Category Archives: dendographia


Dendrographia (den-dro-graf’-ia): Creating an illusion of reality through vivid description of a tree.

When my wife and daughter, and I moved into our newly built home around 20 years ago, we had a lot of treeless land. The property where the house was built was an old cow pasture—not a tree-friendly use of the land. Although surrounded by forest consisting of maple, linden, white pine, aspen, and tamarack, the field looked treeless. But, there were some tiny trees that had started to grow, since the field hadn’t been plowed for years. They were mostly pig nut hickory born from the giant trees across the road, planted by squirrels and forgotten, and swamp maple with its pretty saw-tooth leaves that turn dark red, almost maroon, in fall. There was also a walnut tree. The deer loved to eat the saplings, but I was determined that they grow.

I found out about deer repellent at Lowe’s. It comes in a gallon jug with a hand-squeeze pump. It’s primary ingredient is rotten eggs. Deer definitely don’t like it. So, I diligently sprayed my little trees. Some of them didn’t make it, but must of them did. Now, they are around 20 ft. Tall. The hickory are the first to change colors in the fall—a nice yellow color. They are still a little spindly, but their ancestors across the road are massive. They’ll get there!

The wnd here blows hard from the west, causing deep snowdrifts in our driveway, making our already difficult winter worse. So, my wife and I planted 20 white pines on the Western border of the property. There were around six inches tall and we got them from the New York State Department of Conservation, as I recall, for hardly any money. In addition we planted a sugar maple, 5 oak trees and 4 hawthorns. Now they are mostly 20 feet tall. They’ve made a micro forest that deer like to sleep in, and at least once, give bath in. The driveway drifts are pretty well remedied, but the trees have provided so much more—like the smell of the pines, the muffling effect of their needles on the ground, the blazing autumn colors, the perching birds—from grosbeaks to hawks, to kingbirds and more.

We have kept planting trees. We have a small apple orchard that yields a few gallons of cider and quarts of applesauce per year—a father-daughter activity that has no parallel in the universe! Trying out different recipes for applesauce is special fun. There is nothing better than an apple tree laden with red ripe apples—truly ornaments: visible signs of the trees’ fulfillment of their end. In addition, we’ve planted birch trees, red bud, balsam, and magnolia, and this summer we planted paw-paw, catalpa, peaches, and chestnuts.

In addition to everything else, our trees mark time. I look out the window, or walk among them feeling the 20 or so years that have passed since we first brought them home, or received them in the mail. So much has happened as they’ve quietly grown, transforming a field into a forest. They’re in no hurry. Neither am I.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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