Pining Away…

What is this tree? Come on gardening experts! I know it’s a no-brainer for you. The farthest we’ve gotten is “some kind of pine.” Which is like concluding that H1N1 is “some kind of flu.”

More important than its identification is: why are its branches going brown? Why does it look so listless? Why does it seem to be shouting “immanent arboreal fatality!”? I water it regularly. I talk to it. I stroke its trunk. (Actually I don’t. But only because it’s in an awkward location.) Am I watering it too much? Too little? Does it need fertilizer? If so, what kind? Nitrogen? Phosphorus? Potassium? If the latter, can I simply strew the ground around it with banana peels?

I know. You’ll say “why don’t you just look on line, dumbkopf?” I did. The Gardener’s Guide to Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs simply scared the crap out of me. Too much fertilizer? You’ll scald the roots. Too little? You’ll starve it. Wrong kind? A slow and painful death. And there are so many! You need an advanced degree in chemistry to even begin to comprehend them. Then there are your natural alternatives: cottonseed meal, pulverized fish, granite dust, dried blood, and sewage sludge. Yikes! It sounds like the media list for Mike’s MFA thesis piece. (Sculpture’s not just the “Winged Victory” anymore.)

Of all of the above choices, my money is on the sludge. Why? I’ve seen it in action. In our old apartment building there was a chronic sewer-line issue. About twice a year there would be an eruption — you guessed it — right in the front garden. It was always super grim (think tampons in the azalea roots) but, I must confess, the foliage was always quite verdant afterward. Of course we all thought twice about using the herbs in our cooking. Which was a shame, because there were a lot of them. You think rosemary grows well under normal circumstances? Try treating it to a biannual shit-soaking.

But I digress. I have no intention of creating a sewage crisis at our house just to save this — or any other — tree. I might, however, consider leaving a few of MJ’s dirty diapers at its base, (thank God the constipation phase is behind us!). But only once my experts have assured me this is the way to go. Until then, more water, more talking, and…OK. I’ll climb the railing and stroke it. I’m nothing if not open-minded.

But in the end? I fear the $200 I made on ebay this week will be going to the tree doctor.

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