Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Trees Are Just The Beginning

Have you noticed how Christmas brings out the hidden botanist within us? People who, two weeks ago, couldn't point out a Douglas Fir tree in a forest full of 'em, are now looking down their noses at the folks who are decorating a Pseudotsuga menziesii in their living room instead of the far superior Abies procera or A. balsamea. Suddenly the Pinaceae is fair game for casual conversation. Suddenly I'm not the only one in a given room who can tell the difference between true firs and Doug Firs. That means I'm not the weird one anymore! The world is speaking my language and I belong!
But alas, the season is ephemeral and upon the New Year the populace will undergo a bludgeoning repression of its collective memory until all those beautifully classified conifers become nothing but "pine trees" once again. And it's back to blank looks when I try to explain to friends and clients that really, there are only two common evergreens you see in Western Washington, Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars, and you can easily tell the difference by the way their leaves...

See, I bet you even trailed off while you were reading that.

Clearly what we need is a greater number of specific plant-related holiday traditions. You know, just to keep the nomenclature sharp (and, OK, to make me feel less like I spend half my time speaking an alien language). Therefore, please do your best in helping me to disseminate the following soon-to-be cherished rites.

*The New Year's Resolution-Maple: Everyone brings a maple leaf to their respective New Year's party and publicly (drunkenly is allowed, too) enumerates one resolution for every lobe of their leaf. Since different Acer species have different numbers of lobes, this will encourage people to find certain species that afford them a greater (or lesser) degree of optimism and resolve. The main challenge will be to find maple leaves at a time of year when the trees are bare. Big Box to the rescue! Next year, alongside countless Poinsettias at Home Depot, you'll find a sea of little maples just for the occasion!

*Sweetheart Cuttings: Valentine's Day pretends to have a green thumb what with all the roses flying around, but the only thing people really learn each year is that roses are freaking expensive. So let's take it up a notch. Instead of a bouquet of generic roses, really impress your sweetie with a bouquet of hand-selected hardwood cuttings. The successful propagation thereof would serve as a symbolic reminder of your love... and if the cuttings don't take, then your love was never meant to be. Sorry.

*The Easter Viburnum Hunt: Why just scatter Easter Eggs randomly throughout the yard? Let it be known that the Easter Bunny only deposits goodies in Viburnum shrubs and within each species can be found a trademark treat of varying caliber. I'd like it if the quality of treat would correspond with my own opinion of a given shrub. Therefore, Viburnum bodnantense or V. plicatum tomentosum would be automatic jackpots, while V. tinus would be the equivalent of coal in your stocking.

*Blow-Up A Boxwood!: This sure-to-be favorite of the Independence Day festivities is a patriotic way to rid the world of one more Buxus. Just find the nearest ugly shrub smelling of cat-pee, insert a large illegal firecracker, light fuse and get away!

That should get us through the next half a year, anyway. Let me know if you've got any other suggestions. Keep in mind these traditions will take on regional and personal variations as they spread; but try to remember that the point of such special moments we share with our friends and family is to make me feel more normal. It can be so easy, in the midst of holiday chaos, to forget that. Thank you.


  1. Oh come on, lest we forget Arbor day?

  2. Yes, and when was the last time you partook of Arbor day?

  3. Some good ideas here with strong emotion behind them. Instead of just posting all this stuff for free with no particular end-game, have you considered creating your own religion? Or maybe even founding a small country?

  4. Susan: Good ideas, but I'm far too lazy to implement them. I'll let others do the religion/country building and then charge royalties for the use of my traditions.

  5. Another horticultural term to use in describing your new traditions? Narcissism (and I can use that word freely).

    Now that the bad puns are out of the way, what about an Election Day celebration--we'd have to pick our favorite plant whose common name starts with False.

  6. "... and if the cuttings don't take, then your love was never meant to be. Sorry."

    Oh god, I have a jar of rotting curly willow cuttings in my kitchen that I'm certain will -- any day now!-- sprout roots.

    Any day now.

    Ah, I'm trying to will them into being. I want them to grow because they were part of a place that was once special to me. Alas.

    The other day I realized they'd look pretty good dried, though :)