• John R

Slings and Arrows

The Tree Guy tried to pin this one on me. I’m not buying it.

After all, it was The Tree Guy who planted this zelkova in our yard many years ago when we still lived miles away. We were getting ready to move to our new digs and I’d instructed the Tree Guy to plant the zelkova in our absence, picturing a day in the not-too-distant future a backyard awash in scrumptious zelkovistic shade.


After a couple of seasons I saw the wound on the back side of the tree and called TTG to have a looksee and recommend a remedy.


“Hmm,” he said, lifting his baseball-style hat to scratch the back of his head in wonderment. “Looks like somebody banged into this tree pretty good.”


By “somebody” The Tree Guy obviously meant me.


“I never hit this tree, banged into it, or rammed it with the lawn mower,” I protested, assuming the role of a wrongly accused defendant in a courtroom drama.


The Tree Guy nodded, unconvinced, playing the part of a jury of one who has predetermined the defendant's guilt. “Well, I don’t know if it’s going to survive.”

tree, zelkova, garden, gardening, humor
Not my doing.

He raised himself up and looked into the tree’s canopy. “Too bad.” He proceeded to make suggestions, such as cutting back any loose bark around the wound to prevent earwigs from nesting in crevices.


Well, snap! Years after that encounter, the zelkova has survived and thrived, despite the fact that it has suffered a number of egregious wounds since. It's like a dorky high school kid who gets shoved around a lot and frequently comes home with a black eye or ripped jeans and when you ask him what happened he says, I walked into a doorframe and you say, How the hell does that happen? and he says, I’ve got homework.

tree, zelkova, gardening, garden, humor
Not this, either.

I swear I don’t know where most of these accumulated scars have come from—and trust me, I’d lay blame if I knew. I’m suspicious that The Tree Guy knows more than he’s letting on. Regardless, I have been concerned enough to contact our state’s extension service for advice. I sent them pictures and explained in no uncertain terms that I was not to blame for any of the visible tree damage. Their advice:


“Damage like this can occur due to a number of reasons from winter injury to summer heat to kids hitting them with baseball bats! (author’s note: maybe some unsupervised local ruffian who harbored an overwhelming desire to bludgeon a tree sneaked into the back yard?) Typically a physical injury of some sort. Not to worry, it looks like the tree is healing/sealing off the injury and doing well. The damaged area has been compromised and wood rotting organisms will have gotten in. The tree may live with this situation for a long time before you see any trouble. I would leave it alone for now. Don't let the overhead irrigation hit the trunk in the summer if you have any. Otherwise, enjoy the shade.”


Wow! Do great minds think alike or what? “Leave it alone” is Number One on my gardening to-do list, with “Not to worry” a close Second!

tree, zelkova, sapsucker, garden, gardening, humor
Sapsuckers drilled these holes (not me).

And that advice seems to be working, witness the exquisite zelkova canopy in the photo below. The tree is a survivor, a hardy soul, something of an inspiration. It’s taken its share of slings and arrows (not from me) and now we have plenty of thick, luxurious shade in which to sit with a cold one and toss peanuts to the scrub jays. Yup, outdoor life devoted to leaving stuff alone is tres sweet, n'est-ce pas? Enjoy the shade!



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