by Amberly Neese
Fountain Valley, California, USA
My husband’s grandmother, Mary, had always been an agriculture artist. She took such painstaking joy in her beautiful gardens, and each component of her yard vividly illustrated her passion for plants. When she and Grandpa moved from one part of southern California to another, she viewed her new garden as a new adventure and immediately went to work.
However, there was a fruit tree in the middle of the yard that refused to bear fruit despite Grandma’s nurturing. As a voracious reader, she studied all she could on fruit trees in an attempt to find some hint to encourage her fruit tree to blossom. She spoke to the tree, sang to the tree, reasoned with this tree — all to no avail. Finally, she contacted California Department of Agriculture and asked to speak to a manager. She explained her challenges to the man on the other end of the phone, took notes on his every word, and determined that she would adhere to his advice. After reciting a long list of hints, all of which she had already done, he made a dramatic suggestion. He told her to hit the base of the tree with a broomstick “to stimulate its roots”.
Concerned about what the neighbors might think of a woman in her seventies beating a tree, Grandma looked both ways before taking the end of a broom to the stubborn fruit tree. She knew that the vibrations would indeed find their way down to the atrophied root system and invigorate the tree, but she doubted that fruit would be the result of such an unorthodox approach.
To her shock and amazement, the next spring the tree bore much fruit. Her grandchildren enjoyed the product of the tree for years to come, and each year the fruit was more plentiful and healthy. We would often laugh together at how silly this beautiful elderly woman must have looked to anyone watching as she hit the defenseless tree. The story will always serve as a great source of joy for our family.
A few months before her death, when I was going through an especially difficult time, I called Grandma for advice. We reminisced about the “tree story” and she reminded me that it was the times of adversity for the tree that allowed its greatest strength and value to come to fruition. She lovingly reflected that my roots were being stimulated by the personal trials I was facing, and that I would be a more fruitful ‘tree’ because of them.
She was not only an amazing gardener, she was a wise grandma.