Monday, December 5, 2011

Plum Tree Epiphany

During the spring our flowering plum tree puts out beautiful leaves and buds, always a joy to see. In the summer the branches fill out and spread giving our front lawn shade and elegance. It is truly lovely to look at though its unbridled growth was beginning to cause problems. I have always had trouble pruning plants; it somehow seemed to be an assault on the plant’s natural development. But this tree was getting out of hand, reaching out over the lower roof and heading toward our neighbor’s house. We all had to duck to walk toward our backyards. So as autumn approached, we trimmed the tree hoping to keep the next spring’s growth away from both houses. I had to admit that it looked neater when the trimming was done.

Only now that winter is just about here, we discovered some other consequences of unbridled growth. The tree had created so much shade that the Japanese cutleaf maple growing several feet away was affected. It was hard to tell in the summer as both plants put out reddish leaves but in the bareness of fall it was startling. The maple was full and bushy on the right and sparse and pathetic on the left, nearest the plum tree. The growth of one inhibited the life expression of the other.

Oh, how I wish I had trimmed the plum years ago. It obviously had not hurt the tree and it would have prevented the asymmetrical growth of the maple, which was doing its best to survive. An example of unintended consequences. But even more than that, here is a reminder of how everything we do has an extended effect. If it is so dramatic with plum and maple trees, how much more so with people? I know it isn’t possible to be aware of the full impact we have through our actions but it gives me pause to realize that each of us has the power to change the world we live in one thought, one action, one child, one plant at a time.

Here is some info on Japanese cutleaf maple trees, truly a lovely garden feature:

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