Saturday, September 14

A Tree Grows . . .

There is a weed tree that pops up all over my yard and quickly grows above the things I've cultivated there. Ailanthus Altissima or tree of heaven, as it is commonly called, is native to central China and Taiwan, and like another Asian import, is known, in part, for its foul odor. 

It was introduced to the United States in the late 1700s as a beautiful garden specimen, but its vigorous suckering and foul smell quickly wore thin with gardeners. It also served as a central metaphor and subject for Betty Smith's book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because of its hardiness.

I am able to overlook the tree's overzealousness, because it yields the most wonderful prints from the dye pot. 

"Let it be," I'll yell out to my HB as he eyes one of many, trimmer in hand. "I'll get it later."

Cuttings from my healthy tree of  heaven grove are pressed between the pages of phone books in my studio for winter printing, but I may have to thin them to ensure that these other lovely mark-makers aren't overcome.

The dogwoods offer up another favorite leaf of mine.

And the ninebark bush. 

And roses.

And I can't forget the oaks.

Happy dye season!


  1. Replies
    1. The oaks are wonderful, and their leaves hold onto the tree the longest. I can harvest oak leaves almost all winter.

  2. Everything is lovely here, so beautiful.
    It's funny how leaves,
    and what you create with them
    give us such a feeling of knowing a place.
    You are giving us a sense of natural history with your prints.
    I feel the same way when I draw from nature.
    The studying up close of each leaf and their details
    brings me so close and into the moment.
    I think we are both scientists at heart!
    xox roxanne

    1. Yes, Roxanne! I know exactly what you mean. One does learn the elements intimately -- choosing our subject carefully and then studying them intensely!


  3. Beautiful post Leslie love your photographs. Especially like the new header photo. Love that antique bird.

    1. Thanks, Karen! That bird is not actually an antique. It was made by Jim Mullan. You can see more Jim's birds here. I really love them. This is one of three I own.

  4. Wonderful prints...are you doing any workshops anywhere in this process, I have a weaver friend who is interested? Also, Tree of Heaven has herbal properties - we studied it briefly so it may not be such a bad old tree after all. xox

  5. Such beautiful, organic pieces. And the name...Tree of Heaven. What could be better?

  6. I was just saying that our Tree of Heaven needs to be trimmed back, or it shall take over the fence it grows near and through for sure!! Now I know...dye with it!

  7. another gorgeous post... Tree of Heaven... amazing and of course Oaks... yes I will miss my big oaks...