Archive for Monday, April 9, 2012


River City Jules: Tree brings razzing, not pizzazz

April 9, 2012


The one and only photo in existence of the mail-order Japanese maple meant to spruce up the Dunlap home.

The one and only photo in existence of the mail-order Japanese maple meant to spruce up the Dunlap home.

My dear and loving husband possesses many great qualities. He knows how to take his own shirts to the dry cleaner and instilled a love of a wide variety of heavy metal bands in our children early on. He is kind, understanding, forgiving, and, in spite of the following story, which he finally agreed to let me tell in full in honor of the Go! home and garden special edition, he really is a skilled gardener.

We have a large window in the front of our house between our garage and front porch, nicely adorned with shrubs, flowers and mulch and decided this space needed some higher foliage to provide a bit of privacy, but with some pizzazz. A little ornamental burst of color within our otherwise khaki neighborhood.

My husband decided upon a Japanese maple. I agreed without hesitation as he had batted nearly a thousand with his lawn, garden and landscaping thus far.

In searching for the perfect Japanese maple, however, he found they could run hundreds of dollars more than he had hoped to spend on this tree that would greet visitors and passers-by alike, providing all who view our house with a first impression of its inhabitants. He had all but given up when he came across a website selling trees online — roots, trunk, branches and leaves — for only 40 bucks.

Five days later, the FedEx guy came to the door sporting the same hopeless grin as when he delivered my last mail-order swimsuit, holding a long, thin box marked “Live Tree: Plant Immediately.”

“Good luck,” he chuckled.

Too afraid to open it for fear my brown thumbs would rub off on it, I let the boxed-up tree wait to be freed later that evening.

The day rolled on like normal. I picked kids up from school, made dinner, begged people to eat it and cleaned the kitchen while my husband unpackaged and silently planted his prized Japanese maple.

“They said it would probably take up to six weeks to really fill out,” he told me as I walked to the window to see it.

I stifled a laugh the best I could.

There, in front of our home for all to see, stood one lonely, branchless, budless twig bent over like a hairpin, anchored to a dowel rod twice its circumference.

“How much did you pay for this?” I asked, looking at the supposed Japanese maple. I had never seen anything like this. Planted into the ground. By a grown-up.

“We need to give it time,” he insisted.

“We need to give it Viagra,” I observed.

The Japanese maple stick stood there, pathetic and hopeless, for eight long weeks until my husband overheard me laughing at it with some friends and uprooted it. But now you can laugh along too, because, as I said before, my husband is a kind, understanding and forgiving man. See the one and only photo still in existence online at

And have a happy, sunny day.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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