We have been enjoying an amazing sneak peek into spring these past several days. Sunshine, blue sky and a view of Mt. Hood completely covered in a cloak of white snow – and temperatures mild enough to spend time in the conifer garden.
Where I live, we are on the outer edge of the east wind influence that jets westerly through the Columbia River Gorge. Although our winds are nothing when compared to what my Troutdale friends must endure, we can have some strong gusts that will bring weak branches down out of the towering Douglas Fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii) that enclose one corner of my property. I don’t mind the extra work it makes since I just cut the branches into lengths perfect for our little fire pit to be enjoyed this summer. My wife loves a campfire and simply cannot resist the temptation to roast a marshmallow or two.
As I was sorting out the fallen branches by size (small stuff for the chipper/shredder and larger for the campfire) I was happy to be outside spending time in my garden. I see signs of new life as bulbs and perennials begin to emerge from their winter resting place beneath the soil. I hear birds singing all around me and watch the family of squirrels, that have claimed my little acre as their own, scamper along doing whatever it is that keeps them so busy.
I am reminded of the hummingbird nest that I spotted nestled inside the long branches of my Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan’ as one of these fascinating creatures flies right up to me, hovers for a moment, looks at me eye-to-eye, and then buzzes away with lightning speed. I am pleased that the several species of birds, and the squirrels, the neighbor’s cat and my wife and I can all co-exist peacefully on this bit of property. Yes, it’s true, the squirrels and the scrub jays don’t get along very well, but I wonder how much of their arguing and chasing one another is primal instinct and how much is just something fun to do on a sunny and warm late winter’s morning.
My conifers provide a wonderful habitat for my wild little friends. The larger trees provide ample shelter for many birds and squirrels and all of the trees mature enough to produce cones, provide food. Even the smaller dwarf and miniature conifers provide useful perches for the hummers as they stake out and protect their territory when guarding the precious nectar produced by my wife’s flowers.
Gardening is truly a lifestyle that has many positive effects – not only for humans, but also for the many other creatures with whom we share our earthly home.