MOST WEEKS I GET AT LEAST ONE COMMENT OR EMAIL–sometimes many more–about my beloved Japanese umbrella pine, one of two plants that traveled with my belongings in the moving van when I first bought this house as a fixer-upper weekend project 25 years ago. That’s it at the axis of the photo above, behind my house. Thanks to the magic of search engines, gardeners in far-reaching spots read about my big old plant, and wonder if I can help them with theirs. When I hear the troubles people are having, I shudder: How in the world did I get so lucky, and what if I hadn’t?
I knew nothing at all when I heaved the then-very-rare, chest-high young Sciadopitys verticillata out of the ground in the borough of Queens in New York City, and plopped it unceremoniously into a bushel basket for the trip several hours north. I picked a spot for it when there was nothing but one giant rhododendron alone in the middle of the yard behind the house, connected to nothing. I made the umbrella pine its companion, and hoped they would get along.
There was no back porch then (and therefore no stepping stones leading to it); there was no nothing but unmown grass and wild raspberries tangled throughout it, and my youthful enthusiasm. The house was a wreck; the back foundation, in fact–perhaps 15 or 20 feet from where this most beautiful of conifers now stands about 20 feet tall–had collapsed, and a swath of plastic sheeting was all that formed the barrier between outside and in below ground level.
Today, as spring gives way to summer begrudgingly, leaving spoiled flowers to clean up and not much at “peak” form to admire–as it rains for another day with a couple more really wet ones still ahead–rather than wish for anything else like fewer to-do’s on the stalled list, or more bloom somewhere, I’ll do this instead:
Say thank you to my Japanese umbrella pine for holding up to 25 winters of uneasy snow loads and countless ice storms; not suffering winterburn in the spot I chose with no particular knowledge of the plant’s needs or the garden’s future direction; for settling in without so much as losing a needle (which apparently isn’t always the case as you can tell from the comments on this plant profile I did some time ago). For looking handsome every single day of all those years.
I took its picture, all wet and moody (those are drops of rain on the top photo!), to just say hallelujah for its being here with me to this day. Sometimes, just sometimes, we have enduring successes in this funniest of pursuits called gardening, in spite of the heroic odds.