P80401Happy Easter!

This is one of those holidays when no one should work, which is why I wrote this a few days ago, and scheduled it to post today. I hope you are not reading this today. You have more important things to do. Lent and the forty days of fasting that goes with it are over, so you can eat all the Easter eggs and anything else you want.

The only work that should be done today are chores that can not be delayed until tomorrow. With the weather warming (at least in our region), watering might be one of those chores. For most parts of the garden, this might be the first watering since autumn. Although the rain has been meager, cool weather had kept things damp until now. Resuming watering is typically an easy task. It sounds simple enough. Water is water – right?

I get all sorts of unexpected questions in my work. In autumn, I sometimes get asked about trees that were planted in spring or summer that are suddenly turning yellow and dropping leaves; and must explain that the seemingly sickly trees are merely deciduous and defoliating for winter, which can be a major disappointment if evergreen foliage was needed. Then there are the questions about the five pound kumquat that is actually a shaddock fruit on an overgrown sucker (understock from below the graft).

About this time, many years ago, I got a call about a sad #5 (5 gallon) pistache street tree that had been planted while bare during the previous autumn. The client who planted it wanted to do what was best, so planted it in autumn so that it could settle in slowly while dormant through winter, and get an early start dispersing roots in spring. Generous rain that year provided more water than the tree needed through winter. As the rain ran out, and the weather warmed, buds swelled and began to pop. The client who planted the tree was very careful to water it when she thought it was necessary, but the new foliage immediately started to get discolored and distorted. Her remedy was to give it more water, but the health of the tree continued to decline as quickly as it was trying to foliate.

I asked all the typical questions about the tree, but only determined that it was not lacking water, and probably was not getting too much water. The symptoms exhibited by the foliage suggested soil saturation and poor drainage, but the soil drained well, and the roots seemed to be firm. I was baffled, until the client mentioned something very unexpected. I had to ask her to clarify.

She loved the tree so much that she wanted to give it the best water she could obtain. Every day, on her way back from downtown San Jose, she stopped at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph to procure a gallon of Holy Water to water it with!

That was a new one. I then had the sad duty of explaining to her that her devotion to the tree was what was killing it. The Holy Water that she had so diligently been giving it was saline. After Holy Water is blessed, some gets stored for upcoming baptisms, and the rest gets blessed salt mixed into it, mainly for sanitation. It was this salinity that was so toxic to the tree.

After a lot of fresh water was rinsed through the root system, the tree started to recover almost immediately, and eventually resumed healthy growth. The client telephoned the following autumn as the tree was coloring to inform me that it had been restored to good health, and grown through summer as if nothing had ever happened.

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19 thoughts on “Happy Easter!

  1. Easter weekend here really is a long weekend because Monday is a public holiday too. It used to be called Easter Monday but it is now Family Day, next week is also school holidays. In the ‘olde’ days, shops used to close at 1pm on a Saturday and everything was closed for Sunday too. Now retail stores are open for much longer, including Good Friday, Easter and Christmas Day – I feel for shop workers as their hours are now very long.

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  2. That’s so interesting about salt in the holy water. It was the salt-saturated soil that got so many trees in Galveston after Hurricane Ike. We went into a period of sustained drought immediately after the storm, and despite tanker trucks filled with water, the efforts to dilute the salt just didn’t work. Rain would have helped, I think, but even with good rains I’m sure there would have been losses.

    I laughed at your advice not to work today, only because one of my posts was titled “Working On Easter.” I took the title from the first line of a Mary Oliver poem. It begins, “My work is loving the world…” Happy Easter!

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  3. Interesting about the salty religious water. Pleased you got to the bottom of it! We are invaded with politically correctness too, but haven’t sunk to family day yet… Hope your Easter is a peaceful one.

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  4. Wh would have thought of watering g plant with holy water–and how lucky you knew it was saline!! Goodness. Well, there’s always something we don’t know, isn’t there? I hope you had a happy Easter.

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  5. Belated happy Easter. I was surprised to hear so many in our neighborhood working yesterday—chain saws, lawn mowers, etc. There have been some nice days lately and it would have been nice if yesterday was a day of rest from heavy gardening. Today, more snow.

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