Thursday, March 17, 2011

Living with the Sticks

I can’t be the first person to receive the amazing offer in the mail from the Arbor Day Foundation:  Join our organization, they tell you, and we will send you not one, not five, but-- count them-- 10 trees. Ten trees.

I admit, I didn’t have the vaguest idea what I would do with 10 trees. I mean, I love trees. I  love trees. But we don’t have an acre of land to play with, here. We have a fairly small lot on which we had already planted seven carefully-selected baby trees.

So I didn’t need 10 trees. But still. The thought of 10 trees, leafy and glorious, arriving on my doorstep was, to say the least, mildly exhilarating. I imagined the UPS truck pulling up to my curb, and one container after another being unloaded onto my driveway. The ADF promised dogwoods, redbuds, crape myrtles. The pictures in the brochure looked a lot like this photo from their website:

I mean, come ON. I couldn’t resist.

Without mentioning it to my husband (who abhors all clutter, garden-type and otherwise) I sent in my membership money with carefully concealed glee. After all, I could figure out what to do with my beautiful specimens once they arrived. So I waited. 

After a long period of time-- so long I had forgotten about the promised trees-- a small package arrived in the mail from the ADF. When I saw it, I figured it was some kind of teaser to keep me happy until my trees arrived. A way of saying “your membership is important to us, please continue to hold.”  I knew it couldn’t be my 10 trees. After all, how many trees could fit inside a plastic bag about twice the size of a Sunday paper?

Ten, it turns out. Ten trees.  Each one a spindly stick with a tiny, tangled shock of roots on the end. They lay in the bag like tiny abandoned children, naked and obscene, with moist polymer gel clinging to their pathetic little forms.

I admit, I felt like a fool. Where were the leaves? Okay, it was November, I could deal with no leaves, but where were the BRANCHES for pete’s sake? And how was I to know which was which?

Fortunately, each stick (and that’s really too big a word) was marked with a bit of colored paint: purple for the Sargent Crabapple, white for the Eastern Redbud, and so on. So I identified each of my poor orphans. And then I did what any concerned but overwhelmed parent would do: I gave half of my trees to my green-thumb neighbor, Duke.

Now, before you judge me, let me say on my behalf that Duke has some plant prowess that leaves me in awe. I gave these babies a great home. The man has houseplants at least 14 feet tall. And they started out regular-sized, like the ones the rest of us have. That being said, I admit I felt like a wreckless hussy who wanted her fun but didn’t want to live with the consequences.

But I wasn’t completely off the hook. I still had to decide what to do with my five trees. Well, call me she-of-little-faith, but I just couldn’t devote a single square foot of prime, heavily amended garden soil to my new charges. Besides the fact that I didn’t have enough room for their mature forms, I didn’t believe-- regardless of what the Arbor Day Foundation literature promised-- that these babies had a chance. After all, the ADF hadn’t proved themselves terribly trustworthy in the we-can-live-up-to-expectations department. So I opted for pots:

No, the trees are in there, I swear. I moved them into the garage shortly after shooting this photo, and they’ve lived there ever since. I have watered them maybe twice. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting much. Then today I gave them a little more than the usual cursory glance, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Yes, folks. That is my Sargent Crabapple. I feel like a new parent seeing a fetus kicking on the ultrasound for the first time. Like, hot-diggity-dog! There’s life in their after all!  Suddenly I’m rooting for the other four. Come on you little whippersnappers!  You can do it!  I’ll keep you updated…


  1. OMG this is awesome. i had belly laughs on this one.

    you are doing great work, sis.

    ps. for some reason there is a big space benethe the dogwood arbor foundation poster thingy...

  2. I have almost tried the ADF offer several times, even though we live on the edge of a forest full of redbud, maple, hickory, pine, tulip poplar, etc. I might give it a shot this year and plan for trees in pots for a few before digging. I am a slow gardener. :)

  3. I did get a kick out of the tiny things but I would be excited also seeing one of them taking off now. Bet the others will soon also. Crabapples start budding quick. Will check in for your updates on them this year.
    Goldenray Yorkies

  4. This is not only an enyoable post, but also a reality portrait, yes we gardeners are always encouraging our plants to grow before our eyes! Patience you will have to develop, or maybe blind faith in believing they will grow tall? Nevertheless, it's invaluable to have trees in your home! Lula

  5. I did this offer 3 or 4 years ago. I have no room in my yard for more trees so I planted my sticks at my sons, all in the same area. The paint goes away and then you have no idea which tree is which. I believe there are 3 surviving sticks. They do get a little bigger each year but I've lost track of what the darn things are. Good luck with your sticks. LOL


Thanks for reading!