witnessed by the many Daphne odora growing well for her. Some of them are the size of a two-seater sofa.
Among the oaks I gave her was the holm oak (aka holly oak), Quercus ilex, a species which grows wild in southern and coastal western Europe and north Africa. It's a well-known garden tree in England. I've tried it here in the home garden, but it does not thrive. What I really mean is that it does not survive. Wayne and I visited Hilda the other day, and she took me around to see the holm oak. It has grown into a promising eight to ten-foot youngster which shows no sign of winter damage. Here's a bit of the foliage:
Quercus ilex

While out shopping a few weeks ago, I stopped by one of the general merchandise stores in the area to look for gloves. Lined up outside on the sidewalk were some still-unsold nursery plants. From a distance, I could not make out what they were, but I saw red foliage. When I got closer, I realized the red foliage was oak foliage. There were several of these: four- to five-foot youngsters of Quercus shumardii in full, brilliant leaf color. One came home with me. Here it is:
Quercus shumardii

Last year, on one of our frequent trips to western Virginia to visit Wayne's family, we stopped by Timberville to see the old family home where his father grew up. Earlier that day we had been talking to one of his cousins who mentioned that she bought an oak which she took up to the old home and planted. The family called the home The Oaks, so an oak seemed appropriate. For me, the story got very interesting when she mentioned that the oak was an evergreen Asian oak. She couldn't remember the name. That did it: Wayne and I immediately added a side-trip to Timberville to see this oak. As it turned out, it was Quercus acutissima. But here's the best part of this story: his cousin had bought this oak at Lowes (of all places!) for all of $10. Here's a view of its foliage:
Quercus acutissima

I've long wanted an evergreen oak here in the home garden, and I finally have one which seems to be thriving here. It's Quercus turbinella, and it's one of those evergreen oaks which at first looks like a holly or an osmanthus. This one too has a story. I got it from the late Jo Banfield, who was a charter member of the local rock garden chapter. And she got her start with this species with a handful of acorns distributed by Panayoti Kelaidis when he was visiting on one of his lecture tours. Here's a look at it now:
Quercus turbinella

And our mossy-cup oaks,  Quercus macrocarpa,  in the home garden had acorns this year. This oak is probably better known as bur/burr oak. There were only a few acorns, and I managed to get six before the squirrels and deer got to them. They were immediately packed in a moist medium and are now sprouting. Only recently have I become aware of the size differences in the acorns of this species: those in parts of the south (Texas of course) are very big compared to those seen in the north.  Years ago, during one of the first years the home-garden trees had acorns, a neighbor took one look at the size of them and asked me to let him collect them. He had land in West Virginia where he hunted, and he wanted those big acorns to grow trees to feed "his" deer. They are big; I think these qualify as Texas-sized. Take a look here:
Quercus macrocarpa 
 Two Quercus marilandica and one Q. myrsinifolia were recently received from Woodlanders - I'll show those in the future.