I was standing in the garden center staring at a skinny 10 ft. tall oak tree and reading its tag when a customer service attendant came up to me and asked if he could help.
I said I was looking for a tree that would eventually shade the back of my new house that was on stilts without being too wide for my narrow back yard.
“Lady, if you want a tree that you’ll be able to see from your back window and give you shade, it’s not this one. You’ll never live long enough! And look at how root bound it is!”
I can’t remember why I went ahead and bought it. Maybe it was that the poor thing was so scrawny and its roots were so crowded in its one gallon pot, swirling around and around, that it appealed to my lifelong fixing broken wings tendency – or maybe I’m just plain stubborn. Don’t tell me I won’t live long enough!
I left the man shaking his head, managed to fit it in my Mitsubishi van and lug it around to the back yard. I cut the pot away, then sat on the ground for what must have been hours carefully unwinding its roots without breaking them. They were worse than I thought but survived the process, even the taproot. I dug the largest hole I could, loosening the packed soil as I dug, added peat to the mix, ran the hose in the hole, then carefully put the tree in, spreading it’s curved roots, straightening it, added soil back, packed it down and sent up a prayer of hope.
That summer we had a very bad drought. I lost five Leland Cypresses, three dogwoods, one Willow Oak, an apple tree and a weeping cherry, but guess who survived?
There’s not a day that I look out my kitchen and stair landing window on the next level that I don’t feel joy seeing my beautiful Pin Oak outside. With everything against it, it persevered and flourished. Not only can I see it from the second level, if I go out on the small north deck on the third level I can see its branches up above the roof reaching for the sky.
It was only a few years before it reached the second level, in summer blocking the kitchen view of the neighbor’s house behind me and giving me a lovely view of swaying branches and fluttering leaves. It never got too wide for the yard, though after 27 years it’s getting closer. Now it has babies dappling different parts of the yard, one about the size it was when I brought it home and that garden worker told me I wouldn’t live long enough to see it reach the first floor.
There’s a message in this that has bolstered me through the years. I hope it does you.