When my wife and I moved to West Virginia’s panhandle, we bought land with one acre for lawn and gardens and nine acres of woods. She was the family gardener and I the arborist.
The woodlot had oak, walnut, ash, black cherry, sassafras, and other native species, as well as shed-size thickets of multiflora rose, wrist-thick poison ivy vines, 20-foot-high greenbriars, and invasive ailanthus and princess trees. There was enough management work to last me a lifetime!
Here comes my big mistake. I had been diagnosed diabetic a decade earlier. Combine that with stress (which I had plenty of at the time), and my blood sugar goes up. When my blood sugar goes up, I get stupid.
One day, so befuddled I didn’t know I was befuddled, I went out with my chainsaw to girdle a princess tree. I checked the leaf shape, bark, and branching—yep, princess tree—then encircled its two main stems.
Arghh! When I got back under control, I realized the tree was a catalpa! Catalpas are valued for their spring flowers, early food for honeybees. They age beautifully. And I had girdled it.
I sadly decided to cut it down for firewood, but—you know how it is—didn’t get around to it … and noticed one day it was flowering! I had been so befuddled that day I hadn’t completely girdled it, and the wound had healed!
Every stick has two ends, the saying goes. So it was with my confusion that day. And thank goodness (certainly no thanks to me), the two ends of that tree had gotten back together just fine.
What’s your worst gardening mistake? Send it to GREENPRINTS, Broken Trowel Award, P.O. Box 1355, Fairview, NC 28730. If we print it, you’ll get a free one-year subscription and our GREENPRINTS Companion CD!
This article was published originally in 2018, in GreenPrints Issue #112.