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Fallen tree debris has place in design

This flat branch went from laying on the street to hanging on the wall in a day. After initially considering painting th
This flat branch went from laying on the street to hanging on the wall in a day. After initially considering painting the branch, I decided its natural color suited it best. The color contrasts with the lighter wall. (Erin Owen)

As we find ourselves surrounded by trunk-lined street curbs weeks after the Aug. 10 derecho, I must confess something. Last year I paid $5 apiece for two slices of a tree trunk. The small, lightweight rounds seem like realistic foam core imitations compared with the massive tree rounds in my neighborhood.

I used them as stands for a lamp and plant. With so much wood available, I couldn’t help but think of the design possibilities that are available outside. That is after I recovered from the shock, anger and sadness from seeing the storm damage.

Our house backs up to a wooded area. I wanted a home in a neighborhood with mature trees. They bring character, shade and a peaceful sense of welcoming. That stormy day, however, the normally serene trees became weapons. Tree limbs literally impaled our bedroom ceiling. Even after the damage and disorientation they caused, I don’t hold it personally against them.

I find myself thinking of “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. The tree found joy being part of the boy’s life. Sharing her attributes with him pleased her, and she felt loved. Unfortunately, as the boy aged, he grew distant. As she exhausts her resources and has only a stump to offer the boy, the tree still feels loved. She should. Trees give us so much, and we should be thankful. Even at the end of their lives, they have much to give us.

We should endeavor to reuse and repurpose as much as possible. Aside from a great source of firewood. I’m thinking of turning the remains into furniture, decor and garden accessories. I’m glad this occurred to me before our heaping pile of tree debris was removed. I pulled out small sections of trunks and branches I could repurpose, and I’ve been collecting tree debris on walks.

One find was a branch that lay flat on the ground and fanned out at the top. I initially thought of painting it white, but the smooth, reddish brown branch was perfect as it was. Even better, it came ready made with a split on the back so it could hang from a nail. The organic form is graceful and a reminder of the beauty of trees.

A single branch also could be used to hang artwork, photos or light blankets.

Today’s retail design stores likely have something similar, though with a much higher price tag. I was in a store dedicated to modern farmhouse and saw it was selling a bundle of small branches. Yes, they were the same length and tied with twine. They were also overpriced as the branches are available outdoors to anyone who cares to collect them. With a little TLC and trimming, a similar bundle can be free.

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The fallen trees, of course, have come at a huge price. When they came crashing down Aug. 10, they upended lives, damaged homes and turned violent. I hope that’s not how they’ll be remembered. Decades in the making, trees possess a beauty that no faux rival can live up to.

I like to think the trees would be pleased knowing their lives continued to provide for us even after they were no longer standing. Let’s be like the boy at the start of “The Giving Tree” and never lose that childhood love of trees. There is no better ending than that.

Erin Owen graduated from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: erin.n.owen@gmail.com

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