bee balm and black-eyed susans
Curing the Gardening Phobia

If a Common Man Screams in the Woods…

So…we live in the age of the common man…and each one of us has a story. Witness the millions of bloggers in cyberspace…including me. Why should anyone be interested in their neighbor’s story?

I got a brusque reminder of this startling reality, when I perkily marched up to my neighbor to tell him with great glee about the oak tree we have growing between our two houses.

He seemed startled and annoyed at having to pull out his earplugs to talk to me. Edger in hand, he had come out to mow down his side of the property. He looked at the tiny oak and gruffly exclaimed, “That’s a terrible spot for an oak. It will destroy our foundations!”

He may be right…but I didn’t expand the conversation by reminding him that he has a 60-foot tall evergreen growing not 15 feet from his foundation on his side of the property line. But…I’ll admit to naive enthusiasm. I certainly don’t know all I need to know about all my forays in my yard.

However, I did have the courage to show him the Creeping Dogwood and beg him to watch out for it as he moved along with his edger.


I explained that it gets a pretty white flower in spring and that I had cleared out my side of the property line to encourage it to fill in on my side. He assented with a weak “OK.”

Then, ever the naive ambassador for nature, I exclaimed, “OK…well I’ll dig the oak out. It’s OK ‘cuz I’ve got another oak growing on the berm garden. That’s well within our property.”

“The what?” He was cautious…

berm garden
Berm garden with “found” oak sapling

Inhaling a little courage, I marched over, to show him…”The berm garden…See? It’s well within our property…” implying that it shouldn’t concern him. But he was concerned.

“Oaks have a 30 foot canopy!” He was alarmed. I suddenly remembered that he has severe allergies.

“Well, that’s good! It’ll provide a lot of shade!” I suggested with a small smile…would I ever make it as a Diplomat?

“Yeah…if it’s healthy!” He cautioned with a bit of heightened anxiety.

We each momentarily froze in a fight-or-flight stasis….

Should we cut a living thing down just for fear that it might in some vague future time get a disease? I was pretty sure the canopy was going to be a lot larger than 30 feet…I hung on tight to my straw…remembering why I was working 1-hour a day in my garden…to nurture and get a little nurturing back. I would welcome the large nurturing oak arms…

Suddenly, I was starkly alone in my endeavor. Here we were, two commoners with his and her stories…barely protected by a thin property line…eyeball to eyeball trying to see through our own anxieties…

Then I broke the tissue paper silence…with a tentative suggestion…

“Well, it’s slow-growing. We have plenty of time to observe whether it will be a problem or not,” I suggested and cautiously claimed a bit of cheer.

He smiled…it seemed that he accepted the truce…”Sure” he said, and we chuckled…I punctuated my cheery goodbye with what I hoped was a friendly reminder.

“Well…Glad I caught you on my way out!” I started to walk toward the driveway. “Thanks for watching out for the Creeping Dogwood!”

Only a little shaken, I glanced back as he put his earbuds back in.

Learn about Swamp white oak here:

3 thoughts on “If a Common Man Screams in the Woods…”

  1. Leave the Mending Wall fence to Frost, right? …who needs one when you have property-line plants to discuss with your neighbors instead. 🙂

    I have an Elm I’ve been letting grow in a similar fashion. Who knows what will come of it, but it’s fun to watch it grow.

    1. If elves destroy the walls, then I’ll encourage them with creeping dogwood that grows on both sides of our invisible line! Thanks!

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