Friday, July 31, 2009

Why is that tree blue?

There was an odd phone message on my answering machine from the innkeeper at the Glasbern Inn where I take care of the gardens, the other day. “What do I tell the guests when they come to breakfast tomorrow morning and ask why the tree outside is blue? When I asked the boss,” the innkeeper continued, “he just sort of smiled and said ‘It’s Pam’s thing’.”

I was there in a flash to check it out, and yes, the tree was a beautiful soft cerulean with a hint of violet. I was elated. Not only did the owner take my wild proposal seriously but he actually went to the paint store with a chicory flower so he could get exactly the right shade of blue.

And It Looked Beautiful! 

It was the color of the sky on a perfect day. It complemented the green of the grape vines, and the deep red of the ‘Forest Pansy’ leaves it rubbed up against. It emphasized the elegance of the recently demised redbud’s structure. It was startling and mystical.

Tell them “Blue represents expansiveness. Imagine blue light waves being absorbed by the gas molecules in the air and radiated in all directions.” Or say “The blue brings out the grace of the tree’s form … when was the last time you really looked at a tree?” Tell them “We are honoring that tree for its 20 years of service, removing carbon dioxide from the air.” Or, explain that it’s an extremely rare Arboreum ceruleum. Do this with a very serious expression.

It was my suggestion to paint the tree chicory blue. But, I confess, the idea was borrowed from the gardeners at the Swarthmore College campus, who may have borrowed it from some other garden. No matter, inspiration should be spread around. The Swarthmore tree lasted a couple of years before it faded and was chopped down. For two years it compelled people to stop and look and wonder. Some actually asked what sort of tree it was, that had bark of blue and no leaves. At least that’s what one of the gardeners told me. A witness to the tree painting at the Glasbern earnestly wondered if the dead tree was being treated with a coating that would bring it magically back to life. But no, the magic is not in the paint, nor is it in the tree. It comes from within the observer. It is in the enchanted forest that the elegant blue frame brings to life in the mind’s eye. 

Tell them “Life is short. Color is fun.” Or tell them “I’ll have it taken care of forthwith*.” Or just say “Really? … you see a blue tree out there?”

I hope there will be at least some people who won’t have to ask.

*note: this is your chance to use a very serviceable word that most of us have only seen in print!


  1. Everyone at The Glasbern is in a tizzy over the Chicory Tree. "Did you see the blue tree?, Why is that tree blue?, Did somebody PAINT that tree?" I just stand back and laugh. Not everyone gets it. Sometimes it takes an eclectic individual to understand brilliance. I love your tree.

  2. Sorry I missed it. The pictures of it show it's beauty and that blue, that blue soothes the soul.