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Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Tree I Almost Killed

It stands outside my office window in the central place of honor in my front yard--the wrong dogwood tree. The house was in its final stages of completion when the builder declared it was time to choose our landscaping. Having had most of three years to consider how I wanted that front yard to look, I had a detailed plan to hand to Tom, the taciturn (read that "rude") landscaper our builder used. He looked at it, grumbled a little at all the roses I wanted, and then said, "What's this?"

"A dogwood tree," I declared. "I love dogwoods--pink if you can find it, but white is good too."

He grumbled some more and that was the end of it--or so I thought. A few days later, my yard was planted and looking lovely. The roses wouldn't bloom for another year--not much, anyway, but they were perfect. The tiny lawn was covered in sod and already looked well tended. And there was my dogwood tree, reigning over the scene. Then as Tom was leaving, he tossed a quick remark over his shoulder: "I couldn't find pink or white. That's a red dogwood."

Red dogwood? That was a new one on me, but I eagerly awaited its bloom the next spring. It didn't. Didn't bloom, that is. When the dogwoods all over the area were bursting with color, my tree still looked as it had all winter. Only after the other blooms were gone and the trees almost fully leafed out did my tree even start to get leaves and it didn't get blossoms at all.

I described my level of disappointment to my husband. Always eager to please, he suggested we yank it out of the ground and get the kind of tree I wanted. I considered it, but I'm a desert girl, born and raised in the arid lands where trees have to be loved into growing. This tree, although it wasn't what I had asked for, had a lovely shape and was well positioned to throw shade on our western windows during the hottest part of the year. I couldn't kill it. I just couldn't. So, full of passive-aggressive indecision, I simply resented it as it grew.

Fast forward a few years. That "ugly" little tree has come into its own. It almost shades our western windows now and will likely provide full shade before this summer is over. It's still a lovely shape as well.  And now--it blossoms! The flowers are edged in red when they first open, but they turn a soft pink color as they grow and they are beautiful.

The tree I almost killed is now one of the beauties of the neighborhood, its blossoms still gracing our yard weeks after the other dogwoods have dropped their blooms. I've apologized to it a few times and I believe it has forgiven me. It has more blossoms this year than ever before. I speak gently to it now. Although I can't say whether it knows me or not, it seems to have had a sudden spurt of intense growth and flower output. I can hardly wait to see it in another few years.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't hang out with her seven children and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest.