Remembering Old Friends…

Where the honey locust had been, now back to grass

My dear father-in-law used to tell me that he consulted the obituaries in the newspaper first thing in the morning to see if he found his own name there. If not, he went on about his day… As we get older, the obituaries often contain names of friends and other contemporaries who have left a legacy of life, love, laughter. There should be an obituary page for our trees.

When I was young, I thought nothing of planting little 10-inch sticks and waiting. We have several 30-foot trees now that benefited from that approach: two beautiful pin oaks, two crimson king maples, a sugar maple, and several spruces in the corners of our backyard (and the spruce were started from seed!) I hadn’t thought of the effects of their dying before their time.

Nowadays, I’m saying goodbye to more trees than I can remember. It is like saying goodbye to old friends. Gone before their time.  First there was a japanese maple that was the centerpiece of our patio. It was estimated to be about 35 years old when we planted it 35 years ago. It was hit by lightening and never recovered. We had it taken down, the roots ground out, and replaced it with an amur maple. That was about 5 years ago, and I still miss the “old princess.” She reminded me of birthday parties, picnics, children playing on the lawn, and quiet times listening to the far-off traffic or listening at no traffic at all.

Then there was a bad winter storm about 3 years ago that took out 6 arborvitae that were so dense they formed a fence that an arch had to be cut through them and kept pruned to permit entry into our back yard. We had gone to Florida for the winter and when we returned, the arborvitae had been bent over so much and so long that they too were unrecoverable. Dear Husband cut them down, but did not have the stumps ground. I am still trying to figure out how to landscape around the stumps with periwinkle and boston ivy to distract the eye. I miss their inpenitrable greenness and smell. They played peek-a-boo with visitors who saw only a narrow walk towards the back door and kept private the back yard and all its secrets.

This year we were hit with two whammies – three declining honey locusts had to be cut down and their stumps ground, and then the DERECHO hit. (A derecho is sort of a straight line hurricane, and this one ran in hours from Chicago to the Atlantic.)

Taking down an old friend was harder than planting him

We lost power for almost a week, and outside our front door, said goodbye to a cluster of five white pines that once soared into heaven and kept nasty winter winds from speeding up as they whipped between our house and a neighbor’s. Gosh, they were tall and stately and unobtrusive — just a green background for all the flashier stuff and a great visual barrier between close neighbors.

We miss the honey locusts and their fine feathery leaves. No matter how large those trees got there was never a feeling of “too much shade” beneath them. They came out late and went bare early, but they were beautiful!

We miss our piney rooted fellas, cut off like a buzz saw had been taken to them. Their sizable tops hit the neighbor’s house, taking with them the gutters and downspouts, a window, and the air conditioners. So we called the insurance guy (IG). IG asks were trees in good health? Yeah, we tell IG, but not any more. IG says, then neighbor’s insurance will take care of his yard, you are not at fault and your insurance will not be affected. Yeah, but about the piney guys, they are going to have to be removed and their stumps ground. IG wishes us luck at finding someone to do the work and clarifies that our insurance will not pay for the work.

Dust to dust….well, more precisely mulch

Yeah, yeah, we’ll replace the trees, but like children, we never actually replace them, do we?

Do you have fond recollections of trees or other garden plants that you have lost that harbored happy memories? If so, tell me about them, and maybe share a picture?


About Shenandoah Kepler

Hi! I’m Shenandoah and I love to garden. I am becoming an ancient gardener, and am finding new ways to stay digging and enjoying the land.
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