The harvest
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'

Michael Dirr and his Noble Trees - Blithewold


Ginkgo biloba

If you ask any student in the field of Ornamental Horticulture, Landscape Architecture, or perhaps even Arboriculture which text book they use on a regular basis, they will tell you The Manuel of Woody Trees and Shrubs by Michael A. Dirr.   I acquired this book during my plant identification courses and have used it continuously since.  Rarely does a week go by when I don't check this book to verify one fact or another concerning trees or shrubs.


That said, when Michael Dirr speaks, plant lovers will listen and listen we did at his lecture on Monday at Blithewold Mansion, Garden and Arboretum, home of Kris's Blithewold blog, in Bristol, RI. 


His Monday lecture was well attended and his lecture concerned new introductions of some of the largest landscape trees used in the industry.  He discussed 'Noble Trees'.  You know, those that acquire stature, presence and individual architecture.  These are not the trees for home landscapes unless you own more than an acre. 


These are the trees of parks, open spaces and cities.  Professor Dirr is an entertaining speaker and he followed his lecture with a walking tour of the Blithewold property which is home to some of the largest specimens of 'Noble Trees' in New England. 


He has boundless enthusiasm for his subject matter and he often crawled under a canopy


or marched into the border to grab a leaf for emphasis and identification. 


Michael Dirr with his NBF, Kris on the right and Gail over his shoulder

His uniform is our uniform and while he looks like one of us (gardeners, plant geeks, lovers of nature ) with his baseball cap and practical footwear, his mind is the Library of Congress when it comes to plant identification and information.    Trees are so often just background, observed yet unseen in detail.  I am guilty of checking out this view


at the expense of walking up to the trees and looking at their components, structure, bark, leaves and overall presence.  I am a lover of trees but I will look at them a bit more closely because of Professor Dirr's lecture. 


Sequoiadendron giganteum-planted in the 1930's

It is a gift when someone teaches you to see anew what is right there in front of you.    Do you see the trees on your street or in your local park?  What are their names?