A Maple Miracle: How We Almost Killed But Then Saved Our Tree

We were sneaky. Before we put our first house on the market we dug up a Japanese maple that we had planted in the back. We planted it right around the time we got married and it was an offshoot plant from a gorgeous maple that grew in John’s parents’ house (the only house he lived in for his entire childhood which has since been sold). So it was kind of double-meaningful with the whole “wedding tree” and “John’s childhood house” connection. That’s why before we sold the house we figured we should dig it up and put it in a bucket and move that bucket right along with us. But since we moved in December, it wasn’t exactly planting season. The whole thing was touch and go from the beginning, and by the time we finally got around to planting it (about seven weeks after we moved since there was so much snow going on and the ground was frozen) we worried it was d-e-a-d.

But we planted it anyway, and watered it a little, and did the whole cross-your-toes-and-eyes thing.

So when spring rolled around and this other maple on our property looked like this…

… and our poor tree still looked like this…

… we really feared the worst. It had tiny buds on the end of each branch which had been there since we planted it in the winter, but they weren’t changing. Boo. But at least it didn’t look rotten or completely dead. Just sort of dormant. So we decided to leave it alone and see what happened. John even suggested that maybe it would somehow miraculously bloom next spring or something after a year of “rest.”

Then the other day John came inside after mowing and looked me in the eyes and said “guess what?!” Then he paused for dramatic effect for what felt like ten minutes while I guessed things like “you met a talking Squirrel” and “you found buried treasure.” I was dying for him to just spit out and and he finally said “the maple…” and I screamed “is getting leaves?! it’s alive?!!!!” and he nodded. Little guy up and grew some gorgeous little red leaves for us:

The whole thing culminated in my running outside and chanting “Go maple, it’s your birthday, go maple…” which eventually evolved into “Grow maple, grow maple, grow!” And I think the new neighbors might have heard me. Way to make a good impression $herdog (yes, that’s my nickname to myself that refuses to catch on). But really, who can’t relate to dancing and singing for the miraculous growth of leaves? Ok, nevermind. Only now do I realize how strange that reaction was. Hindsight is 20/20.

I guess things could still go south (we did recently learn that leafy branches can up and die in record time), but the new growth seems like an awesome sign. And it will be amazing if we can glance out the window and actually see our gorgeous wedding maple from John’s childhood home chilling in the backyard for years to come. Oh what the heck- GO MAPLE, IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!


  1. Stephanie Phillips says

    It will make it! I believe!

    We have a pitiful little Japanese maple on our property that I was sure had died last season. Lo and behold, it has sprouted leaves again this year and seems to be thriving. I’d always heard that maples are very finicky trees, but apparently not yours or mine!

  2. says

    What a beautiful tree… we had a similar issue with an elm tree that we planted when my father died. But eventually it took root and it is now much taller than the house. Good luck! I hope it keeps growing for you!

  3. says

    My mum once planted a walnut that was sprouting a bit. A few months later, nothing had happened so she decided to abandon the experiment…. but when she dug it up it was growing! So she covered it up again. This sort of thing went on for years… she’d dig it up thinking she’d killed it, only for it to still be going strong under the soil. Then the dog knocked it over and all sorts of other calamities befell it. But it kept growing… slowly but steadily. We called it “the little walnut tree that could”.

    LONG BORING STORY SHORT: Your tree is the little maple tree that could.

    And I liked your song, $herdawg.

  4. laura says

    oh my gosh you bought made me spit water all over my desk with the whole $herdog thing and the Go Maple it’s your birthday….haha. We actually call my aunt sharon Sherdog! and I have sang that birthday song from time to time…not about maple trees of course. My husband and I just planted 10 teeny tiny little Eastern White Pine trees….they are little seedlings and I sure do hope they make it……crossed fingers!

  5. Mary Sterck says

    looks like a japanese maple. I think the name is blood good. I have one in a container and it can go through a hard winter also. You can cut it back in Feb. and shape it as you like it. I live in Germany but our weather is very similar to Richmond but really more like Maryland. I thought the same with mine but it pulled through and is now surviving. Good Luck. It is always special to have a tree like that and Clara will always remember the story behind it. My parents had a red maple in Connecticut that we all bought for my mother for mothers day and after they died and the house was sold, us kids always remembered that tree and all the picnics under it and the hammock tied to it. Enjoy!!!!!

  6. says

    Yay for the growing tree!!! Our next door neighbor is an elderly gentleman and we haven’t met in the six months we have lived in our home, but I have heard him laughing at me.

    Must have been something to do with, ” Please, please poop I am so tired and I just want to sleep and I can’t if you don’t poop…..” Then I heard hysterical laughter, must have been the desperation in my voice. I was exhausted from the flu and the dogs were not cooperating with me.

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