On the Dawn Redwood


In which The Gay Recluse works in the garden.

Of all the trees that populate our dreams and fantasies, the dawn redwood — a deciduous conifer — must go at the top of the list. Long thought to be extinct, it was discovered in the 1940s in a secret canyon in China. (And not just on Wikipedia!) These days it comes in many different shades of green and yellow, all of which have the same feathery, prehistoric needles that remind us what forests must have looked like when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Although our longstanding dream is to have enough money to plant an entire forest of dawn redwoods on an estate filled with architectural ruins, we have made do with planting a single dawn redwood in our Washington Heights garden.

Here are some pix:

Ours is a Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Sheridan Spire’, a relatively compact and columnar form of the species. (But which can nevertheless be counted on to block out the neighbors!)

These needles will turn yellow and fall off in October, which we hope will be a long time from now. Of all the conifers, the allure of the dawn redwood is perhaps the most ephemeral. Nothing so fragile and beautiful, it seems, could make it through the winter! (Which makes it all the more shocking to learn how old the species is!)

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