When I was growing up in Southern California, the trees I mostly saw were palm trees. Out of 2600 varieties of palm trees, there were perhaps three or four living in Long Beach, California. There was a climable fig tree in our back yard which gave a nice view of the operating room in the dentist’s office next door. Other than that we were treeless. When the dentist caught me and neighbor kids spying, he gave us all a couple of tubes of Ipana toothpaste and told us to mind our own business.

When we got married and bought our first house, we planted a virtual forest of pine trees. A gigantic curly leaf willow shaded the back yard, and the front of the house was sheltered by birch and rhododendron.

we moved to Seattle, where a tree pops up if you drop an apple core. Part of our farm house property was woodsy, and we actually had to remove a few trees to build the barn. I wept at the loss of each one.

When we took possession of this house 45 years ago, there were a few resident trees. A large deodora cedar and a Shamel Ash in the front yard, plus numerous street trees. The previous owner had planted a few fruit, plus two good sized orange trees. Not too bad, but not what we had in mind.

Thus began the never ending job of re-decorating the garden, front and back. I say “never ending, because Dr. A frequently decides to change the position of a tree or bush and the garden has had many iterations in the years we have lived here.

There were grandchildren and dogs to think of, so except for planting beds, it became covered with brick. A large kennel and a shade pavilion went in, then a large pond, swimmable for a toddler, and pleasant to sit in on a hot day, went in the middle. We were traveling often to the Southwest, so the entire ambiance was redolent of New Mexico.

However, the Southwest isn’t known for its trees, and we missed a few shady spots in the back yard, which had become a garden, so the procession of trees began which sometimes seems never ending. There have been evergreen pear trees, oleander, apple, nectarine, flowering plum, birch, a couple whose names I can’t remember. Then a few fig trees showed up.

A great number of years ago, accompanied by two house guests, fueled with a bottle or two of red, and a good idea, a Mission fig tree took up residence outside our back door. It was debated throughout the afternoon whether or not it was too close to the house, but it was small, and hard to determine how large it would become, so in the hole it went and a bucket of water poured on it for good health.

Today in the warm California sunshine, without fertilizer or water, this fig tree is attempting to join us in our family room. It has burgeoned into a sturdy highly climable, shade producing, quite beautiful, but admittedly too close to the house tree. The critters arrive when the figs ripen, and those they don’t eat, fall on the ground. But the leaves are easy to pick up due to their large size so it’s a toss up.

Of the original trees, one very large orange tree remains, which two dear friends trimmed last week, for which we are so grateful.

The past years of drought told me that we needed another shade tree in another part of the yard. I thought perhaps another evergreen flowering pear would be lovely spreading its branches over this area, with a nice sitting bench underneath for thinking. I realize that it takes time for a tree to grow, but we plant trees for the next generation to enjoy.

Dr. A came home from the nursery with a tree which they assured him was an evergreen pear. Though that was a misnomer, it had a nice shape, and its shiny leaves were pleasant, so he planted it. There were no flowers, and it shed its leaves the first winter after they turned color. I took a picture of it and took it to the nursery for identification, but they didn’t recognize it.

Though it gives little shade so far, our mystery tree stands tall and proud and gives promise. We refer to it as the Shade Tree, and what more can one ask?

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

15 thoughts on “EVOLUTION OF A GARDEN”

  1. “we moved to Seattle, where a tree pops up if you drop an apple core.”–Ha, I love that line. Having visited my brother’s house in the Pacific NW near Seattle, I can see how that would be true. Trees galore.


  2. Of course, thinking seats and shading trees go together. That’s why people sitting on beaches facing blazing sun don’t think much. I have yet to see a photo of a philosopher sitting on a beach.


    1. I don’t think we give trees enough credit. They offer so much and ask so little. I always look forward to early spring when the rows of street trees are covered with the tiniest tinge of green, assuring us that winter is over, and new life is reborn. As far as the brazen fig is concerned, I had one offer already thank you.


    1. Yes, we say it is never finished. In remembering the many forms this garden has taken, I often think of the 2-3 seasons we planted zucchini. Because of the tremendous output, we put on the Zucchini Festival at harvest time. Every dish served was built around zuccini, and if guests brought a contribution, it had to be a zucchini dish. We still love the squash. I made stuffed zucchini boats yesterday.


      1. You would love The Classic Zucchini Cookbook, by nancy Ralston, et.al. It has recipes for all kinds of squash, from appetizers through main dishes and soups to desserts. I’m eager to try zapple pie — she swears she can make zucchini masquerade as apples.


  3. There’s nothing like a tree — of any sort. I’d never seen a fig tree until I came to Texas, and even then it took me a while to actually come across some. When I finally got some fruit from a friend’s fig orchard, it was pure delight. Now, we’re almost to fig time again. The peaches are gone and the blackberries nearly so, but those figs are on the tree and ripening. If the insects and birds leave them alone, it will be all good.


    1. I can’t remember my first fig. I know I’ve written about the climbing tree before. I think as much as the delicious fruit, it was a way to escape adult supervision. Last time I was in Paris, with my two daughters this time, I went to a neighborhood market and bought 3 enormous ripe figs to take back to our hotel. I thought it was a great surprise only to find out that neither of them liked figs. I ate them all.
      The birds, squirrels and raccoons like them and I don’t look forward to the mess they will make on the brick, but that’s just the way it is.


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