Horse Chestnuts

October 2, 2013

Horse chestnuts

Horse chestnuts

Watercolor sketch of horse chestnuts

Watercolor sketch of horse chestnuts

Held hidden

Held hidden

Horse Chestnuts
by Valerie Worth, from All the Small Poems and Fourteen More

Almost the best
Thing about a
Horse chestnut
Is that it just
Fits the hand.

And can be
Held hidden,
A secret
Shining brown
In the mind.



Horse chestnut tree — leaves and seed pod

Prickly horse chestnuts

A pair of horse chestnuts

The horse chestnuts are growing.  The prickly balls look like an alien life form!


Are these tiny green pods baby chestnuts?

The flowers are now withering and falling from the horse chestnut trees.  When I looked closely, I noticed some tiny, green pods on the flower stems.  Could these be baby horse chestnuts?

Horse chestnut pods and one flower

The leaves of a horse chestnut tree are palmately compound, with leaves opening like fingers round the palm of your hand.

Horse chestnut tree in flower

I do miss the horse chestnut trees that were removed from our street corner, but I can’t help but notice them around the city right now because they are in full bloom.  And their flowers are gigantic!  I like the Scarlet Horse Chestnut trees — there are a lot of them blooming at the Ballard Locks right now.  Their flowers are like little red Christmas trees decorating the green horse chestnut trees.

Scarlet horse chestnut flowers

Scarlet horse chestnut trees at the Ballard Locks

Towering trees at the Ballard Locks

I really like the shape and arrangement of the leaves of these trees.  Here are some shots looking up into the canopy:

The leaves make a lovely pattern

Horse chestnut trees in Columbia City

“If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the whole world.”
— John Ruskin

“Leaves are the verbs that conjugate the seasons.”
— Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces

Watercolor sketch of maple leaves in May

Watercolor sketch of willow leaves in May

Posted signs on my "adopted" horse chestnut trees

My “adopted” horse chestnut trees are slated for removal!  The property owner wants to get rid of them because they are too close to the power lines and apparently planted too closely together.  I am sad that I won’t get to watch these trees come into leaf.

Bud of horse chestnut tree

The buds on the horse chestnut trees are still not showing much action, although I did notice that they are very sticky to the touch.

Meanwhile, the buds on “my” maple trees are starting to fatten just a tiny bit.

Buds of maple tree

And the willow tree is still bursting with pussy willows.

Branch of "my" willow tree

“It’s sometimes harder to see the familiar than the unusual, because in order to really see the familiar, you have to break the habit of overlooking it.”
— Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

As I mentioned in my December 21st post, I will be taking up tree-watching in 2012.  I’ve decided to “adopt” three trees — the horse chestnut trees near my bus stop, a maple tree in the parking strip, and a willow (at least I think it’s a willow) in a nearby alley — for periodic observation during the coming year.  I’m curious to find out what I have been overlooking, and hope, by close observation, to become better acquainted with these common trees.

Here are some of my views of these trees in late December:

Fallen, brown leaves under a horse chestnut tree

Trunk, bark, and buds of horse chestnut tree

Wrinkled bark on the "underarm" of this branch

Lateral buds on horse chestnut branch

Terminal buds, resting buds and leaf scars of horse chestnut tree

New buds with old leaf stems still attached

Decaying maple leaves in the parking strip

Trunk and bark of maple tree

Terminal buds, resting buds of maple

Last of the old maple keys, still hanging on

Trunk and bark of willow

Winter buds of willow

Winter buds, resting buds of willow

“There will always be more to gaze and marvel at, even on the level of the commonplace, than we will ever be able to attend to.”
— Paul West, Life with Swan

“Most of us today have grown so commonplace that we cannot see the extraordinary save in the exceptional.”
— Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman:  A Japanese Insight into Beauty

A big part of the joy of making watercolor sketches is the contemplative savoring of ordinary objects.  Here are two sketches of chestnuts fallen from a tree in my neighborhood.

Watercolor sketch of three chestnuts

Another watercolor sketch of chestnuts

Horse Chestnuts

September 20, 2010

The road through Volunteer Park is lined with horse chestnut trees.  I gathered a few of the shiny brown chestnuts to display in a bowl on my dining room table.  I love their smooth round shapes. . . very soothing to caress in my palms.

Horse chestnut tree

Leaves of the horse chestnut tree fan out like miniature palm trees

Some of the leaves were beginning to change color.

Bowl of gathered horse chestnuts

Shiny brown horse chestnuts

Botanical print of horse chestnut from

Watercolor sketch of horse chestnuts