Wednesday, November 30, 2011

W4W: Accidental

Donna at GardenWalkGardenTalk  has suggested the word 'accidental' this week.

She gave us a head-start on this word, at least a week (or more) to ponder on what it means to us. My apologies in advance for not coming up with a well-thought out post which is absolutely NOTHING like the one Donna wrote for this topic.  Make sure you check out her interpretation and the other fine people who linked in this week.  There's a wealth of information and insight to be found with fantastic photography.

And then there's mine.

 Strange word, if you stare at it long enough, isn't it?  I've been staring at it for days now, trying to come up with something.  Everywhere I went, I kept thinking about the word.  


I typed 'accidental' into my search engine of choice and had a good laugh over one of the things that popped up.  Under the definition of accidental was this advertisement:

"Are You Schizophrenic?  Top Five Schizophrenia Signs!  What the Doctor is Not Telling You!

Well, no, I don't think I'm schizophrenic, I'm just having problems defining what the word accidental means to me.  I'll go back and check on those Top Five Signs, though.  I may have accidentally stumbled across something vital to the well-being of my mental health here. 

I have been an accidental gardener way more times than I care to count, planting things in all the wrong places, and then having to remove them later on.  Case in point, the last tree we moved this fall; a very beautiful river birch.  Alas, the poor birch is not so happy right about now, but first, some history.  Yes, you know long-winded me can't just tell the story without a back story:

Five years ago, Carl and I went shopping for groceries one night and on our way out to the parking lot we passed the grocery store's green house.  I don't know if this is common all over the country, but around here, many of the bigger grocery and big box stores have temporary stocks of live plants, trees, and shrubs for sale in the spring to tempt their clientele.  I have succumbed to this temptation many times, having bought a dozen yellow-green 'George Peabody' cedars from a grocery store once before for $5 a piece:

Can you see them there, behind Castle Aaargh's foundation in the background?  We planted them in 2004.

They grew:

And it was no accident that we planted them there, either.  We wanted them to provide color and contrast to the spruce trees surrounding them.

The 'George Peabody' thuja occidentalis (I guess they've been renamed 'Aurea' now) have grown beautifully.
But getting back to the River Birch.......since we had such good luck with the cheap cedar trees we'd bought years before, we decided to buy a cute little clump river birch standing about 5' tall for $8 from the same grocery store.  We didn't have any river birches planted in our menagerie here yet and thought the addition of another deciduous tree might be a good idea to contrast with all the conifers.   We carefully fit the the potted tree into the back seat of our car and rode home with the trunk and branches between us. 

The tree seemed like a good idea and a great bargain at the time, until the day I set out with a shovel in one hand and tree in the other, determined to find a home for it.  Try as I might, I couldn't figure out where to place it to it's best advantage.  Finally, I gave up and put it back in the holding area behind the garage where I kept it watered and waiting for a home for the rest of the summer.

Winter was coming on and is often the case with me and my GADS, it was time to get all the forlorn, unplanted stuff in the ground somewhere.  Once again I marched around the yard, siting the tree here and there, but still, no good place presented itself.  Carl and I gave up and stuck the tree in the shrub bed along the lane with the promise being when we found the 'perfect' place for it, we'd move it.  After all, Carl built a tree spade, so no problem.  We wouldn't wait too long to move it, we know trees grow.  We're not silly.

Yeah.  Right.  Fast forward about five years.  I was out removing hosta and daylily foliage this fall and was working in the shrub border when I was stunned to see how much the river birch had grown.  It was now overshadowing several conifers we prize, especially a lovely Serbian spruce and affecting the form of the junipers and white pines nearby, too.  Darn it, why didn't we move it?  But looking at the size of the trunk, and at the tiny space we had to work in since all the other trees had grown so much it was obvious our tree spade would never fit in the area now.  Carl and I debated what we could do.  We could try to hand dig it, but what a job that would be, and probably all for naught.  We  could saw it down, but that idea didn't appeal, either.  There was a  very slight chance the tree might survive if we moved it. 

So, what did we do?

Oh, I'm afraid to show you.  The images are gruesome.  Anyone who loves trees will be mortified.

There is a tractor involved.  And Joel.  And Carl.

And carnage.

 We used the H to dig out the tree.  With the bucket.  I know, I know, if there was a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Trees, I'd be locked up right now. 

This image makes it look like we had plenty of room to work, but this image lies.  In reality, Joel is driving back and forth on top and over hostas, daylilies and shrubs.  Yes, that's right, this is an accident in the making.
First we had to get the tractor in the shrub bed.  There is a small pathway there, so it wasn't total destruction, but pretty close.
Here Joel is looking askance of me to see if I'm still ready to do this tree great bodily harm.  Yes, go ahead.  Let's get it over with.
They almost have it out of the ground, here, note the ruts.

 Ok, it's out, now.  Oh, dear...

Time to reposition the tractor.

Carl is in the middle of the tree, trying to get it situated on the bucket.
Backing out carefully........
And headed down the lane to the front of the house.  Joel is still checking to see if I'm really ok with this.  He didn't have to worry, sadly, this was all my idea.  (And fault.)
We had stalked all over on the front lawn earlier, looking for a good place to plant the tree.  The place we picked out is ok, but not ideal. 
Carl bid Joel to set the tree down and then dig a hole. (NOTE: Always call utilities before you dig!)  Don't forget that important step, or a much bigger accident could happen, accidental death by electrocution. Gardeners being injured or killed coming in contact with buried power lines is very common.  And preventable.  We had this area marked out and knew there were no power lines here.  The locating service is free.

Joel dug a hole.  (And Carl pointed.  He's really good at that.  He's always pointing at stuff when Joel or I are on the tractors.  And yelling stuff to us from the ground that we can't hear.  Good thing he can't hear some of the stuff that accidentally comes out of my mouth when I'm driving the tractor.)

Hole sorta dug.  You can tell our hearts aren't exactly into it, we all highly, highly doubt this tree will live.  We did hand dig the rest of the hole and carefully tried to arrange the roots in the ground, though. 

 So, there it is, the Accidental River Birch.  If it survives, it will be a miracle.  My apologies to the horticultural community for this baring of the dark side of our gardening practices. 

Still not sure if this is the way Donna intended 'accidental' to be used in a discussion of the word, though....and since I may or may not be schizophrenic (I haven't read the Five Top Signs yet) here's another random thought:

The dental part of 'accidental' brought something else to mind.  I had a dentist appointment to have my teeth cleaned last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Upon my arrival in the office, the pleasant hygienist said it was that time of year again, time for X-rays.   In the wink of an eye I'm wearing the lead apron, biting down on the uncomfortable thing they have to cram in your mouth and holding still while the hygienist bolts from the room to take the x-rays.

It always makes me nervous when they leave the room..  I mean, I know that's probably where the switch is to zap me.  And I do understand they cannot be exposed to radiation over and over again during the course of their work day, either.  But exactly how safe am I?  Shouldn't I flee the scene, too? 

 Weren't X-rays an accidental discovery, too?  Time for a little more investigation. 

 In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen accidentally discovered an image cast from his cathode ray generator.  How he came to have a cathode ray generator in his possession (don't we all?) is open for debate, but after all, he was a Scientist.

As the tale goes, he called his wife into the room and took an X-ray of her hand which showed her wedding ring resting on nothing but her bones and, evidently, traumatized the poor lady. "I have seen my Death!" she reportedly shrieked.  

The Rontgen-Ray was born.  Later on, realizing this probably wasn't the catchiest name for a machine,  it was shortened to X-ray (the X stands for Unknown).  Come to think of it, I've made a lot of accidental X-Meals and sewed more than a few X-Garments over the years, and let's not mention the X-posts I've written that are about unknown topics. This one is shaping up to be one.)

So, I was right, the discovery of the Rontgen-Ray was purely accidental. 

And so was the development of my x-rays at the dentist's office last week, too.  I was tilted all the way back in the chair with the hygienist busily scraping away at my plaque-encrusted teeth while she told me about her Thanksgiving plans.   I was making hasty comments in between swishing and vacuuming.  I would ask leading questions, and then, when my mouth was occupied with her hands and tools, I could only make appropriate grunting sounds. 

"Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.  Oooooo.... uh-huh...." 

(You know what I mean, right? Besides, you're not supposed to hold a conversation when your mouth is full.  My mom taught me that.)  

The hygienist and I were thus occupied when another person entered the room.  I couldn't see the person, since I was in the chair, staring up at the light.

"You're not going to believe how her x-rays turned out," she said, in a hushed, slightly giggly tone.

"Oh, why is that? How did they turn out?" my hygienist asked.

Yes, what's this about my x-rays? I wanted to ask, but my mouth was full.

"I was developing them and sent them through the machine too fast, so they are superimposed on each other," she said.  "They look really weird. You're going to have to retake them.  I'm sorry, it was an accident."

"Oh, well, that's ok, accidents happen," the hygienist replied.  "We'll see if any of them can be salvaged before we take more." 

Turned out, I only needed one retake.  No big deal.  I was hoping they had accidentally stumbled upon something extraordinary in my mouth, but no such luck. 

Now I'm off to Finally read those Top Five Signs.  If my doctor isn't telling me something, I need to know what is being withheld.  Of course, if I confront her on why she's not telling me these things, she'll probably say she didn't do it on purpose.

It was accidental.

 P.S. Don't forget to read much better posts on what this word means to others at:


Sue said...

Well, if that birch survives all that, it is ONE TOUGH BIRCH....and no bug will ever bring it down.

I think we're all guilty of throwing things in the ground when the pressure is on. And funny thing is, sometimes that's my best flower bed. Figures!
:D said...

You always have the most entertaining stories, ones that need coffee and donuts to read by. It is so funny you thought to wonder if I had your tree story in mind at all, and YES I did! My post was almost on all the crazy things that happen on both architectural and landscape job sites, from precast floor slabs pancaking a pickup, to foundation walls not aligning (off by over a foot and NOBODY noticed until it was time they were to meet up - and the building was huge post office), newly poured concrete with worker footprints, cracked concrete from heavy construction equipment, to many, many cable and telephone lines sliced in half. And I do have many tree stories too. But, realizing my professional obligations, decided not to write about these crazy accidents to be saved for all posterity. I have been fortunate that none of the accidents were the architects' responsibility or liability. I so wish I could write out these stories, because they are stupid accidents beyond belief, funny too.

Gatsbys Gardens said...


One of my favorite trees is the River Birch. I had four of them at my last home planted in a swale and they love the extra moisture. I have no room for any now so I will watch yours to see if it comes back.


HolleyGarden said...

I hope your tree survives. Loved your dentist story. Yes, I always wonder if I'm safe when they run from the room. They always talk - do they really expect us to talk back? Loved the history of the X-Ray, too. Now I know what to call the dinners I serve!

myomyohi said...

I'm sure it's a tough tree, and will surprise you in the spring.

Carol said...

I love River Birch Trees!!!! I want to plant several on my property but haven't decided exactly where yet...I wan to be sure so I don't have to torture the poor things in the future. I do that with plants a lot too :0(

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Karen,
I hope your poor tree lives. I need to make a dental appointment. I keep forgetting to do that.

Andrea said...

Hi Karen, i don't normally read very long posts, just look at the photos and go, but it's different when it comes to your posts. They are long but entertaining, and sometimes a bit naughty too. I thought that when a plant is transplanted, its leaves must be lessened to decrease transpiration and they have more chance to survive. That is also done when planting top cuttings with leaves. Water loss is where most of their stress lies. In hotter climes, a plastic sheath is used to cover the newly balled transplanted tree, stay there for a few days until they produce some roots to again get water from the soil to the leaves, and continue its growth and development, its life.

Indie said...

Oh Karen, I just had to chuckle all the way through that post! Good luck to your poor river birch!
And I'm thinking it might be best that the dentist didn't find anything extraordinary in there...

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

You crack me up! Another entertaining read. You will have to keep us posted on the tree! Sure hope it makes it. If you have ever seen what they do to the roots of bonsai trees, it makes your bucket handling look like TLC :-) It was also fun to see the old picture of pre-Castle days -- you really have come a long ways!!! -- and that's no accident!

Rosemary said...

Karen I was chuckling so hard I accidentially spilled my coffee....

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

Hi Karen I had every intention of participating in Donna's challenge, but my free time evaporated into thin air. My post is only half done. I enjoyed your accidental post and the River Birch story. I often buy something and then wander around wondering where the heck to plant the darn thing. I hope your little tree survives the transplanting.

Dragonfly Treasure said...

YAY! Success...well, at least in the end. I like the way their leaves look delicate. Mom had one in the front yard for years, until they widened the freeway and we had to move the house back.
Wishing it surprises you this spring.
My question....what about the poor hostas and daylilies?
Those ruts look pretty deep :(

Karen said...

Sue, yeah, you're right, it will have to be one tough birch. If not, well, we only paid $8 for it and they're still available. It's just a shame is all. Oh, well, live and learn!

Donna, I think we need to write under a pen name so we can write about all the ridiculous things that happen. I sometimes think that's why famous authors wrote fiction and just changed the names to protect the 'innocent' otherwise where would they get the fodder for the hilarious stories they wrote? I'm thinking Mark Twain and Dickens, etc. If I wrote about all the truly bizarre antics of those around me, I could write an entire series of books, but I would have some really angry relatives. LOL

Karen said...

Eileen, if this tree makes it, we will be very happy. And speaking of swales, this one is now situated in a creek bottom that is very wet at certain times of the year. I have another one that is growing about fifty feet away and it is doing well, so we'll see.....keeping my fingers crossed.

Holley, I know. It's so uncomfortable when there's dead silence as someone is hovering over your body and digging around in your mouth, but then conversation is futile, too! Still, yakkity me feels rude if I don't say SOMETHING, even if it's uh-huh, mah huh, garbledgook.

Karen said...

Myra, if this tree can pull through the rough treatment, I'll be surprised, but years ago, my dad literally hooked a chain to a crabapple and yanked it out by the trunk, scarring it terribly. He brought it down here dangling by a chain from the tractor bucket and that tree lived another 30 years. So....maybe we'll get lucky?

Karen said...

Carol, YES the siting of trees is such a difficult decision. It's so hard to figure out the best spot because there's so many variables. I've learned my lesson now and won't buy any more trees unless I know for certain where I'm planting them. lol

Sue, glad I could help you for the reminder on the dental appointment. Good luck if you need Rontgen-rays. lol

Andrea, I'm sorry for the length of my posts; this is something that gets past my editor all the time. Of course, my editor is me, so that explains a lot, doesn't it? You're right about the tree needing some TLC and some pruning. We did remove some of the branches after we planted it. We'll see how the winter is, with a lot of luck, it may pull through.

Indie, I'm glad you enjoyed it, but it would have made a much better story if they had found something fascinating in my head besides all that empty space between my ears.

Toni, thank you, you give me Hope! If they torture beautiful bonsai as much as we did the birch tree, well, I'm amazed. And yes, Castle Aaargh has changed a little since 2005. Not much, but a little...........

Rosemary, I'm sorry to be cause the accidental coffee spillage!

Jennifer, Aw, post it! I'd love to read your take on the word. It's harder than it looks, isn't it? I think Donna has it open for a quite a long time yet. No pressure or anything, but I hope you do!

Deb, yes, those ruts aren't good, we'll have to see what comes up in the spring. Luckily, the daylilies were all free ones given to me by a hybridizing friend, but that doesn't mean they aren't pretty. There's some real beauties in there. The hostas are very tough, in fact, some of them may actually increase as a result of the abuse. I'm going to check into that issue of Country Living where Yammie is pictured, I'd LOVE to see one of his relatives!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Oh Karen this is exactly how the post for Accidental should read...all these accidents and a few choices will make for fun reading for us and hopefully a great home for the birch...

Corner Gardener Sue said...

LOL about the "talk" in the dentist's chair.

Casa Mariposa said...

I was really surprised at how shallow the root ball was. It didn't even look like a ball, more like a lumpy pancake. I hope it thrives! My husband accidentally broke a window the other day trying to scare the ninja squirrels that climb all over our window screens. When I lived near the Canadian border in NY 99% of my plants came from the grocery store. It was my Price Chopper garden. :o)

Bom said...

What a fun read! My wife is a radiologist so the Roentgen portion really had me smiling. She says that he was a physicist studying cathode rays which is why he had the equipment. I do have an "accidental" story to share. Not mine, though. It turns out that quite a number of people in my wife's department chose "ROENTGEN" as their email password. So there you go. Not being a catchy name made it a good password. At least until people found out that was what everyone else used.

p.s. Good luck with your river birch. You know, it may still accidentally surprise you in the future.