Back in Monterey, the lady who cut my hair was a real animal activist – every year she scheduled her vacation at the same time as the Salinas Rodeo, so she could go out there and picket for the entire run of the rodeo.
She had stories – one day she told me about how she’d been driving in Carmel and spotted a man walking a seriously skinny dog. She stopped the car, jumped out and ran over to him.
“How can you mistreat your dog that way?” she shouted. “Can’t you feed him? How would you like to be starved like he is? I don’t know how people like you can live with yourselves when you’re so cruel to your pet! What’s your name? I’m going to call the SPCA!”
As you might assume, by this time people were gawking. Even so, the man calmly let her rant and rave for awhile, then smiled and gave the dog a pat. “Lady, this dog is a prize-winning Whippet. He’s not starving. This is just the way Whippets look.”
Yesterday I was wondering if I’d just done the same thing about a tree that’s in my yard.
When I moved into this house almost a year ago, most of the full-grown trees – lemon, pomegranate, date, olive, Cyprus and a few others I couldn’t identify – looked seriously neglected. Lack of water was clearly part of the problem, so even within the drought-level water use restrictions, I began saving every drop of water I could from the shower, from washing vegetables, rinsing dishes and even emptying the dogs water dish when they needed fresh water.
Every drop I could collect I poured unto the pomegranate and lemon tree, thinking they needed it the most. The date and olive tree seem to be very old and look healthy by comparison. The Cyprus is over 30’ tall, and must have learned to survive on its own long ago.
I also watered a tree I couldn’t – and still can’t – identify, even though it looked as though it was probably beyond saving. It’s a weird thing – it’s maybe 10’ tall, with a very slender -- 1.5” -- central trunk, with branches coming out at regular intervals. The odd thing, though, was that each branch was virtually bare of leaves until the very end, where there was a heavy cluster of dark green shiny leaves at the tip.
The tree responded to the water very slowly, hardly noticeable at first. But by mid-winter, I thought I could see that the leaves were beginning to grow a little bit better, moving ever so slightly up the branch toward the center of the tree. Still, it’s a pretty odd looking tree – not especially attractive because it still looks like it’s half-dead.
You can imagine how surprised I was, a few days ago, when I happened to walk by a house about three blocks away, with a very neat and obviously well cared for yard. There was a tree identical to my problem tree -- which also has leaves only at the tip of each branch. Wow – is that just the way the thing is supposed to look?
Another surprise came yesterday, I was out in the yard and happened to see the tree from another side – there was a glorious bright yellow flower! I couldn’t quite believe it – a flower? As I looked closer, I could see lots more buds – dozens of them – even though the tree looks as though it’s barely surviving. Apparently the flowers last only a day before turning dark and crumpling. Yesterday’s flower is gone – but this morning, many more had opened.
Maybe someone out there can tell me more about this tree. Aaron, are you out there? (Aaron is Beersheba’s wise man – whatever the question is, Aaron either knows the answer or knows where to find it. Maybe he’ll come through this time, too.)
Then – just because the pomegranate tree is doing so wonderfully – lots and lots of bright red flowers, each of which looks as though it’s turning into a teensy pomegranate. Here’s a picture of one of the flowers.
Of all of them, the pomegranate tree is the biggest success -- last fall, there were only two pieces of fruit, and one of which was small and malformed. Maybe this year, there’ll be more.
And the lemon tree? It’s still in trouble. It had only a half-dozen flowers, and now the leaves are curling. I think pests are the problem, not just lack of water. I see only two incipient lemons. Maybe someone has some suggestions for that one, too.