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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.


 

Jeeter’s Rose

My Crepuscule rose was planted in memory of Jeeter.


 

I came home late yesterday after speaking at an Urban Forestry conference near Memphis.

I was anxious to get out and see the garden after a three day absence.  Instead we’re having thunderstorms and tornado warnings so… it’s a great day for blogging.

I have looked out the window enough to see that the rains and wind have knocked the last of the azalea flowers into the middle of next week.  Luckily the roses are waiting in the wings!

During a break in the weather, I scurried out to the grocery store.  As I struggled down the front walk laden with groceries, I was delighted to see that one of my new roses was blooming.

I still miss the late Jeeter. He was quite a garden cat.

About three years ago, my favorite garden cat, Jeeter, was killed in the street.   My heart was broken because I had bottle fed him when he was a baby kitty.   Jeeter and I were inseparable in the garden.  I had never seen him in the street so I was totally blown away when he was killed by a car.

I buried him in my front flower bed in one of his favorite hang-outs.   I planted an orange rose on his grave.

The rose is a thornless climber called ‘Crepuscule’.    It is an antique Noisette that was introduced in 1904.   After three years I have trained ‘Crepuscule’ to clamber up into a nearby red buckeye tree.   The buckeye is still blooming a bit and I am happy to report that the red buckeye flowers harmonize perfectly with the soft apricot ‘Crepuscule’ blossoms.

I am even happier that the flower color is almost the same color as my boy Jeeter.   I like to think that the Crepuscule is channeling Jeeter and that as it rambles to the top of the 12 foot buckeye, Jeeter’s spirit is roaming the garden.

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