We are lucky to have a couple of silk trees shading the front of our house. They are currently in full leaf and flower, attracting bees and humming birds and cloaking us with a cool green protection from the afternoon sun. The horizontal, parasol-like spread of the canopy and the puff-ball delicate flowers are a luxurious surprise every year, from a starkly naked tree that fills in it's greenness much later than other neighborhood trees. One day the first green fingers of the leaves appear and shortly thereafter you can't see our house at all.
The trees are messy, dropping ghostly, colorless spirit- versions of the pristine and delicate flowers. They clump together and accumulate like an old-man's-beard, shorn and accumulating in wind-drifts by the steps and trapped in lumpy contrast on the bright, geometric spikiness of the dahlia heads below. They blow over the house to the back garden, which would surely become a forest of silk trees if I let it.Soon we will have long seed-pods dangling down, much like those on a wisteria vine. As they ripen, then dry they will twist as they pop, the empty husks will rattle in the wind, then they too will fall, crunchy underfoot. A few weeks from now anywhere that receives water from my sprinklers will have sprung volunteer life in the form of small, want-to-be-trees, that grow visibly taller every day. Luckily they are easily extracted but will account for a weekend or two of my time to eliminate the invasion.
I don't mind the messiness, it represents an abundance of beauty and weighs lightly on the scale of pros and cons.
It's time to head home. Once I am done fighting freeway traffic I will enter my house and appreciate the aquatic-green light filtering in the windows, as cool as a trout gazing up from the river's depths. The muted luminosity is full of shadows and movement as the long-fingered leaf fronds lift and wave and mime in conversation with the wind.
Picture added 7/23/09
This is what I know as a Mimosa Tree. In early spring they are all over Provence and we have them in California too.