I am a sap about trees.
What makes me such a tree hugger? They’re only majestic, beautiful, reliable, resilient, and immoveable. Usually. Unless there’s a chainsaw involved. Stop it—you’re just adding to my guilt.
A friend gave me a Hallmark card once that compared our friendship to the safe haven of a shady tree. “You are an oak,” it finished, right above the flourish of her signature. I don’t think that’s what my doomed paloverde would say this morning. “You are an ungrateful traitor,” is more likely what’s on its mind.
Oh, come on. You know trees have opinions.
I gotta say, I agree with my tree—I feel like a traitor. That thirty foot giant was perfectly healthy. For the last seven years it’s grown tall because we watered and cared for it, hoping it would grow tall and give us privacy and shade and . . .
This isn’t making me feel any better.
But hear me out. We get so little rain here in the desert it’s a waste of time to measure it, so plants and trees have to be as clever as camels to survive. That means shallow roots stretching along the surface to grasp every droplet of water so the sun won’t get to it first.
Which spells trouble for thirty-foot tree owners.
We also have violent summer storms made up of powerful, swirling winds every monsoon season. And paloverdes, trimmed up like majestic green umbrellas, uproot and fly off like Mary Poppins, or snap into pieces like colossal peppermint sticks and, the next thing you know, you’re spending thousands of dollars to rebuild block walls and replace your neighbor’s pool pump.
That’s why our tree is coming down today—it can’t keep its branches on. Shameless hussy.
I know—I’m just trying to justify the annihilation of an innocent tree. But hey. We’re not laying waste to it like they do in the rainforests—we’re replacing it with its very distant cousin, an oak. Like the faithful one on that Hallmark card, only a lot shorter.
I’m not feeling any better about this.
Here’s the thing. We hired a guy to assess our tree dilemma who knows more about trees than the guy we originally hired to plant this plant. And this older, wiser, tree guy explained to us that our paloverde is a hybrid. Its genes have been rearranged by scientists who wanted desert plants to grow unnaturally tall unnaturally fast, and then it was planted in the worst possible place in the world—right next to a block wall with no room to branch out. This Frankenstein belongs in the middle of a pasture, acres away from block walls and new pools, where it can break or fall or fly off to its delight and never hurt anyone’s bank account.
I bet you’re thinking now that it’s stupid to mess around with plant genetics. You’re a genius. And that’s food for another blog.
What’s on my mind as I mourn this tree is how often I, too, want to grow like a hybrid paloverde. I am impatient. Maturity takes too long. I want to loom tall with the illusion of strength and wisdom like that oak on my Hallmark card but at microwave speed. You don’t develop robust, resilient trees in seven years with minimal moisture, though. It takes seventy years of deep watering and exposure to storms to produce something that won’t uproot, break down or fall over in a strong wind.
Which is why, today, we are exchanging our misplaced paloverde for an unabridged oak. Because now, when I sit on my patio and look at the smaller tree in the corner of my yard, I’ll have something to look up to.
And, someday, deserve that Hallmark card.