Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Parable of the Potted Tree

We have a South American tree--never mind what sort--in a halved wine barrel out back. We've been growing the tree from a timy seedling, and now it has a nice trunk and stands a little taller than me.

It's a deciduous species. But this spring, the leaves came bursting out...and died, looking as though the sun had fried them. Again and again.

Finally we discovered the poor thing was rootbound (or root-bound, or perhaps root bound)--all roots, but unable to absorb water. Although it was late in the season, we dragged it out of its huge pot and laid it on its side. I took a saw and cut away the bottom third of its roots, resulting in a woven woody mat about the diameter of an automobile tire, though not quite as thick. Then I cut some big triangular wedges out of the rootball in parallel with the trunk.

We pruned back the branches--pruned it back hard--and replanted it in the barrel with loads of new soil. We figured we might have killed it, but it was clearly dying anyhow.

The tree has burst out in new buds, buds now invincible to the sun, and more energetic than ever before. Which probably goes to demonstrate a profound concept, and probably has deep applicability to writing, or editing, or your hair or your family or something.

Or it might demonstrate that I'm a crappy horticulturist and that trees are incredibly resilient even if they are badly mistreated by incompetent owners.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell parables from screw-ups.


Aliya Whiteley said...

I am capable of killing any pot plant in less than a month. Every pot plant I've owned has karked it immediately. My mother in law has just rescued a very poorly lemon tree from my clutches, but I don't rate its chances.

I am the pot plant equivalent of the black death. I am green death.

Now I sound like a bad rock band.

Alis said...

Ditto. When I went to university my Mum gave me a spider plant saying (throwing down a challenge - she should have known better)'Even you can't kill this.' Didn't last a term.

But as for your tree, David, I can see lots of metaphorical links to writing. In fact, I'm rather encouraged by how it's doing. I shall take it as a good sign for my work in progress. Hope it's one for your wip too.

Tim Stretton said...

I managed to kill a spider plant, too, Alis! Indestructible? They're wusses!

I'm enjoying these horticultural vignettes, David--you have some strange plants. I hesitate to suggest they might be...altered from reality in some way...

David Isaak said...

Hi, Aliya--

The Green Angel of Pot Plant Death might not be a very good rock band, but it sounds like a good story element...

David Isaak said...

Hi, Alis--

In furtherance of your omen-reading, I'll post a picture.

If it suddenly takes a turn for the worse, I won't mention it.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

Yes, some of them seem to have intruded into consensus reality from somewhere else. We have a few plants it's hard to imagine existing in the wild somewhere.

Pics to follow.