Tree Huggers

I had known the day was coming, and I had avoided it for as long as possible.

“It’s time,” the Beloved would say. I’d tell her I knew and then I’d find an excuse not to think about it some more. Finally, I acquiesced.

It was time to move the tree. And it was breaking my heart a little.

You see, during my first year in California, I was living alone in a small and mostly empty apartment, just having split up with She Who Must Not Be Named. Wanting to do something positive, I bought a little live pine tree for a Christmas tree. It was maybe two feet tall. Very Charlie Brown.

That was 12 years ago.

That tree came with me out of my apartment and into Stately Betz Manor, where admittedly, it had kind of a hard time. My balcony was shaded and faced northeast. Not great for a plant that needed a lot of sun. Once, I received a letter from the HOA instructing me to remove my “dead tree” from my property. I told them where they could stick that idea because my tree wasn’t dead.

About that time, the Beloved and I moved into The Aerie and she took on the job of reviving the tree. It flourished in a new pot, enjoying a lot more sunlight, and the TLC from a better gardener than me. Here he is in December 2007 back doing Christmas tree duties eight months after we moved in.

Christmas, 2007

Christmas, 2007

The tree added rings and continued to grow. More sun, good soil, and water and by 2010 he was already taller than me.

Christmas, 2010

Christmas, 2010

This year, as his top branches skimmed the floor of our upstairs deck, it was clear that he was outgrowing his pot — outgrowing our patio. And earlier this year a wind storm knocked him over since he is so top-heavy now. So I connived a couple of friends (who have better tools and younger muscles) to help us relocate the tree to the hillside across the street from our house.

Last day on the patio

Last day on the patio

We started by finding a site that we thought would be okay and hacking out a decent enough hole in the rocky dirt. We amended the hole with a bit of richer soil and then I brought his pot out and then gently removed him and took him to his new home.

Ready to go

Ready to go

On the move

On the move

Penny wonders what's going on

Penny wonders what’s going on

We fixed the hole so that he was good and straight and tried to make it so that the area drained well. We carried up some buckets of water to soak the area and we’ll probably continue to do so until the fall-winter rains kick in here in Southern California.



In the end, it didn’t take us that much time — maybe an hour or so. The backyard now seems emptier, but we can see him from the front of the house easily. And it might sound silly, but I hope he knows how special a tree he’s been for me and for us. I’m sure some decorations will find their way to him in a couple months.

Time will tell, of course, how this new phase takes, but I hope he sends his roots deep into the earth around him and hope he grows tall and proud and continues to watch over The Aerie long after we’re gone from it.

Grow strong!

Grow strong!


47 thoughts on “Tree Huggers

  1. aww.

    He couldn’t have been planted in the yard? Did he need space to grow giant gnarly roots?

    Eventually the kids have to leave home and make their way in the wild, I guess.

  2. Awwww I love this! I had a banana tree I grew from a seed and a little plastic pot my friend in England sent me in the early-mid 90s. I kept repotting it and repotting it and it got pretty big, probably over 5 feet. But, I got lazy one winter and forgot to take it off the closed-in porch in NJ and into the house because it had gotten so big and cumbersome and it died. :( (I only had it a few years)
    Anyway, I’m glad you can see your tree from the house. It would make me feel better too. Good job on the caretaking! I hope he thrives in his new spot.

  3. It’s a little late now, but those sort of pine trees make wonderful bonsai. You have to trim profusely and wrap cables around the tree to control its growth, which probably is tree torture, now that I think about it. I’m sure your little tree is much happier growing on the hill.

    • HG — it’s funny, the small-for-it diameter of the pot caused a little bit of directed growth since the branches of the tree won’t extend far beyond the root ball — so he was super tall and thin. That constraint was one of the reasons we really thought it was right to replant him.

  4. Being a person who occasionally talks to his front yard maple (and spends way too much money on an arborist), I can understand how it’s easy to get attached to a tree. That LotR movie with the Ents in it didn’t help either. Now they’ve all got feelings!

    Good luck with your tree. I hope it likes its new home.

    • Thanks M—-l! It is really nice to walk out to do a dog walk and see him there. I hope we have a good winter rain season so he can soak in and grow. He’s shaded in the morning but gets good pm sun. I’m optimistic!

  5. Nice story, and glad that you were able to locate the tree in an area that you could keep it. (I too was wondering about planting it in the yard, but I read your answer above as to why that wouldn’t work).

    I brought a nice small white pine home from Michigan once and tried to introduce it to Oklahoma soil. It decided it didn’t like the excessive heat, so I’m happy this worked out for you.

    Unless, of course, your next post is about the huge fine you got from the state for planting a non-native and invasive species … lol.

    • GOM — well, it’s a Monterey pine, which is fairly common in California, so we got that on our side. I’m more worried about HOA fining me for doing something “illegal”!

  6. Good luck!

    Almost none of our transplanting trees (whether ‘5 gallon bucket’ or smaller work). If we just let the trees do their thing, it works better. I don’t know what’s up with that. I mean, it’s a forest. I’d think more trees would just be happy to be there.

    • MT — thanks! Yeah — they’re pretty touchy when they’ve grown to a certain size. We’ve had pretty good luck with citrus trees in pots (that are also getting a little big for their pots), so hopefully, our good tree mojo can carry over across the street… :)

  7. Hooray! I love that you and The Beloved have cared for him (love that you know it’s a ‘him’) for so long and set him free. May Penny squat in his general direction for years to come.

  8. This post made me tear up just a bit. I like to think the Ents are happy with your move. Hoping he’ll thrive out there! I brought my potted lemon and lime trees with me to Ryan’s, but I’m loathe to plant them because I know we won’t be here forever. They may stay potted for a few years, until we move into our forever house.

    • It made me tear a bit too — both in the writing and the doing. Our citrus trees just got bigger pots and seem to be hanging in there despite the occasional varmint incursion. I think pots are fine especially if they’re only going to be there for a bit.

  9. It’s so nice to see someone who reveres life, Steve. It’s funny how attached we become to our plants, but not surprising for those of us who understand what they give and what they mean. I’ve always liked pines for their aroma and resilience. It looks like the perfect spot for him. May he thrive.

    • Thanks amelie — I love pines and I really like grasses. Neither one are particularly common here in Southern California. We checked him and watered him again this morning — one week in and he was looking great!

  10. Pingback: Tis the Season | Stevil

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