A child’s imagination knows no bounds. They seem to have a wondrous, enviable ability to see things in a way lost to most adults. When Christmas was over, Emma asked her dad if she could leave the tree up all year. No was the answer but she failed to give up on her tree.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 24, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments. We hope you enjoy it as part of your Christmas celebration.)
The excitement was almost too much to bear. I was finally going to move into a flat with a garden. In England it is compulsory to garden and when not digging in the ground you feel left out somehow. Once all the paperwork was signed and the first load of belongings were moved in, I made my way to the garden. I didn't get very far. Brambles and various weeds and wild flowers had taken over this bit of earth and it was going to take some work to get it up to par.
Let me say this about brambles. They do have a redeeming quality by providing lovely blackberries and I have braved many a thorned stem for this delicious treasure. HOWEVER, when trying to clear what seems to be miles of these branches, you soon forget that they ever have the ability to provide anything pleasant. I was a fool thinking I could casually take on my nemesis without much protection. I thought a good pair of gloves and I would be fine. Wrong! I had to buy extra thick "thorn proof" gloves and had to protect myself with a few layers of clothing and even then I received cuts everywhere.
After what seemed like an eternity, the brambles were finally eradicated from my envisioned paradise. The proliferation of geraniums were next to go. As an aside, it is ironic that I would give anything for just ONE of those healthy volunteer geraniums to have in my garden now. Anyway, I cleared most of the geraniums and left a few to grow in places where their charm wasn't in the way of any grand scheme I was conjuring. Along with the geraniums, many weeds were pulled and finally I more or less had some open ground to begin planning properly.
As I planned I noticed two other potentially troublesome inhabitants. First, were the two thirty story holly trees. As I cleared rubbish and debris from the garden, I quickly became angered by the holly leaves penetrating my gloves and skin. They had to go! I rented a chain saw and with some satisfying grinding noises, the trees were gone! My next victim was a pine tree. This tree was very large but also very out of place. Once I cleaned up the mess from the holly trees, I would divert my attention to the pine tree.
After disposing of the hollies, I had some lunch and once finished, I grabbed the chain saw and revved it up. I just LOVE that sound. All of a sudden I barely heard someone shout from the next garden over. STOP! DON'T CUT DOWN THAT TREE! She shouted just in time for the blade of the chain saw was millimeters away from the trunk. I turned the saw off, removed my goggles and made my way to the dividing wall.
She was out of breath because she ran from her kitchen in her successful attempt to stop me in my tracks. Once she caught her breath, she went on to explain why this tree was in my garden and why it must stay.
The previous owners of the house had a little girl named Emma. Emma loved the garden more than anything. Well, ALMOST anything. There was one thing she loved more and that was Christmas. One year, her parents decided to get a real tree and Emma fell in love with it the moment it was set up. She loved the smell, the feel of the needles and how much lovelier it was than the artificial tree they had been using. She took pleasure in decorating it and each night she would gaze at it until it was time to go to bed.
Christmas came and went and on the twelfth day after Christmas (which is the custom in England), Emma's parents began to take down the tree. Emma asked what would happen to the tree she had come to love so dearly. Her dad started to explain they were planning to take it to some people who will recycle it and turn it into something else. Emma was horrified at the thought of this and pleaded with her dad to simply plant it in the garden. Both her parents attempted to explain that the tree would not live if planted in the garden. There were no roots and therefore the plant would simply dry up and wither away. She refused to believe any of what was being explained and begged they at least try and plant it.
Reluctantly, her dad conceded and he, her mom and Emma went to the garden to "plant" the tree. A very large hole was dug and the tree was planted firmly into the ground. Emma's dad figured that once the tree dropped nearly all of its needles and turned completely brown, Emma would agree to have it removed. He was in for a surprise.
Emma continued to visit her tree and while it should have turned brown and died, the opposite happened. Not only did it stay green but eventually it started to grow! Emma could not have been more ecstatic. That small four foot pine tree eventually became a towering eighteen foot majestic pine holding pride and place in the garden landscape. It was certainly out of place among all the smaller shrubs but as I turned toward it, I too had a fondness for something I was planning to eradicate without thought or concern.
This condemned "misfit" was now the most beautiful part of the garden and I am so incredibly thankful my neighbor stopped me from chopping it down. I used the ground under the tree to my advantage. Roses love pine needles so I arranged a rose garden around that grand tree. The whole area became the focus of the whole garden. I don't personally buy live trees but when I decorate our artificial tree, I think of Emma's pine back in Watford. It towers above the wall and can be seen from all of the commuters to and from London. I miss that tree and I pray that it is still standing. It would make Emma so happy.
A Note From The Author
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a glorious, blessed holiday season.
I consider myself very fortunate to share this story with you. I had the pleasure of meeting Emma. Her parents were good friends with my neighbor. When they came to visit her, my neighbor told this story of how she saved Emma's tree. They came over and I gave Emma a tour of her old garden. She recognized the flowers her mom had been growing which had returned to their previous glory when the overgrowth was cleared. In her sweet little voice she said "Thank you for not cutting down the tree." She went on to explain how it was a magical tree. I completely agreed with her. It is magical. I believe to this day that the magic of Christmas along with her love is what made that tree take root.
About Benjamin Hill
I am an old fashioned gardener. To me nothing is finer than the romantic cottage gardens. The colours and forms create a symphony to delight all the senses. I love to tell a good story and my garden provides my inspiration. I am blessed to have such a beautiful son and I enjoy teaching him to love and appreciate the goodness, peace and fulfillment tending a garden can bring. Finally, I shall be forever grateful to Alan Titchmarsh for inspiring me to get out there and make something out of a little bit of earth.