Look closely next time you wander....

This fall in the Laurentians by all accounts has been an exceptional one. The fall colours have been extraordianry and we have all enjoyed them whether walking in our own neighbourhoods or driving up the Autoroute. Some ridge tops are already shedding their leaves.

While walking through my own property, I often marvel at nature's next step at this time of year. Buds. As the winter season approaches all around us nature is preparing for an explosion of growth. Next year's growth is already being coded in the profusion of buds that become visible at this time and contribute to the almost purple like colour cast of the mountains in November. Look closely as you wander through the woods this fall at the various conifers and deciduous buds formed on the trees. There is much to see.

A good long term project if you have young children is to plant several balsams on a sunny site on your property and prune these over several years into lovely Christmas trees. It is the discipline of bonsai on a larger scale. In a society so often driven by immediate gratification a long term project of 8-10 years to produce a beautiful tree can provide an education in patience for children and a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you harvest your first beautiful tree and admire it in your own living room. If careful notes and photos are taken it can also provide your children with an excellent long term nature study. Growth charts, fertilization records and pruning notes all contribute to instilling long term inquisitiveness in young minds.

It is easier than planting a garden and right now in October is the best time to do it!

Since it takes 8-10 years to produce an 8 foot tree, you will need a plot about 30 feet by 40 feet in which to plant 3 trees a year about 5-6 feet apart to have a "continuous plantation". Try and find transplants about 2-3 feet high. Local balsams are best as their buds are acclimatized to open at the appropriate time in the spring. You may get caught by one or two late spring frosts over the growth cycle of 10 years that will burn the new growth from buds that have opened early but this is all part of the game.

Pruning the balsams to increase density and shape the trees is a skill that can be acquired only through much practice. There are good resources on pruning techniques in any library but it is only through long term observation and practice that you will gain confidence and skill.

The marvel of new growth from buds now so apparent to us as the leaves fall is something that should not escape us. It is the promise of the spring to come after the winter we endure here in Quebec.

If you have any questions about planting conifer trees or species to transplant here in the Laurentians, I'd be happy to help.

Christopher Goodfellow.

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