Sunday, February 24, 2019

Destrehan Plantation's trees and more ... trees

Rain, more rain and fog - until next week maybe.  I thought I would write a post on one of the sunny days we had in New Orleans, Louisiana, last December.  We drove out of the city to visit Destrehan Plantation.  I started a post recounting the visit there but then noticed that I took many tree pictures.  After writing about the trees at the plantation and, as usual, being sidetracked and talking about other trees, the post became too long.  I re-started the post to focus on trees and shall write about our visit to the plantation later.  The trees at Destrehan are hard to miss as they are gigantic and numerous - they are the southern live oak trees (Quercus Virginiana) covered with Spanish moss.

 It seems that I always had a visceral attachment to trees.  As a wee child I loved to play under the plane trees in the square near our home in Paris.  We lived in a flat but mother would take me most afternoons two blocks up to the Square d'Anvers.  This square was opened in 1877 with a bandstand, a statue of Diderot (a French philosopher,) a column to Victory and many "platane" trees - plane-trees.  Parents would sit on benches and little children would play in sand boxes under the trees.  During WW2 the Germans melted the statues for metal.  Later in the 1970s an underground parking was built and the plane trees were cut down.  Other trees were planted but it does not look the same anymore.  Below are vintage postcards that show the square in the early 1900s.  When I used to play there in the mid to late 1940s the trees were even bigger than in the center postcard below.  I took pictures of the rebuilt square several years ago.  It is two blocks down from the Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre basilica.

Because of food rationing during and after WW2 (mother obtained one egg per week for me by doing some sewing for a farmer's wife) my health was not the best.  The doctor told my parents that we should move to a place with fresh air or I would have to be placed in a sanatorium for a while.  My parents bought a house in St Leu la Foret, a small town about 13 miles (20 km) from Paris at the foot of the large Montmorency Forest, but we still kept the Paris flat.  In St Leu I would take my dog (shown below) walking on the trails in the forest, or I would also ride my bike deeper in the forest.  I loved that forest.  I knew it so well - all the best high spots to see Paris in the background and the special areas where wild hyacinths would grow in spring.  This is a large forest of about 2200 hectares or 5440 acres.  At the end of the Middle Ages the Montmorency Forest was planted with chestnut trees for the manufacture of wine wood barrels and also for heating; some of these chesnut trees became very large.  I placed a red cross on the map below to show where our house in St Leu la Foret was located.  Click on collage to enlarge.

In Georgia my husband and I bought our house mostly because it was surrounded by trees.  The house stands only on one acre but there are many acres of trees around us, so it feels very secluded and we only see trees.  We never had a garden because the tall pines created too much shade, but we planted annuals in pots.  My dear blogging friends who have been reading my posts for a while have seen many pictures of the trees around the Georgia house.  Here are some views below showing the front, sides and backyard with the lake behind our house.

This house is located in West Cobb County, between 3 towns: Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth (about 30 miles or 50 km northwest of Atlanta.)  There are more trees near our house because our road is very close to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  This park is a 2,923-acre (11.8 km2) National Battlefield that preserves a Civil War battleground (the battle took place between June 18, 1864 and July 2, 1864) of the Atlanta Campaign.  Every day I drove through this park to go and come back from work, and there are many trees along the route.  My husband and I often walked on trails around the park.  We also walked to the top of Kennesaw Mountain.  You can see by the photo panorama below that the mountain is covered with trees.  At the very top of the mountain there are rocks as well; do click on collage to get a better view.

Neighboring houses also have pretty trees - our neighbors on the right have flowering trees in spring.  On the left is a farm with a large tree standing in the center of a meadow.  In winter you can easily see Lost Mountain behind the meadow.

Fortunately my late husband loved trees as much as I do.  I remember that for one of his father's big birthdays - either his 70th or 75th, my husband thought that the best gift would be to offer him a small tree.  We purchased a Ginkgo Biloba for him as it is a hardy tree - it stands strong against pollution, soil compaction, disease, wind, drought, fire, cold and pests.  The first winter in our house in Georgia we bought a living Christmas tree, a hemlock, which we planted near our mail box.  After 39 years it was very tall and lovely.  Unfortunately 3 years ago the Water Commission cut it down to install a water main pipe for a town near us.  In the early 1980s our friend gave my husband a black walnut tree and to me a fig tree.  Both were planted and grew well.  I made fig jam every year, but not long ago during a hard freeze my fig tree died.  Then last June 2018, during a strong wind storm, the black walnut tree fell down.  It was like losing friends.  Below is a Ginkgo Biloba with its fall foliage, top right is our hemlock tree, then a branch from my fig tree, and lastly the fallen black walnut tree.

When my husband's memory was fading I would remind him of places by mentioning trees.  For example I would not say "the restaurant facing the Shell gas station" but "the restaurant that has 3 maple trees up front" or "the garage that has the huge oak tree at the corner" or "the doctor's office where there are many redbud trees in the parking lot" and he would remember where they were located.  When we had to place him in an assisted living center I searched for one with free access to a garden with pretty trees.  We found one in Franklin, TN.  When I visited my husband he would be sitting there, or working on the plants.  Then when we had to move him to a Veteran approved nursing facility, it took me a while again to find one with a garden and trees, but I did.  It gives me comfort to know that 3 days before he died my husband was walking in the garden and sitting on a bench under a lovely tree.

Along the years I have taken a multitude of tree photographs.  Often while driving if we passed an interesting tree I would stop the car, turn around, and we would look at it and if I had my camera I would snap it.  Yesterday I gathered some of the tree photos I have here in Georgia, just a small sampling, because my old film photos and my newer photos are in Nashville.  I have taken photos of trees in all seasons, in all different locales, close to home, far away, in cities, woods, mountains, swamps and parking lots.  From top left below: Central Park, NY, Riverside Park, NY, Golden red tree Governor's Mansion Atlanta, North GA Fairgrounds parking lot, Fall color Ellijay, GA, tree in front of Marietta antebellum home, woods and stream in N GA Unicoi State Park, trees from Montmartre in Paris, Alcovy swamps east of Atlanta, fallen tree after storm and walking with my grandbaby in Columbus, OH, trees in Buttes Chaumont Park in Paris, pine trees viewed from train in the Yukon Territory, Canada.

I have taken photos of trees with full foliage or trees that have lost it, or just trunks.  Below tree in San Antonio garden, Texas, bare tree limbs in Marseille, France, tree trunk and bare branches on trees in a Kauai park, Hawaii.

I wished I could have picked up an orange from that bushy orange tree in San Juan Capistrano, California shown below the lanky palm trees on San Clemente Beach, California.

Tree branches over dramatic skies are always exciting.  Below are trees over a stormy sky from top of Kennesaw Mountain, GA, and a tree over sunset from Del Cerro Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

So you can imagine what a delight it was for me to view the monumental live oak trees when we arrived at the Destrehan Plantation.  I hurried up taking photographs because the tour was 10 minutes away then after this last tour the plantation would close.  The brochure says: "Established in 1787 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Destrehan Plantation remains the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley."  And "Located on the historic River Road, this antebellum home with its lush green grounds and moss draped Live Oaks watches over the banks of the Mississippi River just minutes away from New Orleans."  These live oaks trees are over 230 years old at least and have grown very large, not too tall but some of their limbs are enormous and their spread is wide around the trunks.  Some of their branches are so heavy that they have to be supported with metal holders.

Many trees have been named.  The Henderson Live Oak is 45 ft (14 m) in height and up to 111 ft (34 m) in width.  It is shown below in center top of collage.

Just to view these majestic, tortuous and extraordinary trees would have made me happy to have been on Destrehan Plantation, even if I had not been inside to tour the antebellum plantation house.  What an exceptional array of wonderful ancient trees there.  These trees have also inspired artists, such as the painting of a live oak by Louisiana painter George Rodrigue (American 1944-2013.)

I had fun drawing my own little live oak trees.  Which one do you prefer?  I think I like the colors in the bottom left one.

Arbres de la foret, vous connaissez mon âme! …
…Vous me connaissez, vous ! – vous m’avez vu souvent,
Seul dans vos profondeurs, regardant et rêvant...
- Victor Hugo, Aux Arbres 1856

Trees of the forest, you know my soul! ...
...You know me, you!- you have seen me often,
Alone in your depths, watching and dreaming...
- Victor Hugo, To the Trees 1856, French poet and novelist, 1802-1885


DUTA said...

I like trees, I don't like forests.

Linda Starr said...

I never met a tree I didn't love, I must make a trip to the plantation to see the live oak trees there. When I was taking care of my father in law (dementia) some of the best times were sitting in gardens he loved watching the birds and squirrels. Amazing how many trees you remember from all your trips; loved seeing all your photos. Some of my favorite types of trees are Pacific madrone, giant sequoia, and dawn redwood.

DJan said...

I am a lover of trees, too, VB. The amazing pictures of so many make me smile to think of your passion. And the portraits of the oak trees at the end are stunning! I think I like the lower left one the best, too. Thank you so much for the beautiful post, filled with so many kinds of trees! :-)

Linda P said...

I love trees too. It's a comfort to know that your late husband sat under the trees during his last days. You have a wonderful collection of tree photos to bring back happy memories. Your tree sketches are all lovely. I like the one with the yellow light. It makes me think that you can walk through the tunnel of branches towards that light.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vagabonde - you've given us lots of information here - loved seeing the French areas and reading a bit ... as too the other trees - and so good to know your husband was enjoying the weather near his beloved trees just before he went to the land of never ending trees ... lovely - thank you - Hilary

David said...

Hi Vagabonde, I love live oaks too and the Spanish Moss adds to their allure. We've also seen them at plantations in Louisiana. We have a giant oak in our back yard and I love it...except for the periodic overload of acorns in the yard. We don't fertilize the grass or apply weed killer anywhere near the tree. It was hit by lightning 4 years ago but it recovered and is going strong.

Our house was surrounded by trees and we really liked that fact. Now a new house has been built one one side and all those trees are gone. Bad news but perhaps a positive in some ways as spring and fall clean up will be easier (we are getting older!) and our roof will take less abuse. We're still fairly well wooded on 3 sides, considering that we're in an open (not a gated) retirement community.

We've been to several Civil War Battlefields, Gettysburg, Antietam, Petersburg, Richmond and Shiloh. I'll have to add Kennesaw to my list of destinations...

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Trees are very special to me also, and your pictures are so beautiful. With all the crazy weather we have been having these past few years, we have lost quite a few. My heart hurts with each one that comes down.

I learned this poem when I was a little girl and my mom recited it to us often

Joyce Kilmer, 1886 - 1918

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Friko said...

I love trees too, whether singly or in large forests, and what a wonderful way to remember your husband, by the names of trees and tress you have known together.
That first live oak picture is fantastic.

I hope you are well.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

This was an absolutely delightful post! Like you, I love trees, and the moss-draped live oaks are among my favorites. Looking at trees gives me as much pleasure as gazing at fine art in a museum.

You might be interested in this book: "Remarkable Trees of the World" by Thomas Pakenham. The photography in it is outstanding, and there's lots of fascinating information about all kinds of trees, too. (That book's the best gift my brother ever gave me!)

Roderick Robinson said...

I know Proust preceded you by a wide margin but those details about the Square d'Anvers (plane trees, parents sitting on benches, sand boxes) immediately invoked A la recherche... But which section in particular? Paris crops up throughout of course.

It would have to be Swann's Way but not necessarily Swann himself being tortured in so many ways by Odette. Instead - because, as in your case, it dealt with youth - Place-Names: The Name where the young narrator yearns for Gilberte:

... my anxious eyes never left the unsettled clouded sky. It remained dark. The balcony in front of the window was grey. Suddenly, on its sullen stone, I would not exactly see a less leaden colour, but I would feel as it were a striving towards a less leaden colour, the pulsation of a hesitant ray that struggled to discharge its light. A moment later, the balcony was as pale and luminous as a pool at dawn, and a thousand shadows from the iron-work of its balustrade had alighted on it. A breath of wind would disperse them but, as though they had been tamed, they would return....

Brief, fading ivy, climbing fugitive flora!... to me the dearest of them all ever since the day when it appeared upon our balcony, like the very shadow of the presence of Gilberte, who was perhaps already in the Champs-Elysées, and as soon as I arrived there would greet me with: "Let's begin at once; you're on my side."...

You were too young (I would suppose) to have read Proust sitting on one of those benches, but afterwards when you had read him you might have day-dreamed and transposed parts of the text into the Square d'Anvers.

I'm ignoring much else in this post, notably the trees and the passion they planted in you. For the younger me they had only one function - to be climbed. Later I took up rock-climbing (very amateurishly), much later still poetry. The Victor Hugo is both simple and lucid; did it leave you regardant et revant? Might one take a gross liberty when translating profondeurs and substitute "heights", claiming that it too had literal/metaphorical resonances. I suppose not. One has an obligation towards the author.

You're a good guide.

Mae Travels said...

Your post is profound in the way it connects the beautiful shapes of many trees to the stages of your life.

best... mae at

Marja said...

Wow did you draw these trees Yes I also love the bottom left the most. You lived u wonderful places What a treasure to live next to the forest and only 20 km from Paris and I love the trees in all the other places. How wonderful you found places for your husband to stay with these wonderful trees. I love trees. We have an amazing park here with lots of huge old trees.

Jeanie said...

This is such a beautiful post, both visually and in the memories you shared. I love it that you and your husband both loved trees and they became a "marker" for memories in later years. Perhaps in your new yard you can plant a memorial tree for him. I think he'd like that.

I'm a tree fan, too. When our next door neighbors up north cut down (I'm not kidding) EVERY tree on their lot to build their big house and then not plant anything other than grass as landscape, my heart broke in two. Rick and I are slowly building a better divider to their barren, ugly space by planting new trees every year. We will probably die before they reach full growth -- but we can try.

Shammickite said...

Trees are marvellous creatures! Your tree photographs have inspired me to take a photo of a lovely elegant elm tree that grows near my house. It has a wonderful shape especially in the winter when it has no leaves, and I've meant to take a photo every time I pass by, and have never done it. Now I must do it!

Sally Wessely said...

Your collection of tree photos is amazing, and your stories are even better. I find it fascinating to think of the connection your husband had with trees and how you would incorporate that connection into speaking to him of trees and their locations. The photo of your husband under a tree in his last days was bittersweet. I can understand the comfort the memory of him sitting under a tree would bring to you.

I too love trees. Those grand old trees in Louisiana fascinate me! When my husband and I were there a few years ago, I photographed them but could never capture the scope of their magnificence.

Magic Love Crow said...

My soul is shining! I love this post! I love trees! I loved hearing about how you exchanged trees as gifts! I love how you got your husband to remember, by telling him about the trees! A very special post! Truly loved all your pictures! You are such a talented artist! I love all your drawings! Big Hugs!

Magic Love Crow said...

I forgot one thing, that was truly amazing seeing the tree held up by metal braces!

Glenda Beall said...

Your trees and your comments touched my heart. I grew up under a huge 300 year old oak tree in south Georgia. When I moved away from home, my heart quickened when, as I drove toward my family home, that old tree came into view. I wrote a poem about it. A few years ago I was told that the old tree had been hit by lightening so many times it was dying and had to be cut down. I cried. I asked my brother to send me a round off a limb, but he did not. He said the tree was dead inside and the wood was no good. He had no idea that I didn't care about the damage to the wood. I just wanted a piece of my beloved tree. The tree was burned and when I went home again, it broke my heart to see the empty space where it had stood. This post has given me an idea for my blog because trees have always been special in my life.
Your photos tell a story and I love your blog posts.

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