I’ve been living in South Florida for about 10 years and only this past weekend did I make the 1 1/2 hour drive south of Miami to visit the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful place and I got to see many, many plants I had never even heard of… even with having a horticultural background.
While I was there I saw a couple of things that prompted me to email the horticulturist and arborist this morning. The first thing I saw was this nice sized spice tree that appeared to be dying from the inside out at the base. About 5 feet off the ground there was a burl, approximately 15 inches across. I’m not really familiar with what the wood grain looks like on a spice tree but I could only imagine that the burl would have some fancy grain. I wondered when the tree dies, do they just throw that wood on a compost pile and haul away?
Further into the garden I came upon a parked cherry picker next to this huge Mammee Apple tree, the bucket of which had these firewood size pieces already cut. Looking at the end grain the wood was a nice reddish color. When I looked the tree up online I read that it has a ‘striking’ grain.
It seems like a good idea to me for any woodworker, especially for woodturners (pens, bowls and vases), carvers and any one that can utilize small pieces of wood to check and see if there are any gardens near by that might welcome a second chance for some of the wood.
Even if there are no ‘exotic’ gardens near, any botanical garden, arboretum and many parks might have the likes of some grafted trees, some old growth and maybe some lesser known varieties that might surprise with the wood they hold inside. I know some of the small ornamental trees (and larger ornamental shrubs) always impressed me with the wood color and grain. Of course, dogwood, redbud, crabapple, hawthorne and the such, but also (and especially) some of the lesser known. Someone had saved me some pieces from a smoke tree (Cotinus) and the wood was almost like a rainbow, with yellow, green, red, orange and brown… and it cut and finished beautifully. Of course there is yew (Taxus), junipers, boxwood, Japanese maples and the such that are desirable, most any ornamental that grows slowly could be put to some use.
Even if you don’t have a public garden or park nearby, the tree companies and landscapers could be bribed with an occasional pen or bowl to keep an eye out for special pieces and toss them into a box for you. Although, I know that some of those guys are wising up and posting some of the wood on EBAY, wood that a short time ago may have been called firewood.
As mentioned earlier, I had written to see if there was any program in place to make use of the discarded wood. While typing this, I received a gracious response from the Arborist telling me that he had some ‘woodturning friends’. He included his phone number and told me to call if I wanted some of the Mammee wood, which he mentioned would “be beautiful to turn” and also they would be cutting some mango wood. So see, it might be worth a shot. Now poor me, I don’t have a shop, a lathe or the such… but I sure am glad all that great wood is not going to waste.
-- I just got done cutting three boards and all four of them were too short. (true story)