Contemplating Loss of Green Friends

Although it is overcast today the weather is very pleasant. There is the slightest breath of a breeze and the temperature is a comfortable 64F (17.8C). What a great day to be having coffee on the deck!

The cats are out too. Fleck is doing that funny chattering thing that cats do when they see pigeons. Kai, the hyper-alert one, is scanning everything around him like a radar scope. Since the deck is 10ft high and has no stairs to the garden, it is essentially a giant outdoor play pen for them and they love it. I’m enjoying it quite a bit myself, but as I look at the garden below and imagine how it will be greening up soon, I notice that our largest hemlock is not well.

The graceful thirty foot tall tree, one of an original four, is dying. The hemlock at the back wall died last year. This one nearer the deck will die this year–next year at the latest. Its normal dark green needles have been yellowing and thinning out since last fall. I knew it was likely to happen, although I vainly hoped that our garden in Center City Philadelphia was isolated enough that the woolly adelgids would not find it. Clearly, there is no where for hemlocks to hide from this insect. It has been killing them everywhere and will probably wipe them out much like the chestnut blight wiped out mature American chestnuts from 1904 to 1940.

Worse than contemplating the loss of our garden trees is the thought of the changes this introduced pest is causing to the forests near Asheville, NC where I grew up. A recent article in Science Daily reports that the dying is progressing faster there than previously thought. I saw signs of it myself last September when I visited the area.

We will replace the dead hemlocks in our garden with something else. I wonder what will take the place of the ones in the coves of the southern Appalachians. Something will, as oaks replaced chestnuts, and spring will still come, but saying good-bye to the hemlocks is still not an easy thing to do.