Saturday, April 21, 2012

They All Grow Up

Many years ago, when my daughter was perhaps six or so years of age, she returned from a late spring Manhattan Zoo outing and presented me, her hazel eyes sparkling with excitement, with a few maple seeds that she and her friend had collected from the sidewalk at the zoo.  Assuring me that these were special seeds from a marvelous and special tree, she demanded that I plant them immediately.  And I, acknowledging that they were magic seeds (made so merely by her efforts to please a gardening father), did indeed plant them with her help and direction, all the while thinking it unlikely that they would ever germinate and grow from the immature little samara that they were.

One blasted little seed did grow however, to my daughter's delight, and after finding a one-foot tall Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) seedling in a very poor place to allow further growth of a tree, I subsequently transplanted the sapling not once, but twice, all the while secretly hoping that the tree wouldn't survive the move(s).  It sounds terrible now, but this very common North American species with brittle wood and shallow roots was not high on the list of trees I wished to add to my landscape.

Evidently, however, God ignores pretentious gardening fathers and protects the dreams of stringy-blond-haired little girls because that maple has grown and thrived to become the largest tree of my yard, surpassing even the volunteer Cottonwoods that I have also allowed to mature.  At around 12 years of age, it is perhaps twenty feet tall with a trunk 6 or so inches in diameter, otherwise unremarkable except for its health and the mass of light yellow leaves that it drops for my lawnmower to pick up each Fall.

My daughter's maple surprised me this spring by setting seed for the first time, just as my little girl prepares to graduate High School, leave our nest and go off to college this summer.  ProfessorRoush, for all his deficiencies, is not so spiritually obtuse that he has missed this not-so-subtle cosmic hint about the nature of time.  Little gangly girls do grow up, despite the desires of their fathers, to become beautiful independent women, just as the tallest maple can grow from the smallest seed.  I get it, okay?




This tree will always be a part of my garden, serving forever to remind me of my young daughter and the seeds we planted, growing steadfastly and strong despite all the obstacles faced.  It has been with us through the Spring of young family life, the storms of adolescence, and it will soon serve to provide shelter and relief from the hot Kansas sun for an aging and reminiscing gardener.  Someday I hope that, long beyond my time, when this tree's time on Earth is over and being gauged in the number of growth rings, someone remembers to count the first dozen rings as I would, in the terms of memory.  This was the year she lost and regained her front teeth, this ring for the year the braces were removed, this one the first time she drove a car, this the year of her first teen love, this the year of her graduation....

3 comments:

  1. Oh, the sweetness of staying in one home as one's children grow up.

    A beautiful young tree, a beautiful young woman, and a wonderful Dad. Thanks for sharing the memories with us.

    P.S. I think silver maples get a bit of a bad rap (along with cottonwoods). Compared to Callery pear and Siberian elm, for example, they are marvelous - and they are great for wildlife too.

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  2. I love your story. Reading it reminded me of a pine tree my son was given and so we planted it, not exactly where I wanted it, but none the less we planted it there. I was also strict with planting natives ONLY but caved in on mt homogenous natives only rule because it was him. Today that pine blends in beautifully with all the other pines, though I no longer own the property. My wife and I went and visited there last year and took photos. In reality I incorporated that pine in with the others in a sort of mycorrhizal networked grid experiment and it performed identically to the others as I wrote about it in my blog on mycorrhizal grids.

    BTW, did you ever have any dificulted with dry desicating winds out there on the Kansas praire ? Most maples I seen grow best under a nurse canopy of already existing trees and later take over. I wrote a piece about Todd Dawson's Lab and cited a paper he did on 'Mother Nature's Irrigators' where he studied Sugar Maple's ability to pull water from deep subsoil layers and redistribute it to other plants within the ecosystem.

    Here is an article wrtten about the experience. Perhaps your silver maple has similar qualites.

    Mother Nature's Irrigators*
    Plants Share Water With Their Neighbors


    Thanks for your article. It reminded me of my son who I am no longer able to see.

    --

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  3. Gaia, can't disagree, at least they provide some dependable shade until a storm brings them down.

    Timeless, thanks for your comments. I previously wrote about a pine tree seeding the school gave my son as well. Yes, I have some difficulty (understated!) with the drying winds on the Prairie. Thanks for the references to the maples use of water.

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Thank you for your interest in my blog. I like to meet friends via my blog, so I try to respond if you comment from a valid email address rather than the anonymous "noresponse@blogger.com". And thanks again for reading!

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