The Cool House: trees
Showing posts with label trees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trees. Show all posts

Friday, September 18, 2015


We are in mourning today for a part of the landscape, for what the tree surgeon described in April as the best tree in the Incorporated Village and for the core of our view every day for the past eleven years. When we moved in to the Cool House the previous owner explained the house's unusual design was conceived in part around this enormous mountain spruce tree in the front yard. Its beautiful fringed, dark green arms seemed to offer our home an enveloping hug, protecting it from the harsh Long Island winters, providing shade from the relentless summer sun. Each morning we have stood in front of the kitchen windows, sipping coffee, watching the birds and squirrels among the branches, marveling at its magnificence.

We took every opportunity of good weather in Spring, Summer and Fall to enjoy lunch al fresco on the patio beneath its branches until, sometime after the Fourth of July celebrations, we noticed the needles on the bottom branches were falling off, even though they were still green. Over the course of the next couple of weeks the phenomenon worsened. We googled, consulted the landscape and the tree experts and came up with a diagnosis of severe needle drop. We crossed our fingers and hoped it would be a temporary problem but the needle drop persisted, leaving only brown fronds; some days it seemed as though it was raining pine needles. 

While we still had tiny, green pinecones on the ends of the branches we could still hope for a recovery but when these too started falling and the branches turned brown and bare farther and farther up the tree we knew we were facing a dying tree. By mid-September it was all over. Even the uppermost tip was dry and the ground beneath covered in a couple of inches or more of desiccated needles.

For the last month we haven't been able to sit outside on the patio, everything has been covered in pine needles. We couldn't bear to drink our coffee looking at the tree, it was too depressing, and most telling, the birds and squirrels abandoned it. Finally, we knew it could no longer be saved and made a called the tree guys to remove it. Today they spent 8 hours taking down its 150' skeletal remains. 

I'm trying to look on the bright side, the west facing rooms will have more light, the front lawn will have less stress, we can replant the dell but all I can see is negative space, a pivotal part of the landscape gone. It's still a shock that it happened so quickly: two months from the first sign to complete failure. All that remains is a stump, a truck load of wood chips and an aching heart. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Through the windows

Integrating the outdoors into the interior design is a fundamental part of mid-century architecture; strategically placed windows enhance the views, banks of clerestory windows allow light to flood rooms, low ceilings draw the eye outside, sliding doors open to patios and gardens. This house was designed around an enormous Mountain Pine that dominates the west-facing side and the landscape enhanced by judicious planting. Every window captures a specimen tree, shrub or planting, an aspect that serves to bring the outside in. It's especially appreciated at this time of year when the deciduous trees have opened up and the azaleas are in full bloom but the chilly wind makes it too cold to sit outside. Outside April 25
Looking East

  Inside out April 25
Facing North

  Outside April 25
South-West aspect

  Outside April 25
Facing South

  Outside April 25
Kitchen-facing West

  Outside April 25
Den-due East

  Inside out April 25 
Living room to the East

Saturday, May 07, 2011

In the yard: Saturday Morning in Spring

Dark green Hinoki cypress against a summer blue sky

Blood red buds on a Norwaay Spruce laden with new cones

White Dogwood flowers behind the dark spruce

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Village Walk

Just a morning stroll-turn right at the purple magnolia

spot the bluejay in the conifer

snap the honking goose on the pond

straight on to the beach

and spy this guy in the yard back home

Thursday, December 02, 2010

After the storm

After this blew in I thought we might have lost a few branches, but it was a little bit more than that...

the tree top. all 15' of it came down

leaving a piece 6' long stuck in the Magnolia

which may account for this...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooky Tree

Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay, NY. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wet & Wordless Spring Sunday

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cat Assessed

... and found wanting.

We failed at putting up blinds, making the tree stand up, screwing the tree base to a plywood board and - spectacularly and devastatingly - I failed at overseeing the electricians' cable installation last week. We caught the damage today. I can't even speak about let alone post but let's leave at there is a huge hole in one wall and a white wire running down the side of the red-brown house. They will be back to make it right next week. (Promised). My Handyman would never have dreamt... and I miss him more than I can say.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Well at least it's not snowing...

It's currently 42 F and raining, all the cats are huddled together and I'm having to consider seriously turning on the heating. It's not news, it's just Fall on Long Island and it wouldn't normally bother me except that it's 100 F and sunny in Palm Springs. Not fair! So to cheer myself up (and in lieu of some MCM house shots that I'm still processing) here are a few photos to remind me of the fabulous dry desert climate:




Thursday, May 14, 2009


It's still officially Spring so I'm going to forgo Nature's burst into bloom* and let myself be seduced again by green, or more precisely, chartreuse. A mix of yellow and green, chartreuse is bright and peppy almost like the new growth on the weeping juniper tree.


The difficulty is finding a shot that will truly reflect the color on the screen. In the yard these hostas are edged with a perfect chartreuse. On the mac? Not so much.

Chartreuse is elusive -  at first glance it's everywhere but through the camera lens the lime-tinged conifers outside the kitchen window are just pale green.

This shrub held promise but the yellow turns out to be insipid not inspirational; wishy-washy, or simply washed-out.


It's a colour that's hard to define exactly; the paint chips lean to more muddy yellow hues while the hex designation on the web is an equal mix of yellow and green that results in an acid tone. I was so obsessed with Chartreuse that when we painted the kitchen I tried many variations on the kitchen walls from Anjou Pear to Sweet Pear and every chartreuse inspired pea shade in between. Sadly none of them replicated the color that I find in my yard... or the one in my imagination.

Perhaps the problem is that chartreuse is such a saturated hue it needs a contrasting colour to set it off- a smoky blue or a stone grey,

a soft silver green or a bluey-purple?

Why the fascination with chartreuse, apart from the mellifluous sound of the word itself? Because, every so often I'm reminded that once in my sophisticated youth there was a fondness for liqueurs. I was a Benedictine girl but my drinking companion loved Chartreuse and asked for one in a country pub atop a lonely hillock in the wilds of Cumbria. She got what she deserved. The bartender laconically replied: We ain't got no green but we got som o' that yella. Our faux urbanity dissolved in a fit of giggles and henceforth "som o' that yella" was used to describe any delightful but possibly pretentious and overpriced item.

Not at all like the gorgeous chartreuse green of the new leaves on this azalea or the flecks of colour inside the white blossoms.

*(I fibbed because I couldn't leave you without one shot of the yard in bloom).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

No Treegasm

I asked the landscaper's advice about the leaning juniper in the neglected garden. He confirmed it couldn't be saved; it would cost hundreds to brace it properly with wires and it probably wouldn't survive the trauma, and "it wasn't a very good specimen anyway". He recommended cutting it off a foot from the ground and taking the stump out with the rest of the trash when we tackle this part of the yard.
One person had commented that when a tree is cut down the energy continues to flow and jumping on the stump has an electrifying, almost orgasmic effect. Unfortunately I had no chance to test this theory as jumping around trees while a chainsaw is operation, even to conduct a very important scientific experiment, voids the landscapers' insurance. I did go and stand on it after they left but all that remained was another inert stump in a barren tract of land.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

More work than fun

Well, the whole save-a-tree rescue mission did not go according to plan. It turns out trees are heavier than one would think, well this one anyway, and our combined super strength was only enough to move it an inch or so. We abandoned the effort and if the landscaper can't move it we'll have to resort to the final solution - the chainsaw.
We moved on to the next chore on the list: repairing the mortar that had cracked during the frost. Here's a tip for anyone laying a patio with pavers or stone: Place the stones as close as possible to each other and fill the cracks with sand or stone dust. That way you avoid frost-pop, loose pavers and re-grouting every other Spring.

These bluestones were laid in a random pattern with mortar that varies from a 1/2" to a miniscule 1/8". It's fiddly work to get the loose mortar out and fill in the cracks, then you have to wipe the excess off before it dries and leaves ugly marks on the stones. I left half way through to walk the dogs and when I came back The Guy was on the phone. I hope he was getting DIY advice because that mortar is separating as he speaks. I also hope he didn't track stone dust through the house on his way to answer the call...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

If a tree falls...

Made a HUGE mistake in walking up the neighbor's drive to chat. Sorry, that came out wrong, the chat was very nice, as is the neighbor. No, the mistake I made was to look at my yard from the north side, the side of neglect, an area that we cleared of debris and dead shrubs wrapped in burlap a couple of years ago but that we have done nothing to since then. Because we don't rake the leaves here, allowing them to smother the weeds and enrich the soil, the ground is about 4" higher on our side of the fence; there are a few branches that fell during the winter and many twigs. Generally the area looks unkempt but the source of my dismay was a huge conifer that has fallen sideways and is being propped up by the fence. If it were to fall completely it would probably take out the fence too...
As the tree is still green we guess it's still alive but half its roots are out of the ground. We've no idea how long it's been like that, whether the roots have frozen in this season of frigid temperatures, but we have to try to save it. So the mission for tomorrow is to dig around the side of the rootball and see if we can prop it up, then brace it with stakes. That's the plan anyway. Of course the whole venture could go horribly wrong, the tree could fall on the person supporting it...
So many scenarios, none of them good.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Happy Ending

A neighbor just called to say the damn dog was running around the Village. Of course when I looked for her I found her in her usual place - guarding the bridge. Either she got out and got back in again or there's a Polly lookalike out there. While I was thanking the neighbor I realised there was a gorgeous sunset and I bolted to take some shots. Who knows how long it will be before we see another? Anyway, added bonus when I downloaded them. Do you see what I see? Buds! Buds on the dogwood tree! Spring is coming. Yay!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Unter den linden

While the eyes of the world are on Barack Obama in Berlin, home of the famous boulevard of linden or lime trees, I am surveying the scene of daily devastation that is our patio. Our own personal linden sheds its leaves (and the occasional branch) from end June to November.

See these little pods? They make their way through the house on the animals' fur and paws, leaving the interior of The Cool House looking almost as bad as the exterior. If we want to eat outside we have to sweep the patio exactly 10 minutes before, otherwise we are ankle deep in detritus. They are likewise not friendly to bare feet.

This the upside of the tree - its bark. Beautiful, and one of the reasons I don't take a large axe to it. Another being there are lights in it and I'd probably electrocute myself. The third is that the dryads would be very unhappy and who knows what revenge they could exact.

I don't know what possessed the original landscaper to plant the tree here, it would have been no trouble at all on the lawn. Could have shed to its heart's content and I wouldn't even have noticed. But here it is over the patio and I have to deal with it. Desperate for a solution, this year, in addition to sweeping, I've had the dogs shaved, so the linden-tree fallout should stay outside. At least that's what I'm hoping.

It was either that or train them to sweep with their tails!