Good News!

All is well! The Silver Maple is growing at last. Most of the buds along the length of the stem are now green and several have sprouted tiny leaves. Perhaps the Norse gods did hear our prayers, after all; perhaps I maligned my family and they did share their wine with the new tree. Still, I cannot help wondering why it was so late to show signs of life.

Years ago, when I was planting a new garden, I had someone help me to plant a row of conifers, but when I checked what had been done, I despaired because I thought they had been planted too deep. I pulled them out and replanted them. Then a friend told me, no, the new thinking was to plant deep. Sure enough, when I checked, I found that this was, indeed, the way to go: it’s called ‘long stem’ planting, a method devised by dedicated environmentalist, Bill Hicks. He overthrew one of the basic laws of gardening that, when planting, you keep the new soil-level the same as it was in the pot. The idea is that the plant will grow a much more extensive root system, one over and above the system it has already established in its pot; and, of course, the more roots it has, the better a plant’s chances of thriving.

I had this in mind when I dug the hole for the Silver Maple, but I was a little anxious when I saw that the soil was getting rather wet the lower I went, and so I dug no further. Now, with hindsight, I think should have provided better drainage and that is why the new growth is so slow. It would also have allowed me to plant the tree deeper.

For now, all seems well, but I cannot help wondering (and hoping that the Norse gods are still watching over it).

There is a lot of information on the web about Bill Hicks’ long-stem planting technique, if your want to learn more.

Calling on the Norse Gods

There is an ancient Norse ceremony that must be observed when you plant a tree. You gather family and friends, give each a glass of wine, then get them to circle the newly planted tree three times, sprinkling wine from their glass onto it, while calling on the Norse gods to watch over it. “Oh, Norse gods, look after this tree!” or something like that. It probably helps if you know a Norse language. (That done, you can then drink the leftover wine.)

On one of the last days of Winter, the family came and, kindly tolerating my eccentric idea and placated by the prospect of wine, they helped me plant a new tree with due ceremony and I have watched over it since.

There was not only scepticism about the pagan ritual (and unkind remarks directed at me), but there was also concern about the tree itself: it was just a stick, they said. Admittedly, it does look  like a stick (it’s  about two metres high, with only a few bumps promising new growth). There are big expectations of this stick. It’s a Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) and the grand plan for the new garden is based on its growing to about 10 metres and shading the house in Summer. That is still a long way off, of course, and in the meantime, I must take great care of it so it does what I hope of it.

Things are not looking good. It still looks just like a stick, and here it is a month into Spring and all else around it is turning green. The ‘bumps’ have swelled only a little, some not at all. The swollen buds have a faint hint of green, which is promising.

What has gone wrong? Did the gods not hear us? The Silver Maple comes from Northern climes so the gods should be sympathetic. Did my family not share their wine fairly with the tree? (Probably, being my family.) Perhaps some didn’t go the full distance; it was supposed to be three times. (Some of them hate to walk, I know.) Perhaps someone sabotaged the ritual by walking the wrong way; they were drinking, after all.

There is some consolation: a neighbour’s maple has only just shown signs of new growth.

I keep watch on mine each day.