A blossom on my Dogwood Tree

"The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.
The second best time
is today."

-- African proverb


* I have been interested in trees since I was a little girl. When I planted my first tree, I couldn't imagine what the little sapling would look like as a mature tree.

* In choosing a tree to plant, I had no idea which trees would be right for the planting spot.

* I have made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot about trees in this process.

Come inside my virtual arboretum and learn with me!



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About the Tree Grower's Diary

by Julie Walton Shaver


I am a writer, a photographer,
a storyteller . . .

Here's my tree story. 

I grew up in Aiken, South Carolina, under the live oak canopy above South Boundary Street. Aiken is a hot, humid place in summer. I remember thinking as a very young girl how wonderful it was to have that cooling canopy over the street. Thus, my love of trees began.

Photograph of live oaks in Aiken, South Carolina,
by Larry Gleason

The Tree Grower's Diary started out as a little white notebook I kept in a drawer in the living room where I live now, in Metuchen, New Jersey. Each section of the notebook featured a different tree we had planted in our yard, showing how big the tree was when we planted it. You could lift a picture to see the following year's picture. If you flipped the pictures really fast, it was like one of those old nickelodeon machines. Dare a visitor to my home ask about my hobbies. I'd spend an hour flipping through my tree pictures, trying to convince friends and strangers alike that it's fun to watch trees grow!

Long about 1999, I showed that notebook to the Webmaster at Coffeedrome, my mentor and good friend. I knew nothing about Web sites then, so he started the online diary, which began as a simple letter with a few pictures of my trees. As the years went by, I asked the Webmaster to add more pictures, and eventually, we worked together to redesign the site into a tree-specific, user-friendly resource. People from all over the world check out my little "notebook" now, usually stopping by while researching types of trees they might be interested in planting in their own yards.

How it all got started
Before we moved to our new home, we lived in a condo with a Western exposure, no shade, and condo association rules that forbade the planting of anything taller than a petunia. It was so bright in my living room that I had to keep the curtains drawn all the time. If only I could have planted a tree for shade! I can't stand to be cooped up in a windowless house!

So we moved.

Our new house was in an established neighborhood with lots of tall shade trees. I was in tree heaven. Our yard alone had four good-sized shade trees and a nice flowering dogwood. Within one year, three of our shade trees were dead. (They were old and I didn't know a thing about trees when we bought the house. If I had known then what I know now, I would have known all three of those trees were goners. Besides, two of them were Norway maples, notoriously short-lived trees because of girdling roots. The other, by the way, was a pretty river birch that bit the dust after an ice storm bent it in half.)

Our yard was suddenly bright and sunny. I wanted shade. The planting of trees began. I figured I'd forget when I planted them. Thus began the notebook which led to the Tree Grower's Diary. I've made a lot of mistakes and I've learned a lot about trees since this project began in 1996. Ultimately, my goal is to help prevent other homeowners from making the same mistakes I did, like planting a bee-attracting purple leaf plum right next to a tree house! (If the tree's tag had said anything about fruit, I might have realized it wasn't the right tree for that spot.)

I became interested in photography in my last semester of college. My tree project has allowed me the opportunity to practice on somewhat stationary objects, learning how to use the features of my cameras so that when I'm faced with photography projects that involve people, I know what to do -- how to frame subjects, how to balance texture and color, how to position my camera so that the light will be in the right place. To study my tree site back to 1996 is to notice that my photography has improved a bit. (June 2008: I am currently shooting with a Nikon D3.)

In 2005 alone, Julie's tree pages on Coffeedrome logged over 120,000 page views!

On April 4, 2006, I decided to take the diary solo and launched TreeGrower'sDiary.com. My little white notebook has its own Blog now! This is HUGE!

SEND me a letter.     READ my letters.



"Your Tree Grower's Diary pages are amazing. You have logged some serious time and effort putting these together!"
-- Michael Jaquez,Web Manager,
The National Arbor Day Foundation.
(April 8, 2005)

I started the blog because I wanted to have a regular forum
for sharing the little details of my trees.

But my trees are only a small portion of my life, so you never know what might show up next. I share my love of trees with my husband, Mike, my two young sons, Bradley and Gregory, my neice, Hope, and my cat, Kaptain Karl. My newest tree is a Dawyck Purple Beech, planted in honor of a majestic Purple European Beech around the corner from my house that was cut down to make room for a house too big for the lot.

By day, I'm a roving photographer (my kids nicknamed me "Mamarazzi"), school, church and community volunteer, choir singer, tree fanatic and full time mom. I've kept a journal of things my kids say and do since my oldest was 2. I'm sure that will be fun to look back on when they're old and gray. I am also taking piano lessons which disturbs Kaptain Karl tremendously. In addition to all this, I actually have a real job, too, as a night editor at a newspaper, commuting into Manhattan five nights a week. Sometimes my general crabbiness can be explained by the fact that I have been chronically sleep deprived since 1994.

My trees ground me, bring me back to nature, always give me something to look forward to, something to nurture. But the bottom line is that one day my children will be grown, and I will want to remember what life was like when they were little. Might as well watch my kids and the trees grow together.


My October Glory Red Maple tree is quite photogenic.


The logo for my lifestyle photography business is based on a certain leaf. Do you know what leaf that is? I drew it straight from a photograph I took several years ago!
Click the logo or click below to check out my photography. It all started here, with my trees, and now I love photographing people too! 


See my original Coffeedrome pages:

See Julie's movie pages