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Report From PIA – July 12

I got an email today from someone who was hoping that I might be able to help save her mimosa trees that were dying one after another. Albizia julibrissin, also called silk tree, has fern-like foliage and whimsical, pink tassel blooms. The first one I saw in flower was in my then future in-laws yard on Long Island, and I was immediately captivated.

Unfortunately, in the northeast United States anyway, this is not a strong tree. There is a reason that you don’t see huge, old ones. They fall under heavy, spring snow, or die of Fusarium wilt, a vascular disease that this plant is prone to. I had to tell my email correspondent that she was likely to lose all of her trees.

As gardeners, and as humans who are constantly called to deal with loss, the first question is usually, “Why?” Was there something we could have done to prevent this? Might we do something so that it will never happen again? Although we can make guesses, frequently there are no definitive answers or guarantees for the future.

The longer the relationship – the older the plant, person or pet – the more we are attached and grieve their loss. To be alive and to love other living things means that we are called to celebrate those lives as long as they are with us, and cope the best we can when they are gone.

Sometimes, despite our care and attention, things die. In other cases, such as in this garden that wasn't watered during a drought, things go because we haven't given them the care they need. We cope and move on.

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