And So It Goes

Our threadleaf Japanese maple was beautiful last fall.

About 20 years ago when we were still in the nursery business, my husband Richard took a roadtrip to some wholesale nurseries in Semmes, Alabama near Mobile.

He returned and gleefully presented a beautiful young 3 gallon threadleaf Japanese maple that he had purchased from Steven Sowato.  Richard was particularly impressed the the skillful graft that was done high on the trunk (so that the graft scar would be hidden by the foliage).  We speculated that his prize was probably a 3 year old plant.

We owned our own nursery and had little time to garden.  We kept this little gem as a container plant.   And so… through the years it grew and flourished.  We moved it to various sitting places – always in a prominent spot – and greatly admired its beauty.

Ten years passed.  The maple was residing in a 15 gallon black nursery pot and was in need of a bigger pot.

I was in the midst of landscape renovation and I set it into a plum position in the center of the back garden at our newly purchased house.

R. I. P.

And another 10 years passed.  We looked down on it from our bedroom.  We photographed it decked out in autumn crimson.

We moved next door to our old house and still visited it almost every day on our evening golf cart rides.

A couple of months ago we began the move back next door.  I had mixed feelings about this transition but was looking forward to the view of the maple from my bedroom window.

One day I noticed early fall color and then something seemed awry.

I looked closer and was shocked to realize that my maple was dead.

Logically I knew that it probably succumbed to a verticillium wilt disease brought on by stress from drought and heat and hurricanes.

Joe enjoys carousing in our dead maple.

But still I was in denial.  I kept scratching twigs every time I passed – hoping for signs of life.   It still has the same beautiful form and all our friends said “It looks so natural – just like it is sleeping.”

Attracted by the crispy crackle of the leaves, the kitties began to romp about in the branches.  I shooed them away – still in denial.  Oddly my reaction reminded me of the time my hound Doreen ate one of my Born shoes and I kept the other one for two years just in case the situation could be remedied.

Then… the telling sign – a fecund bloom of mushrooms sprouted at the base of the trunk.  Even I could not argue with such strong evidence.

Sister Maybell likes the crispy leaves.

Still though,  I have not cut it down.  I’ll let it linger through the fall.  I could probably even let the pretense continue through winter.

But I know now that it is a pretense.  I am looking for a replacement – something unrelated to the maples and un-susceptible to the deadly fungus that lingers in the soil.  I’m considering a large containerized ironwood that like its predecessor needs to be released from captivity.

But for the time being,  I’ll admire what’s left of the lovely form and let the disrespectful kitties dance on the grave as often as they like.


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12 Responses to“And So It Goes”

  1. yardflow says:


  2. DJK says:

    Ms.B while I am sad for your loss, your prose has me in stiches! It just looks like it’s sleeping doesn’t it!

  3. yardflow says:

    It’s still in the back yard, Debra, dead as a hammer. I just can’t bring myself to take it out even though I know it’s gone. I have already decided on a replacement tree.

  4. debra king says:

    snif…I love trees. I lost one of my silver bell trees I started from seed. I have no idea why. I suspect dry winter last year. Your maple was beautiful.

  5. ditto re: all of the above comments….primarily plants & reptiles/amphibians are showing the stress of a changing climate at this point in the game…..we’re seeing/feeling the same types of changes down here in cajunland……great post, gail.

  6. yardflow says:

    It’s a hard time to be a plant, Sally.

  7. yardflow says:

    It almost seemed like a bad omen, KC because we lost it as we were beginning to renovate to move in.

  8. yardflow says:

    Sorry, Valerie. It’s hard to lose a tree that has been part of your life every day. I have known that my maple was dead for about 6 weeks but refused to accept it.

  9. Gautam says:

    so sad yar its bad news

  10. Valerie says:

    We just lost our Japanese maple yesterday. It sat right outside our kitchen window, and held my hummingbird feeder. It was so weak, my husband broke it off at the base. I cried.

  11. Sally Johnson says:

    I, too have lost several “old friends” thanks to an unforgiving climate over the past year. Gardening makes philosophers of us all. ” In the midst of life we are in death.” But some farewells are more painful than others, aren’t they?

  12. Kc says:

    So sorry for your loss…

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