Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black Walnut: My Third Signature Plant

The trees at the end of the driveway are walnut trees.
We have a grove of walnut trees, Juglans nigra, at the end of our driveway, behind the tractor shed and the barn. (That's the tractor shed on the right with the window boxes). We call the walnut grove, The Dell. We have several other walnut trees scattered around the property, including an ancient one on the east side of the house near the kitchen garden, and some younger ones in the Woodland Walk. I have a love/hate relationship with our walnut trees: I love their majestic form; I hate that certain plants wont grow under them.

These large-sized trees, native to Pennsylvania, have an impressive presence in our garden. I love the dark brown to gray-black bark with its narrow ridges. The wood is very valuable for quality furniture, for veneer, gun stocks and musical instruments. The wide, flat leaves are compound, alternate, and dark yellow-green above.

Our walnut trees provide a lush-green backdrop to the cottage garden in summer.
In the hot Pennsylvania summers, the shade of the walnut trees is very welcome to my miniature horse, Dude. Some think that the leaves of the walnut tree are toxic to horses, but the toxicity lies in the roots, and Dude has never had a bad reaction to the tree's proximity. The roots of Black Walnut  produce a substance known as juglone (5-hydroxy-alphanapthaquinone). Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, red pine and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees.

The walnut tree on the east lawn is a shady place for Dude (and deer) to graze.
I plant all my vegetables in raised beds, so they will not be contaminated by juglone. I constantly have to think carefully before planting anything near a walnut tree. This can be very frustrating. But I do think its advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Grandchildren love swinging in the shade of The Dell.

H.H. made a swing from an old tractor seat and hung it from a branch of a walnut tree.
In autumn walnut trees are among the first to lose their leaves.
Our walnut trees have different faces depending on the season. I love all their faces.

In the winter, the black bark against the white snow is dramatic. (The snowstorm below occurred almost a year ago today. It is more like early summer here, now.)

Pretty in white. The Dell in March last year.

All the best sunrises occur behind the old walnut tree.

There was a bumper crop of nuts last year.
The nuts are encased in a green, leathery coat. The black shells inside are difficult to break. Our neighbor, Karl, would put them in a burlap bag and drive over them with his pickup truck. We don't usually attempt to get at the nuts, but offer them to anyone who wants to go to the trouble. H.H. finds another use for them. He practices his golf swing with an old golf club, aiming the nuts into the top field.

Walnuts in their green cases. They make good golf balls.

I am linking to Diana at Elephant's Eye for her 'Dozen for Diana' meme. My first signature plant was the English bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and my second was Echinacea purpurea, purple cone flower. Do visit Diana's wonderful garden in South Africa and join in the fun.

It's the first day of spring, today! We've had spring-like weather for so long that the day did not make me as excited as usual. There are daffodils blooming everywhere and we heard peepers today. I am enjoying making an early start in the garden.

Happy Spring!
Pamela x

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  1. (no apologies, we run on African time, as and when)

    My father used to love pickled walnuts. We get lots of pecans, but not so many walnuts in South Africa. Love trees that show the seasons. Our ash trees are turning tawny and dropping leaves.

  2. They're certainly majestic trees. They look fabulous in the snow picture.

  3. Wow! You sure do have a garden & view to die for Pam...jealous? Moi? Maybe just a bit...lol xxx

  4. My grandmother had a black walnut tree in her yard, and I remember how big and hard the cases are. And how dark the bark is. Your trees are the perfect backdrop to your home. Just lovely. I had a conversation the other day with someone looking for black walnuts. She was having a very hard time finding them in the grocery stores, and was wanting to make a cake. Maybe you should start selling the nuts!

  5. Lucky you having your own Walnuts. Beautiful trees that make a lovely backdrop to your place. Miniature ponies are so cute. Always fancied having one but never did.

  6. If the nuts are so difficult to break, I wonder how they germinate ...

  7. This tree is really beautiful, I love the winter snow photo with the impressive black trunks. Very beautiful.

  8. What great trees, despite their drawbacks! Luckily you have lots of space, and can garden away from them if necessary, it sounds like.

  9. I love black walnuts and have two very large ones in the middle of my garden. I haven't had much trouble growing things under them: oakleaf hydrangea, hellebores, Jacob's ladder, celandine poppy, VA bluebells, aster, etc. However, it is not a place that I grow vegetables. Unfortunatley, I read recently that there is a pest on its way like the ash borer to take down all the walnuts.

  10. Specially love the dark bark and your grove makes a versatile native signature for your garden Pam...but surely an Enlgish walnut would go well here too?! :)

  11. Yeah I understand the love hate relationships with our plants in the garden.

    I had a Barberry shrub in my garden on the side of the house. It was a beautiful specimen in the fall with it's red leaves and then red berries in the winter...

    But in the Summer it was hard to deal with when it grow out of bounds. It stabbed me every time I cut the grass or went to trim it. I promised to dig it up but never could make up my mind because it was so pretty in the fall and winter months.

  12. My husband's grandfather would pick and deshell black walnuts. He even invented a patented machine to do it mechanically. As a designer, I am very wary of the black walnut on a property. We never take them down, but it is very limiting what can be companion planted with them.

  13. Pam my first garden was under an old grove of silver maples and black wanut trees...the worst part was the destructive squirrels but I learned a lot about tough gardening conditions...just loved these trees.

  14. There is nothing like a completely fresh walnut is there? Nothing like the ones you can get in the shops. My neighbours growing up had a tree and I loved them (but luckily it was surrounded by garages and road, so the leaves didn't fall on any sensitive plants!!)