Last summer I spent a couple weekends creating a new bed in my front yard. I tore out a sprawling jasmine that was probably quite stunning before I moved in and before the mulberry tree grew to the point of changing my yard from full sun to full shade.
I planted a couple hydrangeas, a hedge of Gumpo White dwarf azaleas and what I had intended to be the star of the show, a potted Japanese maple (JM) called ‘Kamagata.’ If you’re not familiar with this particular cultivar, I don’t blame you. There are over 400 JM cultivars and that number is steadily growing even if most garden centers continue to carry only the 15 or so most common cultivars like ‘Bloodgood’ ‘Crimson Queen,’ ‘Sango Kaku’ and ‘Garnet.’ To help keep track of all these trees with the hard-to-pronounce names, most JM enthusiasts turn to J.D. Vertree’s aptly (but boringly) named bible “Japanese Maples”. Vertrees is to JM fans what Stephen Hawking is to really smart people that like science and space stuff. Vertrees is to JM fans what Mr. Miyagi was to “Danielson”. So, when J.D. Vertrees selected ‘Kamagata’ as one of only two JMs that he would name and cultivate, you know it’s a good tree.
I was so proud of my little tree in its bright white pot. I felt like it was the keystone that held together the new bed I had just created. Unfortunately, as I wrote last July, someone else decided that they liked it too and they figured they would deprive me of my little tree.
In addition to blogging about this, I made the mistake of posting about it on Facebook. I wrote something along the lines of “Someone stole a fairly rare Japanese maple out of my front yard last night.” Now, my friends are good guys that I would trust my life with, but they are not the type of guys who will just let you say stuff and get away with it. Because they, in their foolish ways, do not consider gardening a very manly pursuit, the responses ranged from the sympathetic “someone once stole our bench” to the downright cruel: “Hey everybody, I just acquired a fairly rare Japanese maple. Send me a message if you’re interested in buying it.” Since then it’s become a bit of an inside joke (always at my expense) and it’s the most common refrain I hear whenever I mention something about working in my garden.
The bed hasn’t looked right to me since the ‘Kamagata’ was stolen, but I have been reluctant to replace it for fear that whomever took it would just do it again. But I have thrown caution to the wind! Stay tuned for Part II.