A Tale of Two Trees

Two trees in our backyard -- both are now in tree heaven.


I’ve always liked trees. We had a big elm in our front yard when I was a kid and I actually used to climb up pretty high into it and sit for a long time — doing nothing, of course, but I do remember enjoying my time up there.

I lived two blocks from the northern frontier of Minneapolis suburbia in the ’60s and my grandfather lived a couple of miles away in an outpost of a few houses amidst the nearby farmland. He had a bunch of trees (quite a few, actually) growing in neat rows on the edge of his large yard that he had raised from seedlings. I never really thought about why he did that — I don’t remember him ever selling any or anything, but I learned a lot about trees from him. Mostly, though, I remember that he seemed to be endlessly watering them. Maybe he planted them just to get out of the house and move the hose around, I don’t know.

Trees seem like they should live forever, so it’s sad when one dies — especially when it’s in your yard. I had to cut down an ornamental apple tree last week that didn’t make it through the winter. I didn’t enjoy that one bit. It was one of a pair that we planted about 8 years ago. For a couple of weeks at this time of year, they erupt in brilliant pink flowers. This year, only one of them did.

The twins in happier times (2006)

It appears that some type of critter ate its way through the base and destroyed enough important parts to put it to death.

It was murder -- no obvious motive, however.

So this was sad, but nowhere near the scope of the one we lost a couple of years ago. On the other side of the yard we had the largest elm in the neighborhood — hands down. It was an amazing beast. If you look at Google Maps satellite photo you’ll see that it covered nearly the whole back yard and the house. (I don’t know if that photo is still up, but it was recently)

The big friendly giant in 2005.

Knowing that this tree was susceptible to Dutch Elm disease and fully appreciating what a loss it would be if it had to be taken down, we began to have it inoculated on a regular 3-year cycle. That worked for about 10 years. Then one day we arrived home to find this:

The dreaded orange circle.

To make this already too-long post a little shorter than it could be, I’ll just say that we begged the city to let us try an experimental drug (on the tree, not ourselves) for a year. Our tree-man said there was a 5% chance it would work. Long odds — but people buy lottery tickets every day. Plus, because the Rainbow Tree Care guarantee said we got a refund for the last treatment if the tree got the disease, this miracle drug was almost free.

Of course, it didn’t work and we had to have it cut down, finally in October of 2007 (again we begged the city to let us keep it until fall).

The gruesome task begins.

We had been getting bids on tree removal for over a year, and the prices were shocking. The first bid was $8,500. We had one for $14,000!!!! Finally, when the time actually came, we found Matt, who owns “Extreme Climbers” tree removal. He and a couple of helpers did it for $4,500 — which seemed like a bargain and a big relief.

Matt and his band of merry men finish the job.

Here’s how the yard looked after the deed was done.

A drastically changed landscape

It made us sick to look at the yard. Mrs. D. was depressed for the two years leading up to this and said we should sell the house because her yard and garden were going to be ruined.

Here’s a reminder of what life was like under the tree.
Mrs. D. and Emily under the canopy.

So this too, shall pass (as they say) and life marches on. You play they hand you’re dealt. You make lemonades out of your lemons. We planted another tree nearby, but on the actual historic site of Big Greeny, we did some other things. The yard will never be the same, but I think it’s turning out OK.

Life goes on.

The little maple tree we planted won’t ever be as big as the elm, and we’ll never see it reach it’s full height, but I think my Grandpa would approve — and I know he would like the way I water it.

As the old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

One thought on “A Tale of Two Trees

  1. thanks for sharing. your words ring true and i can relate – on a number of levels. i have trees on the mind. it’s hard to not think about trees, living on the parkway in the spring. your thoughts reminded me of one of my favorite poems by joyce kilmer – “i think that i shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” blog on!

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