Friday, August 12, 2011


Early this summer, one of my next door neighbors called to me from her deck when I was out working in the yard.  She pointed out a dead tree in the garden that separated our two back yards, and asked whether Kathy and I would be willing to split the cost of replacing the dead tree with her.  Of course, I said yes.  We left it at that, which left me to contemplate what kind of tree to put in the dead tree's place.  Which left me dreaming of stewartia pseudocamellia.

(this photo from

Look at it, with it's mid-summer blooms, big beautiful buds, gorgeous peeling bark, and bright fall foliage.  It's so much more interesting that the same 5 things you can get from the local Home Depot.  So it seemed to me that convincing the neighbor that this tree was the way to go would be easy, right?  Nonetheless, I was nervous about the confrontation.  Finally, after weeks of agonizing over it, A said to me, "Well really, Erin.  It's not like she can say no."  She had a point.  If I went over there and made a pitch for a particular tree I wanted, and offered to be the one to put it in, it's not like she could say no, could she?

So off I went one day with a printout of how amazing the stewartia is.  And you know what she said?  No.  I'm sure you saw that coming.  She said her daughter has spring allergies, so they refuse to put any plants in their yard that bloom.  I pointed out that the stewartia doesn't bloom in the spring.  I argued that even plants without big obvious blooms have pollen.  All to no avail.  She refused to consider a blooming tree.  She suggested a maple.  BLAH, how boring, I thought.  (Also, maples have pollen.  I'm just saying.) 

On top of that, she wanted to shove something gigantic and unsuitable into the space.  The space was waaaaaaaaay too small for a full-size shade tree like a maple.  Which, might I add, at a mature height of around 40 feet, would have cast shade over our entire back yard, leaving me no space for sun-loving plants like vegetables.  Nonetheless, when I went over there, she talked and talked and stubbornly refused to consider my suggestions, so that by the time I left, I had agreed to some crazy 40 foot maple.  I lost.  I don't really know how it happened.  To make matters worse, I had agreed to a fast-growing variety, that can gain up to three feet a year, thereby guaranteeing that it will be gigantic and unsuitable as soon as possible.  Not only that, but I had agreed to order and front the money for the tree I did not want, as well as ripping out the dead tree and planting it. 

When I got home, I sat there, fuming about how I had been bullied into a tree I didn't want.  Surely there must be some compromise.  I went online myself, to the same website that the neighbor had suggested I order her fast-growing maple from.  I found a Japanese maple.  Still a bit boring, but at least the right proportions for the space.  And only $10 more than the fast-growing maple.  Armed with descriptions of the tree she wanted and the Japanese maple, I sucked up my resolve and stomped back over to the neighbor's house.  I tried to show her the descriptions.  She ignored them, and assured me her fast-growing maple was not actually fast-growing and would not be too big.  She showed me another maple in their yard, and how small it was (it was planted last year).  She refused to look at the printout of the Japanese maple I wanted.  Finally, I stopped being nice.  "I don't want a 40 foot tree in that space.  I won't consider anything that will reach that height,"  I said bluntly. 

"Ok," she said.  "Let's go with your tree then."  Without even looking at my printout.

It was that easy.  So I went home and ordered the Japanese maple before she could change her mind.  It arrived yesterday, so I went out to dig up the dead tree.  As I was out there hacking at the roots with an axe, she sent her husband out to help me.  With some grunting and some colorful words in Russian (from him, not me) we managed to yank out the dead tree.  I filled most of the hole with compost and dirt, and put in the Japanese maple sapling, and filled in around it.

(Sorry for the crappy iPhone photo taken in harsh light -- I was in a hurry!)

Can you see it there in the middle?  I know, barely, right?  I must admit, it's a bit smaller than what I expected.  The neighbor was so annoyed at how little it is, but it will grow.  It will fill in the space, it just needs to be given a chance.  I'm actually quite pleased with it.

And I pre-ordered the stewartia pseudocamellia to arrive in April for our front yard.  Ha.

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