Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kamagata Part II

Acer palmatum 'Katsura'
Part I can be read here.

I tend to get really involved in the things that I like.  Gardening, obviously, is one of those things.  I really like reading too.  But the most enduring pastime in my life has been baseball.  And for the last 20 years I’ve been pursuing the geekiest of passions: Fantasy Baseball.  Among the cast of characters that are part of my life, fantasy baseball is more accepted than gardening so I am not teased about my obsessing over On Base Percentages and Strikeout per 9 Innings ratios. 

This last weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the year.  It was my current league’s 6th annual fantasy draft.  The guy that hosted the draft this year lives out in the boonies which ordinarily would have felt like an inconvenience, but in this case, his neck of the boonies was awfully close to Lakes Nursery . . . a nursery that just so happens to specialize in Japanese maples.  I made the trip out there about a month ago and purchased three new trees.  While I was there, I told the owner, Joe, the story of my stolen ‘Kamagata’. 

Upon having written that, I realize that I am turning into an old man.  Suddenly I’ve reached the age where it becomes normal to tell the same story to anyone who will listen, perfecting it, embellishing it, tweaking it just a little for my audience.  I would like to apologize to my wife now for the person I will be 30 years from now.  I hope that she will still “lichen me” when I’m old and mossy.  You see what I mean?  I’m even telling old man jokes now. 

So about that ‘Kamagata’.  Joe told me that they didn’t normally stock ‘Kamagatas’ but he would check with his growers in Oregon to see if they have any.  He told me to come back in a few weeks.  As it turned out, the weekend of the fantasy baseball draft was a “few weeks” later.  A side trip was in order.  I would drive out to the nursery and buy my tree and have a look around and then I’d take a few back roads and make my way to the baseball draft and it would be a great day. 

But then my friend, Mark, who has teased me about my “fairly rare” Japanese maples asked for a ride to the draft since it was out in the boonies and the price of gasoline is catching up to the price of bottled water.

Cut to Inner Monologue: “Do I tell him the truth?  Should I make up a reason why I can’t give him a ride?  I could tell him the baby seat in the truck is stuck so I can’t fit anyone over 45 pounds.  I could tell him I needed to practice my singing the whole way up and I wouldn't want to subject him to that.  Maybe he wouldn't want to go with me if I told him I had resolved not to speak at all while in vehicles this year?” 

The 'Katsura' planted in full shade.  Most Japanese Maples prefer at least some shade.
This one, I'm told totally resents direct sunlight during the hottest summer months.

None of those lies sounded right to me, so I told the truth and braced for the inevitable mocking.  And then I told him he was welcome to hitch a ride with me if he “still wanted to go and didn’t mind me looking around a bit.”  He said that would be fine and maybe he’d just sit in the truck and prepare for the draft.

My tiny 'Kamagata' planted in the ground
this time.  Hopefully that will make it just
a bit harder to steal if someone is so inclined.
I put the truck in park just outside the gates of the nursery.  Mark immediately unbuckled his seatbelt and jumped out of the truck.  I thought maybe he just needed to stretch his legs for a bit and that he'd get back in an finish his draft preparations but he followed me into the nursery where we were warmly greeted by a little cockapoo guard dog named Pancho and all the brilliant colors of Spring in a forest of Japanese maples.  Within seconds, Mark was remarking on the awesomeness of the colors and shapes.  I nodded, knowingly.  It was like watching someone get drunk for the first time. 

Several times he stopped and asked, “what’s this one called?” or “how big will this one get?”  By the time we left the nursery with my tiny new 1-gallon ‘Kamagata’ and a ‘Katsura’ for good measure, Mark was asking about where he could put a Japanese maple in his yard and he was planning a tranquil Japanese-style makeover for his private front yard patio.  And for a few minutes that day our minds were cleared of thoughts on batting averages, home run totals and placement on depth charts and replaced by daydreams of sitting on a patio and enjoying a couple beers or looking out a kitchen window during a quiet September moment and reveling in the color. 

When I recall how it felt to have someone steal my tree last year it still bothers me.  Who does that sort of thing anyway?  It's going to take a few years before this twig resembles anything close to a tree, but I'm okay with that because this tree is now my visible symbol that I chose not to let the riff raff dictate my life.  I have learned a few things through this experience.  I have learned that nothing physical is permanent.  I have learned that when I place too much value in something that can be taken or destroyed that I have let my priorities get out of whack.  But I have also learned that things, like trees, can inspire people with their beauty.  And I have learned that I don't need people to be as passionate about the same things as I am but when I am brave enough to share those passions with them, it's a pretty cool feeling.


  1. Not sure if my last post went through, trouble with google posting. Anyway glad you found the new one.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. You could surround it with a hedge of pyracantha for extra protection.

  3. Maybe you could put a bicycle chain on it! :) How fun that your friend really got into the maple trees, too, and could imagine re-doing his patio from a trip to the nursery. Sounds like you have a future gardening buddy!

  4. I love the "like watching someone get drunk for the first time" comparison. And what could be better to get drunk on than plant love! :-) -Jean

  5. I'm just as attached to my Japanese maples. I just bought Kamagata a few weeks ago. All of mine are young. 2-3 years. I aquired 18 in 2 years. Hooked big time!