I am home again, reunited with family and garden. The dogs no longer growl when I come into the room. Now, after a full week of recovery, I am of sound enough mind and body to download my images and ponder the wonders of this latest voyage; those things that are undeniably wondrous enough in the moment that it might seem to others assured of mental cementation. But, as often happens in life, when confections exist in such ample supply they often cannot be savored until long after the first taste.
Before I am consumed by the holidays, the bedevilments of a garden under assault by Arctic outbreaks, the inevitable accumulation of more moments in our lives that dust so lightly but so quickly to obscure the past, I will adhere three recent moments to my hard drive. All three trees.
I have already bothered you with my accountings of seeing and collecting seed of the paperbark maple, Acer griseum, during this trip. Because of my long affinity to the genus- I did my Master’s Thesis surrounding it – I have always thought of this tree to be aristocratic in nature. And, in turn, in nature, Acer griseum is aristocratic. This experience was like having coffee with Bruce Springsteen. It was doing lunch with Lady Gaga. A good pint of stout in a pub with Robert Plant. Its bark, silhouette, autumn color, presence, shouts exceptionalism.
On one of the few days it was not raining during our time in Hubei, we hiked up a beautiful ravine in which grew an impressive inventory of garden plants we are all familiar with. From Hostas to Hydrangeas, it was indeed a plantsman’s paradise. Capping that day, however, in fact forever altering the way I will see this species again, was coming upon this champion Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum. The only thing missing was its autumn foliage and thusly its beguiling scent of burned caramel.
Lastly, it was in Vietnam. My friend, Uoc, and I hiked through a dense undergrowth of bamboo, Impatiens, and cardamon to revisit a small population of the rare horse chestnut, Aesculus wangii. Of course, I was hoping to find a few of its signature conkers- seeds approaching the size of small coconuts- that had fallen from above. Of the eight specimens we found in the dense fog and heavy rain of that day, three offered us a few seed each. Suffering the indignities of shipment and USDA inspection, though in moist sphagnum the entire time, the seed had already begun to germinate before they reached Indianola.