Saturday, May 25, 2013


A night of powerful storms was followed by a morning of thick fog.  As I drove toward the city, there appeared out of the mist graceful umbrellas of green; the unmistakeable silhouettes of the elms.  In the seventies, when I was a child, our summer holidays always involved long car trips and dewy early mornings like this one.  I remember looking out of the car window into the summer dawn and seeing, along the banks of every watercourse and sheltering cattle in the middle of the fields,  the graceful drooping branches and full crowns which spoke to me of beauty and of bounty.

We were genuinely sad when we heard about Dutch Elm disease, and all too soon there were arborists trying to save the elm in our backyard.  The eighties were a bad decade for the trees.  Dead elms were everywhere and healthy elms seemed non-existent.  Young trees seemed to do well, only to die off just as they started to mature.  Programs like the one at the University of Guelph tried selective breeding from resistant individuals but it seemed that nothing could stop the beetles and the deadly fungus they brought in their wake.

Commercial growers now offer hybrids which are resistant to the disease, so there is hope.  The trees which I saw looming in the fog, however, don't seem to have been deliberately planted, so perhaps Nature is working on the problem on her own schedule.  Perhaps there is the ghost of a chance that equilibrium will be reached and we will once again see these graceful giants flourishing.

Monday, May 20, 2013


They're here!  And they're everywhere.  For a couple of weeks each spring, the countryside explodes with colour and scent as the lilac outbreak takes place.  Every shade of mauve imaginable, with plenty of white sports, the lilacs have taken root in every bit of waste land.  From modest shrubs planted on the farmstead to raise the spirits of the early European settlers, these plants have taken off, thriving in the limey soils. They spread by runners, and by seed-eating birds, and once they take hold there's no stopping them. Each year there seem to be more of them, running rampant as agriculture declines, filling whole fields with a thick cover, which for most of the year we don't even notice.   But come May, we are overwhelmed,  amazed, and enchanted.

Insidious?  Certainly.  But what a way to be invaded!