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Tree Planting and the Politics of the Soil

Japanese Maple

I recently planted a new Japanese maple tree in my back garden. The new one replaced an old one that had died a suspicious death. Over the last few seasons its growth had slowed to a crawl. It had always put on a fine display of maple leaves that turned bright orange-red in the Autumn. When they fell to the ground, the leaves scattered across the green grass making beautiful patterns.

This Spring the maple tree barely sprouted leaves; clearly something wasn’t right. We love to grow different and unique tree in our garden, we have the full equipment to take care of them, even have a good electric pole trimmer reviews, but this tree is a disaster for us because we don’t know what kills it. We consulted with our gardener and we took some measures to try and bring the tree back to health. In the end, the battle was lost. A preliminary post-mortem concluded that a gopher had eaten the roots of the tree and therefore it was unable to take in water and nourishment from the soil.

A month or so passed and the Japanese maple turned into a stark and brittle wooden sculpture. Slowly, bit by bit, the life was drained from it. My wife and I drove down to Half Moon Bay to a large nursery to pick out a replacement tree to be planted to celebrate my birthday. After a few stops, and auditioning a number of trees, we found a perfectly formed Japanese Maple — an Emperor I variety.

When we planted the new tree, the mystery of the previous tree’s death was revealed. The gopher was exonerated by a more thorough investigation. The large Italian cyprus tree nearby, a tree planted in the 1920s, had strangled the maple. It was murder. The cyprus sends out shallow roots in a fine dense mesh. The roots of the large tree surrounded, enclosed, and cut off the water supply of the smaller maple. The Japanese maple has woody roots that are meant to grow deep. They never had a chance.

This war of the root systems had been going on underground all along, invisible to us. We suddenly discovered that our garden is also a kind of battlefield. We were about to plant a new tree and place it in harm’s way. We realized that we couldn’t do what we’d done before. If we simply went ahead and planted the tree, it would meet the same fate as its predecessor. It was the end of the era of naive tree planting.

Our gardner came up with a solution. The new Japanese maple came in a large 10 gallon plastic container. The plan was to cut the bottom from the container and plant the tree along with the container. The container’s plastic sides would serve as a barrier which would protect the new roots from the Cyprus root’s smothering embrace. This new arrangement gave the maple’s roots the chance to grow deep into the open soil below.

As we plant new trees, and start new ventures, sometimes we aren’t attuned to the political currents flowing just below the surface. Our naive first attempt at tree planting assumed we were entering a neutral and nurturing space. Who could take exception to the addition of a beautiful tree to our garden? We won’t know for some time whether the strong move by the federal government of our garden will have effectively given the new maple tree the chance to grow and prosper. But so far, so good.

Published in politics zettel

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