Posted on: February 26, 2020 | Written By: Doug Oster |
I’m not sure when I first noticed the late afternoon sun illuminating the orange bark of a tall, beautiful Scotch Pine that overlooked the vegetable garden, probably about 20 years ago.
There’s a chair in the corner of the garden that I would use at the end of the day. After discovering this beautiful combination of living wood and sunlight, I would go out whenever possible at the right time to enjoy the show.
The tree watched over me for decades as I weeded, planted, watered and rested.
The top of the tree snapped off 10 years ago during Snowmageddon, and the view from my little corner respite was changed forever, leaving only about 10 feet of the trunk.
I just didn’t have the heart to cut down what was left. I first thought of making it into an art project for a student, opening the property once a year and asking for donations to a worthy cause.
That never materialized, but the next spring I attached a plant hanger to the remains of the tree, growing annuals in a hanging basket for the next 10 years.
I studied the tree carefully each season, watching it slowly degrade. It was leaning toward the white picket fence that surrounds the vegetable garden.
It was ironic that while walking in the back door of the house I heard a tree fall, not uncommon when living in an oak forest. Upon further investigation I discovered my old friend had finally dropped, but magically missed the garden fence entirely. It did knock over a huge stone statue of an angel, breaking a wing off. The angel will be repaired, but a friend came by, chainsaw in hand, making quick work of what was left. As I rolled the pieces of pine down the hill into the forest, I thought about the tree when it was in its glory; providing a beautiful view for this old gardener taking a break.
The connection to trees is inescapable for gardeners like myself. My first garden memories come from hanging upside down in a maple tree as a 5-year-old, watching my grandmother tend her tomato plants in the “gully” between her house and the neighbor’s. The image is indelibly burned into my thoughts, and I can still see her in that housecoat with purple piping along the sleeves.
When I moved to my current garden, I actually dug up some little rose of Sharon trees from my old garden, the progeny of a large tree that took the brunt of countless basketballs as it was right next to the hoop my young children used for hours at a time. They are now fine-looking trees dotting the landscape.
As I finished planting an American hornbeam last winter to replace a huge oak that toppled, my wife mentioned I should dedicate it to my brother who had recently passed. What a great tribute, I thought. There’s no plaque or sign, but both of us know the significance of the tree.
I’m often asked, “What should I plant?” I can tell you what’s worked for me, but most of the plants in my garden are there because they have some kind of personal connection to my life.
This fall I’ll be looking for a decent-sized replacement Scotch Pine to plant. I’m not sure if I’ll be around by the time it gets tall enough to reflect the setting sun. I can only hope that someone decides to sit in the same corner of the garden and discover the beauty and wonder this tree had provided to me for all those years.
Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at everybodygardens.com.