Actually, it’s not a street, it’s a busy boulevard that connects with one of the main highways out of the city.
I started doing this planting stuff 3 years ago, after seeing each day for 15 years straight two big empty squares of dirt on the sidewalk in front of my building. A long time ago, these squares had trees in the middle, linden trees planted by the city hall employees, that didn’t adapt very well to the adverse conditions and died.
As I was saying, for the last 15 years the two squares of dirt had been empty, on occasions used as a platform for bags of trash or as a parking spot for cars. Three years ago, fed up of seeing such a desolate view, I decided to do a good deed and plant two trees in the two spots.
“What should I plant though?” I asked myself. “It has to be a tree that grows quickly, adapts to the traffic, heat and pollution”
“I know! A willow tree!” I had the answer. I had plenty of willows ready to plant about 20 km from the city. Actually, those were branches ripped from mature willows, that had taken root after being put in water for a few weeks. I had about a dozen branches with roots from two species of willows, including weeping willow. They are strong and resilient plants, resistant to cold weather, they shed their leaves in December-January and are among the first to bloom in the spring.
I took action and planted two willows in the squares, an hour’s job. In that time frame, ten people stopped and congratulated me, which was the cherry on top of the cake that was the satisfaction of a job well done. But there was a flaw in my masterpiece. I failed to think of some sort of protection for the trees, and a month or so after I planted them and cared for them daily, someone showed me the flaw.
A young guy, about 20 or so, who was a driver for a shipping company, had the habit of parking his van on the sidewalk, right next to one of my trees. There were times when he even scratched the young bark of the willow, and sometimes he parked so close, that the van’s bumper bent the tree, keeping it in this position all through the night. One morning, passing by the trees, I discovered one of my precious willows on the ground, broken at ground level.
I was so sad that day… It was like my pet died. For weeks I waited for sprigs to come out of the ground. I know that willows are so adaptable, that even when completely destroyed, the root creates new sprouts that come out of the ground fast. I waited in vain. It didn’t happen, my willow was lost.
But I had something to be grateful for. My other willow, which was long and bent, touching the roof of the parked cars with its top, had straightened itself up in a couple of months and kept growing new branches. For 2 years I watched it with satisfaction doubling in height and width. Until a year ago, in a warm February day, when it bloomed and the next day started snowing. Its buds froze and, because of that, it didn’t recover. It just withered and died, and the few sprigs that came out of the ground at its base were cut by the city hall employees who were in charge with the city’s landscaping.
I was sad to see both of my trees gone, after so much work and care I put into them. But at the same time I made a decision to not give up.
I put another willow branch in water, waited a month for it to take root and transported it 20 km to the planting site near the boulevard, half waving out of the back left side window of the car, that’s how long it was. I took my shovel, water and tree, plus a hammer, some string and a few wooden sticks, and began working.
I dug up the old root, put the new tree in the ground, straightened it up, covered the root with dirt and watered it. Also, because I learned my lesson thanks to the guy with the van, I surrounded the tree with a circle of wooden sticks hammered into the ground, and then connected the sticks with 2 meters of metal string. On top of that, I painted the bark of the tree and the surrounding sticks in white paint, so it would be easy to see.
“Nothing would happen now” I thought to myself. Partly, I was right, because whoever parked near my tree saw the white fencing and avoided it, and even when some “visually impaired” drivers didn’t see it, they hit the sticks instead of the tree directly. All was good until a day when a storm hit the city, braking my beloved willow in half. Its majestic 3 meter height dropped to 1,5 meters. But it resisted, grew new branches and now it is doing just fine.
I planned to do something about the other willow, the withered one, and today I did it. I brought a branch with a few buds on it, dug a hole near the old dead tree, and planted it. I could have removed the old tree, but I think the new tree would be better off protected by the thick trunk of the old willow.
I’m hoping for the best, and also that this time both of the willows will survive and grow into thick and majestic trees. In fact, I’m sure of it, and I’m sure that all will be just fine. After all, I’ve managed to get this far without being fined or arrested for planting illegally, haven’t I? 🙂