Roots and Branches

My muscles ache tonight since I spent yesterday working on the hedge.  We planted the Arborvitae about 8 years ago.  Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, my son-in-law actually planted them.  I told him where they should go, but he provided all the backbreaking labor to plant the eight three-foot tall saplings.  We chose these shrubs from the cypress family because the nursery promised a great privacy screen in a matter of a couple of years from these hardy evergreen plants.  We were not disappointed.

Within two years, we had a wonderful hedge just outside the chain link fence on the west edge of our property.  I was careful to water them regularly, but not too often and they thrived, growing to a height of well over ten feet tall.  Until last summer.  We had several weeks of ninety plus degree days, with little rain, so I started watering a little more often, but it was to no avail.  We ended up with eight beautiful, tall everbrowns.  The expert from the nursery pronounced last rites, assuring me that they would not recover.  So, last week I started removing them, to the dismay of my already injured back, deferring the rest of the task until the Saturday just past.  It was a heartbreaking job.  They were old friends, which I had nurtured from saplings.  I provided them with a place to grow and occasional waterings and they provided me with protection from prying eyes and the view of the very ugly deserted car wash across the street.  No more.  Yesterday, the last of them was removed, to be dumped unceremoniously in the ditch, awaiting the mulch truck within the next week or two.  I’m not happy.  The view of the car wash is still just as unsightly as I remember it. 

When we purchased the music store and the house next door, soon to be our home, there was a beautiful pear tree in the backyard, right near the front of the store and the back door of the house.  It provided astounding, aromatic blossoms in the springtime, wonderful, cooling shade in the summertime, and eye-popping colors of red and purple in the autumn.  The trunk of the tree was three feet in diameter, the branches reaching the height of thirty-some feet.  We loved the tree and would have been satisfied to keep it there for as many years as we are privileged to live in the house.  Alas, that also was not to be.  In an ice storm two winters ago, the weight of the freezing water proved too much for the spreading branches, toppling most of them from the huge trunk.  We had no choice but to remove the still erect trunk after the branches were cleaned up and the damage to the store and house repaired.  The lovely shade tree’s life was cut short in a few disastrous hours of nature’s onslaught.

“Some people just shouldn’t try to grow things,”  I can hear it already.  And you might be right.  My thumb is definitely not any shade of green.  I’ve never claimed to be a plant whisperer and I do neglect my obligations to them frequently.  But, leaving that aside, I also have a point to make.  When the expert came to look at my dying Arborvitae, he said that the bushes had died from the roots up, resulting in the dried up foliage and otherwise unchanged trees.  The ornamental pear tree, on the other hand, is notorious for outgrowing itself.  It rarely dies from the root, but because of the way the branches grow out of the trunk, almost always grows limbs which are too heavy for it to bear up under.  Two separate problems, with the same ultimate result; a dead tree.  Bad roots; bad branches; either one results in failure of the entire organism.

There is one tree which grows in my backyard that I don’t worry about at all.  I think its proper name is a Yarwood London Plane tree.  It’s a hybrid of the sycamore tree, but grows much straighter and taller.  To my knowledge, no one planted this tree on purpose, but it grows right outside the fence, within ten feet of the street.  Someday, someone will have to cut it down, but I hope I’m gone long before that (pretty likely since they have an average lifespan of 150 years).  I don’t worry about the tree, because it has never given any sign of needing anything.  The huge leaves provide wonderful shade and it grows straight up to the sky, reaching up some fifty feet.  The beautiful white bark and large hanging leaves only add to its attractiveness.  The little ditch it grows beside evidently provides all the water it needs from the runoff of the frequent rains we have here.  Good roots and good branches, it thrives throughout the year, growing about three feet taller every year, providing shade and beauty without needing anything from me.  This tree, I like!

Now, you know me…I always want to leave you with a moral to my writing, but I’m going to let you draw your own conclusion today.  I could fill another page or two with my take on the connection between these three different plants growing (or not growing) in my yard, but you don’t need me to insult you with that.  I will admit that the idea was sparked by a guest speaker at our church last week, who talked about “trees planted by the streams of water; which yield their fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither.”

I’ll leave you to work the ground now and see what comes up.  Happy gardening!

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
(Ancient Greek proverb)

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