Recently a customer of ours stated that with climate change, and the warming of our seasons, that shade gardening will become more popular as a way to continue gardening in the heat. Interesting thought. Of course, trees are an integral part of that concept. We can’t really garden in the shade without shade! Living among a forest of trees here, rambling the woods on a regular basis, and being what we would consider ( aside from gardeners and farmers) stewards of the forest, we pay close attention the the health and changes of the woods around us. Many studies show that the eastern forests are in decline, and in some cases it is happening quite rapidly. So many plants in the understory rely on that canopy of shade. Think of all the woodland flowers that require just that….a woodland habitat. Most of the plants we grow here are shade loving, and without the trees that we have, they would suffer. Indeed, gardening in the shade on hot days is much more pleasant to some people than being in the sun. One of the very reasons why we prefer shade gardening……no big fans of the blistering heat here at Fernwood! But what about the trees that provide that shade? As an example, in some areas the beech trees are dying at a rate of 10% per year. The ash in our area took a hard hit during the ice storm of 1998, and have been very slow to recover. Of course, there is also a yellow ash fungus that is contributing to their decline. The uncertainty of the forests and particular species of trees is a worldwide problem. The major culprit, that will do the most damage over time, seems to be air pollution and ozone. Acid rain and other chemicals poison the plants and the soil, while ozone interferes with a plant’s ability to feed itself by literally bleaching leaves and needles. This reduces or eliminates chlorophyll production and the tree can’t feed itself. If this alone does not eventually kill them, the trees become weakened and more vulnerable to disease, stress, and pests. Some trees can tolerate more pollution than others, but most will suffer over time as conditions become more stressful. We love our woodlands and everything that lives in and is dependent on them. We’re sure most people do. Without trees, everything in and below the canopy can perish. All are connected, plant and animal alike. It saddens us to think that someday the forests as we now know it may be gone……and not simply due to natural forest evolution. This is very different than that. If action, strong action, isn’t taken soon, our fears will become a catastrophic reality. A world I cannot imagine. Damage to our forests from pollutants was documented in the 1950’s. Governments are talking about reducing pollutants to 1990’s levels. That would be too little too late, and if so, we may reach a point that is irreversible. Let’s hope that the powers that be can move faster and with determination to save the world, our only world, from such a disaster.