If you google Treehenge, you learn of ancient old world theologies, the mystic philosophy of the sacred orders of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. You can also learn the proper attire to wear to a Druid ceremony. It’s complicated. At SFA Gardens in Nacogdoches, Texas, we have a simpler definition. For us, a treehenge is a circle of trees. For those who visit our 70′ treehenge circle, we don’t encourage or discourage visions of old world mysticism, botanical magic, awe or enlightenment. There are no virgin sacrifices here. No religious intent. This is a Pineywoods East Texas treehenge without a mission or any particular purpose – other than to be a kind of living sculpture at the Jimmy Hinds Park.
The idea was born by two factors: 1) a pretty big inventory of trees that needed a home, and 2) a Jimmy Hinds Park development that needed something highly visible from Austin Street. The site was perfect for bald cypress (wet), and I thought we had the perfect variety, the weeping bald cypress, Taxodium distichum ‘Cascade Falls’. It’s a strong weeper growing only as tall as it’s staked. Don’t stake it and it will grow like a snake into an unkempt haystack. This variety was a chance mutation found about 15 years ago at Cedar Lodge Nurseries in New Zealand. It made its way into the USA via Stanley and Sons in Oregon , and quickly got patented with a pretty steep royalty ($5 per tree). I thought it was going to be huge. I was wrong. It never caught on, pretty much an industry introduction flop. People like it, most don’t buy it.
As an early advocate, I encouraged a friend in the nursery industry to grow off about 500 of them, which he did. They sold poorly. So, I paid for shipping and we ended up with a lot of trees. We sold enough to get shipping costs covered, gave away some to other public gardens, and we still had over 100 in thirty gallon containers on a 9′ stake. So, a tight circle of closely spaced ‘Cascade Falls’ seemed like a way to work our way through inventory. See. It’s just a circle of trees. From the beginning, this planting has generated discussion. People ask “what does it mean?” Nothing, I say. “What’s the point?” Well, it’s a treehenge. “Don’t you think it’s kind of strange.” No. “Who gave you permission to do this?” Never thought to ask. “Is Satan involved?” No. Actually, the inception of this living sculpture is more about serendipity, having lots of ‘Cascade Falls’ that needed a home, and zero thinking on other side issues. As an aside, we planted a dwarf bald cypress, at the center of the circle. This unique clone grows about a foot or two per year, has nice branching, and roots rather well. It’s a natural dwarf found on a lake at JBerry Nursery, Grand Saline, Texas. It’s certainly a Texas native, albeit a short fellow. When we planted the ‘Cascade Falls, I admit we did position trees so that they “weeped” more toward the center of the circle than to the outside. While it’s taken me a while to realize it, I guess it does kind of look like a circle of weeping praying patriarchs all bowing to the dwarf lord of the Universe, ‘Jim’s Little Guy’.