Anna Naeser: Anna’s Garden
Aspen CO, Colorado
Returning home from a trip, I found a matched pair of ratty, 3-foot-tall blue spruces in big, black plastic tubs, blocking a path from the porch to a corner of the garden. They were the kind of evergreens sheared by growers into tight, unnatural cones for the winter holiday trade; the kind usually seen formally and handsomely, if unimaginatively, flanking an entry or doorway. They do not come cheap.
Why these unpromising specimens were in my garden or where they came from, I couldn’t imagine, much less think of what to do with them. Maybe they would die. I sure didn’t want them; the single blue spruce I have in my garden is plenty, and sometimes I regret planting even that one.
The trees turned out to have been rescued from a certain trip to the trash bin by my daughter Miranda. She couldn’t bear to see them chucked out like trash, so she trundled them home, one by one, on a dolly. A thorough soaking perked them up a bit, but not much. I forget how long they sat there, but when Gerry began muttering about running them through the chipper shredder, it came to me: the deck! Hadn’t I dreamed of trees in the big, recycled-redwood planters Gerry had built for me there? Here were two out of the blue, so to speak. A windfall!
Gerry lugged the spruces up the stairs and set them on a bench. Even after letting them dry out again, they were very heavy, and he indicated that this was going to be a one-way trip. After banging them against the bench to loosen them, I tipped the spruces out of their tubs, carved off part of the constricted root ball and rolled them off the bench into the fresh potting soil of two of the redwood containers. I watered them copiously and stuck nasturtium seeds all around the edges.
When Gerry recycled our old redwood deck into a bevy of wonderful planters several years ago, I had trees or shrubs, possibly evergreens, in mind for the largest three. I reveled in the possibilities, but, champion procrastinator that I am, kept vacillating, while the many plants already on hand waiting to be potted up nagged at me. So I ended up with an eclectic mix of sun-loving vegetables, annuals, herbs and seedling shrubs in my deck garden. I didn’t have any trees but, I had a wonderful display and learned a lot.
I had expected the microclimate on my deck to resemble the one on the porch underneath it, only with more direct sunlight. I figured that the deck floor and the wall of the house would absorb heat during the day and release it slowly at night, allowing tomatoes to ripen well after the early frosts.
I was flat-out wrong. In fact, as hot as it got, it got cold just as fast. Faster, even. While the tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants and so on did indeed flourish, they were actually done in by frost earlier than the ones in the vegetable garden on the north side of the house. The winter was much harder on my deck garden, too. In spite of my pulling the containers together tightly against the wall under an overhang, the stress of repeated contraction and expansion caused by freezing and thawing killed many plants and cracked several clay pots.
So I really don’t know whether my new blue spruce trees will be with me next year. And when I planted them, I really didn’t even care. That’s how good they looked. But, to my astonishment, the trees almost immediately put out long candles of new growth in the loveliest shade of powder blue, and in barely two months, the pinched, tortured look I so dislike has already softened and differences in the trees are apparent. In a year or two, they might even develop considerable character.
I would hesitate to experiment with such expensive plants were they not unsolicited gifts. The gift lies not just in the trees, but also in the chance to test them without worrying about their survival. Maybe they’ll overwinter, and maybe they won’t. I can just enjoy them and see what happens. Meanwhile, they sure do add some substance, not to mention an elegant note, to the motley collection of plants making their home on my deck this summer.
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