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 I can't forget the oaks.
Happy dye season!