Maple’s Gift to the Garden

I enjoyed time in my backyard garden this afternoon. After a weekend of heavy rains, the sunshine today was welcome. And the ground was damp still, which created ideal conditions for a necessary gardening task…weeding. 

Wearing long sleeves and gloves for protection, I tackled a much needed project…removing miniature clumps of ornamental grasses that were popping up all over the garden. This wasn’t my typical puttering in the backyard. This was hard work, using both a hand shovel and a larger spade to dig up those tenacious little grasses. 

But all work and no play is never my intention. After the last blade of grass was tossed into the bin, it was time for some gardening fun, and a special project that warmed my heart. 

Maples Gifts to the Garden
On the first day of spring this year, the big old maple tree that overhung my backyard came down. Twisted and damaged in the 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, the tree was dying. Large pieces of bark were peeling off and the huge limbs were hollowing out. The tree presented a danger to my house and the neighbor’s home. As sad as I was to see the tree cut down, it was the right action. 

Maples Gift to the Garden
The rotten crumbling pieces of wood were disposed of. Greg cut up other portions into firewood that could be burned in the fire pit. And some of the trunk sections and bigger limbs he set aside for my creative use. This afternoon I turned my attention to what remained of maple tree. 

Maples Gift to the Garden
I chose a couple of large maple sections with hollowed out areas, and a smaller solid branch, and positioned them in a bare spot in the garden. The hollow areas sparked my imagination. I could see these two cut up branches serving as planters. The smaller third section was the perfect size to hold a potted plant or flower. 

I used a bag of top soil to fill in the hollowed logs. And then the fun began as I considered which flowering and non-flowering plants to create with. 

Maples Gift to the Garden
I planted colorful vinca and white salvia in the taller of the two hollow logs. In the shorter section I tucked sweet potato vines around yellow calibrachoa. And perched on the solid plant stand is a pot of aromatic garden sage. I settled another small pot of yellow calibrachoa next to my new planter. 

I am so thrilled with how this grouping turned out. I like the way the maple planters look in the garden. But most of all, I love that these unique garden accents came from the maple tree that shaded my yard for years. 

These planters and the stand are temporary. They will age and weather and the wood will break down, becoming rich mulch and compost in my garden. For those reasons, I planted annuals within them. 

These are amazing gifts from maple tree. I will enjoy the planters and the stand this summer. And my garden will then benefit from the deteriorating wood as the tree returns to the earth from which it sprang. 

What a beautiful legacy. Thank you maple tree. 

Maples Gift to the Garden

Hello Spring…Goodbye Maple Tree

I deeply appreciated the opportunity to spend the first day of spring outdoors. With summer-like temperatures and clear blue skies, it was the perfect day to work in the yard and soak in the sun. I stayed open to receiving the gifts that the day offered. Trimming back plants, clearing away last winter’s dead vegetation, intentions for a late afternoon outdoor tea with tender lemon balm just sprouting in the garden…I knew one of these experiences would become the focus of this evening’s blog post. 

And then an unexpected event shifted the day. It would be insignificant to many people, but it wasn’t to me. Greg had a man stop by to look at the huge old maple tree in the backyard. In two hours Brian the tree guy was back, in his bucket truck, chainsaws ready. Maple tree was coming down. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
This tree has had a long life, and it has a story. At least 30 years ago it began as a volunteer seedling, snuggled against the fence on the north side of my backyard. Technically on the neighbor’s side of the fence, no one could ever determine exactly whose property it was growing on, and the tiny tree was left alone. 

Seemingly overnight, that little maple became a massive tree. Whatever thoughts there might have been about cutting it down, it was now too late. 

I didn’t mind. My children didn’t mind. They climbed the tree and sat on its leafy boughs. Their sandbox rested in its shade, as did a swingset. My younger daughter Adriel especially loved the maple tree. She would climb the fence and scamper up with her best friend Tresha, each of them claiming the tree for her own. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
Due to its tremendous size, and branches that overhung the house, the maple tree became a concern over the years. During a winter ice storm nine years ago, I lay awake all night, listening to the sharp crack of tree branches breaking all over my neighborhood. The weight of accumulated ice shattered limbs and pulled trees down. Not my maple tree though. I knew if one of the heavy branches fell, it could easily go through the roof, causing great damage. But it withstood the weight, the branches drooping low but never breaking. 

When the EF5 tornado churned through Joplin in 2011, my house was in the storm’s path. Again, the maple tree could have destroyed my house, or the neighbor’s, if its branches had become projectiles or if the tornado had pried it from the ground. Most of the trees in my neighborhood were destroyed that day and I lost a redbud in the front yard. 

Once more, this steadfast tree withstood the forces of nature. This time, however, maple tree was hurt. The roots gripped the earth, and held,  but assaulted by winds that exceeded 200 MPH, the tree twisted, the grand truck spiraling, splitting bark and fracturing branches. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
Greg had the tree trimmed back after the storm. I wasn’t sure if it would survive, in its new corkscrew condition. New growth appeared eventually, small branches stretching out toward the roof of the house again. Yet, the tree was scarred, and great patches of rough bark fell off, exposing wounds that never quite seemed to heal. The big old tree became a greater and greater risk, especially during the spring storm season, threatening my house and the neighbor’s house. 

I understood maple tree needed to come down. I was sad about it, nonetheless. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree

Brian was efficient as he took the maple tree down in sections. He worked carefully, explaining what he was doing as the chainsaw bit into the tree.  I was surprised to see that much of the tree was hollow inside. Brian was right. The tree was dying. 

I watched the process as a witness. Living, this tree had offered a place to hide and play. It sheltered birds and squirrels, covered us with its shade, stayed strong in the most challenging of circumstances. Now as maple tree fell, I silently honored its life and felt gratitude for its many gifts. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree
In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, there is a sentient tree creature named Groot. He is noble and wise, and he sacrifices himself to save his companions. He is not entirely lost however. Groot reappears as a tiny sprig, an offshoot of the original being. 

I thought about Groot as maple tree lay scattered in pieces on the ground. Who is to say whether this tree sacrificed itself, twisting fiercely as it clung to the ground, rather than crashing through the house where Greg and I crouched in a tiny closet? That was a noble act. 

The severed branches held bunches of bright green seeds. As the seeds dry mid-spring, they break free of the parent tree and spiral like miniature helicopters to the ground. Maple tree’s life is gone on this first day of spring….a season of rebirth and new growth. However, the promise of life trembled there on the tips of its branches. 

I gathered seeds, collecting them in a mason jar. I’ll spread the seeds out and allow them to dry thoroughly and then return them to the jar. I don’t have room in my yard for another massive tree. But my children may want a baby maple, to create fresh stories and their own memories with. I’ll keep some of the seeds as a reminder of my maple tree and its beautiful story, which lives on. 

Hello Spring...Goodbye Maple Tree