The Optimism of Tiny Trees

oaktree2)

I have a vivid memory of eating a Red Delicious apple when I was seven years old and, afterward, regarding the dark seeds embedded in the core.

I asked my dad if I planted one of the seeds would we get apples on our own tree next year?  No, he said.  Not next year.

Then when?  

Dad guessed it would take about seven years. 

I would love the next part of the story to be that I planted a seed that very afternoon, that I grew up with the sapling that emerged, that I was married under that tree twenty years later and that I make pies from the fruit every fall.

But what I actually thought when my dad told me that was: seven years — that’s forever!  I would be fourteen before the tree got big enough to produce apples (never mind that its apples would probably be more like sour golf balls since it wouldn’t come true from seed).  The idea of waiting so long for the payoff of planting an apple seed was inconceivable.  I couldn’t even conceive of myself seven years into the future.

To plant a tree from seed, even a modest one like an apple, is no small thing.  To plant the seed of a grand shade tree, like a white oak, now that is a real leap of faith. Knowing you’ll never see its ultimate grandeur, knowing that it will outlive you, your children, maybe even your grandchildren – to plant that seed is a gift, an act of sheer optimism.

To this day, I’ve never planted a tree from seed, though I’ve planted many small saplings, and I’ve found that even the saplings require an abundance of patience, an ability to delay gratification that I’ve only acquired in mid-life. 

I’ve had a tiny paw-paw, a volunteer transplanted from a client’s garden, growing in my backyard for the last three years. I’ve got it planted in the shade and it’s taking its time. Each year it puts out about five pretty green leaves. This year there might be six. I’m losing patience, but I really want those Zebra Swallowtail butterflies, whose larva feast on paw-paw leaves. For now it stays.

Last summer I planted another baby tree, a wee ‘Cherokee Brave’ dogwood that’s now about thigh-high.  It leans a little, and its broad leaves are way out of proportion to its spindly trunk.  It has the same comical look as those skinny teenage boys you see who have huge feet and hands.  It hasn’t grown into itself yet.

One day it will reach fifteen, maybe twenty feet, with rosy blooms arrayed along its stretching limbs. I can see it.  One day I will look up at it instead of down.  Will that take longer than seven years? 

In seven years I will be forty-nine. 

No sweat.

*I meant to have this post written in time for this month’s Garden Designer’s Roundtable: Trees, but alas, I was tardy.  But please take some time to read more about Trees from my fellow garden writers:

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

 

“Malignant Magenta”

Some interesting revelations in a book I’m currently reading called One Writer’s Garden, which is about the Jackson, Mississippi garden of Eudora Welty and her mother Chestina

Last night I read this explanation for the shunning of magenta flowers back in Welty’s day (early 20th century, but the magenta aversion continues today for many gardeners):

“Historian Susan Lanman..points out that arsenic was was commonly used in pesticides, giving crops a magenta color that indicated that the lethal poison had been applied.  [Gertrude] Jekyll and others distressed by the effects of industrialization eschewed [magenta]for such associations with pollution, and its manufacture from aniline dyes, which themselves were derived from the coal whose smoke blackened England’s skies.”

Byzantine-gladiolus-row

Byzantine gladiolus. http://www.bulbhunter.com

Ew.  So magenta=toxic was part of the reason they didn’t like it. 

But also many gardeners and designers just found the color plain nasty.  Apparently, Gertrude Jekyll is the one who tagged it “malignant magenta” and another British garden writer called the color “that awful form of original sin.”

Geez.

Poor magenta.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Everyone has their tastes, but who wouldn’t want to stumble upon that lovely sweep of Byzantine Gladioli (pictured above) on a drive through the country?

(Source: One Writer’s Garden, by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown.)

David Culp’s Layered Garden Includes Black Walnuts!

layeredMore good news for those of us living with Juglans nigra! In his new book The Layered Garden, David Culp describes several genera that he has grown with success beneath these anti-social trees, including:

Smilacina — (Smilacena racemosa — False Solomon’s Sealan interesting perennial with white flowers in spring followed by green/red berries).

Asarum(cute little gingers!)

Aucuba — (Evergreen, Gold Speckles. Reminds me of the upholstery on the couch from my childhood family room, circa 1976. What’s not to love?)

Pulmonaria(I am always reading about how great these are — why don’t I grow them?)

Convallaria(I actually have Lily-of-the-Valley growing under a Silver Maple, which means they will officially grow anywhere.)

[Read more...]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Memory and Plants

I’ll I’ll be honest.  I had a hard time figuring out how to approach this topic.  As I have mentioned before, I am New Dirt and not Old Dirt, meaning I do not come from a long line of gardeners, but rather picked up this obsession at age 36 with no influence from parents or grandparents.  Like Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, my conversion to a life of gardening was sudden and complete.  (Whether or not Constantine was pruning Euonymus at the time of his revelation, as I was, is not clear.)

[Read more...]

Garden Designer’s Roundtable: How to Terrify Young Children With Your Landscape

Folks, it’s not too late to completely re-do your landscape for Halloween!

Whether your goal is just to have a little spooky fun, or to actually terrorize the children so they will not set foot in your yard, here are some “go-to” plants!

1. Poncirus trifoliata

[Read more...]

RIP, Pink Dawn Viburnum

20120926-190539.jpg

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’
2012-2012

Fare thee well, large shrub/small tree. I barely knew ye.

[Read more...]

It’s the Most Walnutty Time of the Year

Isn’t the weedy Hellebore bed with wire fencing just super classy? It’s my patented “Postmodern Retro Tacky” design aesthetic.

No, those aren’t dirty tennis balls.  Those are just a few dozen of the THOUSANDS of black walnuts that rain down on my backyard at this time of year. 

[Read more...]

“Now Entering the Xeric Hardpan Forest”

Recently I purchased and read Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachians and Piedmont.

Now, before you go labeling me as a mega-dweeb, you should know that plant communities are super hot right now. All the coolest middle aged suburban garden bloggers are talking about them and how they can be used as inspirations for design.

Where have you been?

[Read more...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 656 other followers

%d bloggers like this: