Guest Post by Jim Freeman of Dean Street Orchids
In my Brooklyn
neighborhood, vacant spaces and parking lots have been morphing into spiffy new
condos with stunning rapidity. Early
this past spring I was driving past one of the remaining un-condo-fied (and
pretty seedy) lots a street over from us, strewn with old cars and junk, when I
saw a flash of white. Next day, I walked
back and saw it: a six foot bush loaded
with blossom in the corner, right up against the chainlink fence. Gorgeous.
I knew it was in the cherry family, but the exact type remained unknown
until summer, when I spied a few fuzzy green fruit slowly turning golden on the
No way would anyone
deliberately plant a peach tree in this lot, this corner. It had to be a pit, either thrown or planted
by a shameless optimist, that actually beat the odds and grew tree-sized. So — who else knew about it, and who ate the
fruit, which vanished almost before it ripened?
It was near impossible to reach over the fence, barbed wire and all; it
was almost a cliched metaphor for Mother Nature's beauty rising up in the face
of industrial decay.
My older daughter Kate
was just as thrilled about the tree (train 'em early, I say), and we would walk
by now and then to see how the peaches were coming along. Once, one of the guys who works/hangs out at
the car shop across the street noticed us and kindly offered to let us in the
gate to grab one of the last ones (we had a similar car shop on our block some
years back, run by a group of neighborhood buddies, mostly Latino Vietnam vets;
they, like the vacant lots, are becoming fewer round here as the years go
by). I thought about heavy metals and
old transmission fluid, and vetoed Kate's hopeful look.
I think it was my
rejection of the free peach that did it:
coming back from vacation in early August, we saw the lot boarded up and
construction notices posted. Kate
checked, and sure enough, the tree was gone.
Later I saw the dessicated branches on a rubbish heap. That was it, for this tree.
Any moral about
appreciating the beauty around you while it's here is too obvious to need
elaboration, so I'll just be practical.
First, Kate and I promised we'd get a dwarf peach tree for our terrace
next spring, even if it means ditching other plants to make room. Second, while it may seem a bit like littering,
or even irresponsible sowing of non-native species, I say go ahead; plant those
supermarket pits and spit those watermelon seeds over the fence. Most of them won't make it very far, but you
never know whose face you'll bring a smile to, and maybe even a free peach, if
one should grow to fruition.