I’ve tried to climb trees (although not lately). I’ve swung on tires tied to their limbs. I’ve relaxed under their branches, sipping tea on hot summer days.
One thing I’ve never done though, until now, is kill trees. Don’t get the wrong idea. Trees have always been a part of my landscape. I love trees, and I like houses that are surrounded by them. The more, the better.
Growing up, first on a farm and later in the suburbs of Kansas City, we had shade trees and fruit trees. Whatever my father planted just grew.
When I bought my first house in Missouri more than 40 years ago, it was nestled in trees, birches in nice little clumps in the front and oaks in the back. Our house in South Carolina had plenty of trees, but our neighbors had even more, big stands of pines that they eventually leveled. We wondered why they didn’t want their trees.
In Florence, Ala., where Jenny and I lived before moving to New Albany. the yard had been landscaped by a master gardener. There was a rare hemlock, a massive Japanese maple, a redbud, wisterias, a dozen dogwoods and even more pines. It was a city lot, but we couldn’t even see our neighbors on three sides. And out front, three mammoth pecan trees furnished nuts for several families of squirrels. Our only job was raking waist-high mounds of leaves to the curb, where the city came by with what looked like a giant vacuum hose and sucked them into a truck.
One of the things that attracted us to our New Albany house was the entire backyard was a little forest, mostly pines with natural woodsy undergrowth. There was no neighbor to see and no grass to mow. But the side yards had no trees. The front didn’t either, but we benefited from a large pear, planted by a neighbor near the property line years ago. Jenny wanted more trees. No problem, I thought. We’ll plant some. What I meant, of course, was we would hire someone to plant some. We decided on a red maple, a redbud, two magnolias and seven crepe myrtles. The landscaper recommended mostly crepes because of their hardiness. Once they get started, you can’t kill them, he said.
He obviously underestimated my talent.
The first one to go was the redbud. Jenny was thrilled to have a redbud, and checked it regularly to see how it was doing. She didn’t check on it enough, because, come springtime, it was bare and brittle, dead as a doornail, as my father used to say.
Then one day a miracle happened. When Jenny came home from school, the tree was alive, covered with lots of green, heart-shaped leaves. She was excitedly sharing the story of the miracle with our neighbor … who mentioned that the landscape truck had been at our house that afternoon with a little redbud tree on the trailer. So much for miracles. The next to die was one of the crepes, then the maple. Then the redbud died again, and last week the landscaper replaced another crepe.
As I write this, a couple of the other crepes look puny and none have bloomed so far this year. Now I’d better go water our trees – not that it makes any difference.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached at 662-534-6321.