Yesterday we planted the first piece of landscaping we've added to our new yard.
It's not much to look at right now: a little tiny stick with a few roots at one end. Roots which are now buried in soil so all you can see is the stick. If it weren't for a small piece of paper labeling the stick, no one would have any incentive to drop it in the ground at all, let alone take the care I took of it. It would probably wind up at the curb with all the other winter tree debris we've cleaned out of the yard in the past weeks. It's not even close to the biggest branch we've got.
But that piece of paper is really important. It names the tree and tells us where it comes from, and that makes all the difference between it and the bundled-up rogue saplings waiting for the garbage truck.
The label says "Peach Tree, Dwarf 'Contender'".
Where you come from and what you are is important.
In this case, the tree was specially chosen as a gift with our yard in mind. It's a dwarf tree, meaning it'll never get much bigger than 8 or 10 feet tall - it'll fit in a nice neat corner without hitting the overhead power lines. It's especially cold hardy and resists frosts well, an important attribute for a fruit tree in a Michigan climate. It bears a lot of fruit for a little tree, medium-to-large sized freestone peaches with golden un-streaked flesh (Red Havens, another favorite, have red streaks in the flesh of the peaches - these apparently do not). Freestone peaches are great because it's easy to can or bake with them while the non-freestone variety are really only good for eating fresh - and what would be the good of having a whole fruit tree you can't make pies from or preserve the fruit for later in the winter?
How do I know all these things about this featureless chopped-off stick I buried in the ground yesterday?
It's simple: the stick has a name and the name means something. It's a heritage, a prediction...a prophecy of sorts. It allows me to know all these things about what this apparently dead and useless little stick could become if cared for properly, because this little stick will take on all the attributes of the parent tree it came from. Literally came from, because it's a grafted tree. A small piece of a mature tree was cut off and spliced into the root system of a hardier tree so the result would be an exact replica of the parent, with no deviations that sometimes come from reproducing a plant by it's seeds. It's a clone of the mature tree it came from.
This is why I've always found gardening such a fascinating thing to do. The parallels between plants and people are numerous, obvious, and amazing. Take our little sapling, for example. It's like a newborn baby. All newborn babies look very much the same. It's pretty hard to tell what features and characteristics they're going to display as adults; and if you didn't know what an adult Human looks like or is capable of, you probably would be pretty shocked by the potential wrapped up in the wrinkled, weak, red little body that is your average newborn. When I see a newborn, I have the same weakness anyone else does for this small helpless person; but what I see in them is not so much the value they have right this moment (because to be honest, they really don't have a lot of value as newborns) but the potential of what they are going to become. This tiny baby girl is someone's grandmother. That miniature baby boy is a really only a few years away from being a wise man who will care for an entire family. When you're raising and training a baby, you're doing so because you have an eye on the kind of tree they are and the kind of fruit you fully intend to harvest as soon as he or she is mature enough.
Our peach tree won't even start bearing fruit for another five years, but I'll be caring for it very particularly even when it doesn't show a single peach year after year: because I know someday, given enough time and water and fertilizer and judicious pruning, it will. Because it's a peach tree and that's what peach trees do.
A child is the same way. You raise them with great care even when they only show hints of the men or women they're going to become, because you know that even though this little one-year-old can barely walk, someday they'll be strong enough to be supporting you. That's what people do.
So that's why we're excited about our not-very-exciting stick marooned out in the corner of the back yard: because someday we expect to be harvesting peaches from it, no matter how unlikely that may seem at the moment. And that will be pretty special.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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