While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

A Reason for Optimism, Part II – any place will do.

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No doubt you have seen plants growing in unusual places – through cracks in streets, sidewalks, and driveways, in the scoop of a trowel left behind in a garden, on an unintentionally green roof, on old fences, on downed logs, on masonry, or through the siding of abandoned buildings.  Many plants will grow where only their very basic, minimal needs are met.  A walk through an old neighborhood will present the observer with a wide array of tenacious hardy plants thriving (or, at least, growing) in such unusual places and in such peculiar conditions that you can’t help but wonder how.  Some years ago, I saw a long healthy string of field bindweed (Convolvulus spp.) thriving on a windowsill – no nearby soil to be found.  I was impressed but not surprised.

On my exercise route, I have watched the progress of a young pine growing in a unique place.  About 10 years ago, a dead tree was removed from the street-side of a large, well-manicured yard.  (The tree had died from years of incorrect and unnecessary pruning.)   A 2-foot tall stump was left behind.  A few annuals would be planted around the base of the stump each spring/summer, but the stump was left intact.  After approximately 3 years, I noticed a tiny pine tree growing from a crack in the middle of the stump – right on top.  I was amused by the tough little tree and wondered if the children who lived there had found the seedling somewhere and moved it to the stump.  The family moved away before I had the opportunity to ask them.

When new owners moved in to the house, I was afraid that they would remove stump and seedling from their yard in their new landscaping plan, but the stump and its occupant remained in place.  Apparently, they appreciated the uniqueness of their little tree enough to allow it to live.  Over time, the young pine developed a sturdy trunk, splitting the old stump right down the middle and creating for itself a protective covering for its young bark.  A good home for a youngster.

Now it is a healthy tree, between 6 – 7 feet tall (on the garden side), and presents a unique and interesting focal point in an otherwise unimaginatively landscaped front garden.  I take a moment to inspect the tree on a monthly basis, and I am always encouraged.  Plantsmen and women with much more knowledge and experience than I tell me that regardless of how we damage our environment, something green will survive.

And, I think they’re right!

pine-2                         pine

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Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

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