In this month of thankfulness, we often take for granted the trees surrounding us. As the final colorful leaves drift to earth and our attention turns toward boughs of holiday evergreen, reflect on how trees provide color, shade, oxygen, a home for wildlife, beauty, food, fuel and mark the seasons of our lives. Trees also teach us valuable lessons of diversity, perseverance and value.
Every year it seems we experience a storm event where trees succumb to a wind or ice and cause damage. It is a natural physical reminder of entropy, or a lack of order or predictability, or gradual decline into disorder, in our lives. We all deal with entropy in our lives, but prefer to ignore signs of deterioration. We work to move forward because we are either moving forward or backward, and not much stays the same and certainly not for long. When it comes to entropy, we grow when we: Recognize it as reality. Develop the skill to identify it and resist apathy and complacency. Understand entropy applies not only to the physical body, but mentally too (our attitudes and relationships). Most importantly, developing a clear understanding of what you can manage. Entropy dictates the need to manage what and how much we can manage in our realm.
This past year, a major wind event felled a number of trees in our neighborhoods. When they fell it was a good reminder of necessary maintenance, planning and development to battle the ever present effects of entropy. For example, to have strong trunks, tree trunks should be tapered from top to bottom. Trees develop tapered trunks from two major events in their lives: trunks swaying back and forth in the wind and the presence of branches with leaves all along the trunk. These lessons are learned early in the life of a tree and its development. Without it, they won’t be able to support the canopy of the tree when the storms of life arrive. It is just like humans, the most intelligent have the ability to hold two opposing views in their mind and still be able to function.
The wind event reminded us of the importance of a tree’s root collar. It is the area where the roots join the main stem or trunk. At the base of the tree there is a flare leading to the major roots. The root collar is part of the tree’s trunk. Unlike roots, the trunk is not specialized to resist constant soil moisture. If the tree is planted originally too deep or has soil or mulch mounded against the root collar and bark that is not accustomed to being wet, we will eventually see decline, and ultimately failure of the tree at some point. Root collar from the start makes a difference. Strong root collars still experienced a condition called wind throw because support from the lateral roots was diminished due to surrounding driveways, walks, streets or other factors diminishing a stable lateral root system. We saw the entire tree roots and all lift out of the ground and topple over.
Finally, most people do not think of pruning. Pruning can be a good thing in our personal lives. A setback can help us re-evaluate and reset to move forward. A tree, even a large established tree, benefits from pruning. Some of the trees that went over in the storm had been neglected for years. Pruning of trees is a safety issue, a tree health issue and is also done for aesthetics. Winter is a great time for pruning of deciduous trees and strengthens and improves them for future growth.
Lessons can be learned from the storms of life. May the forest be with you.
Rick Vuyst is CEO of Flowerland, host of the Flowerland Show on NewsRadio WOOD 1300 and 106.9 FM as well as Mr. Green Thumb on WZZM TV 13