Monday, April 28, 2008

Charmingly insouciant with earthy undertones

You know how real estate ads tend to tout properties with "mature plantings"? You never see listings proclaiming "immature plantings" or "charmingly insouciant plantings" or "plantings in the final stages of decrepitude," but I know those plantings exist. In fact, some of them exist very close to home.

On a scale from "infantile" to "senescent," the plantings around my house appear to be entering adolescence. They've learned the lesson of the birds and the bees: namely, if you want to attract birds and bees, you need to put on a show. The lilacs and azaleas and even the tiny pink dogwood tree have suddenly transformed themselves from scrawny, scraggly collections of sticks to plantings bursting with va-va-voom blooms.

In the upper meadow an apple tree gnarly enough to date back to the Johnny Appleseed era has attracted a riot of buzzing bumblebees. Dead branches are destined to flavor meat smoked for our departmental picnic, but the living branches have put forth blossoms of such density that the scent carries across the meadow and down the hill. Meanwhile, the pear trees we planted last summer are producing their first blooms, along with the apple, cherry, and almond trees we planted the previous year.

The least mature plantings in our emerging orchard are the two kiwi vines, male and female, planted just yesterday uphill from the ancient apple tree. It'll take two years or three for those vines to start casting the first lingering looks at one another, but one of these days, they'll mingle and produce fruit. For now, though, they're positively infantile, two toddlers playing in the dirt, stretching their roots out to experience their new environment.

To a writer of real-estate ads, these immature plantings would be inconsequential, even invisible. To me, though, they are a sign of hope, a promise for the future. The gnarly apple tree might be nearing senescence, but it can't stop the kiwi vines from climbing toward the sun.

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