Cherished tree survives 'brown thumbed' columnist -- with help

August 18, 2011|Lisa Prejean

Just about the time I was ready to give up on and get rid of our old Norfolk pine, I read about an even older plant belonging to David “Ink” and Mae Bowers.

The Bowerses received their plant as a wedding gift on Aug. 3, 1968, according to Janet Heim’s story published Monday, Aug. 15, in The Herald-Mail. The plant is still thriving after 43 years.
They’ve kept the plant on the fireplace mantle. The plant has been a backdrop for family photos.

What a nice story. I wonder how many families can relate to having a plant with a history. I know we can.

Now I feel like a heel for being tempted to part with our plant.
The young man who would later become my husband gave me a Norfolk pine in December 1988.

We were dating. I was in graduate school. The pine was my Christmas tree that year.

Decorated with little red bows, the tree probably wasn’t even three feet tall then.

Today it is taller than my son, who is 6’1” without shoes.
Yet the years have not been too kind to this pine. This is mainly my fault because my focus has been elsewhere.

Most of the lower branches turned brown and died. The upper branches are green, but they droop. It is a very sad-looking tree.

When we packed up my belongings for a move from Louisiana back to Washington County, there wasn’t enough room for the tree.

My future mother-in-law vowed to take care of it, and bring it with her on her next trip north. She was true to her word, and the tree made it through the 18-hour trip.

Thankfully, caring for the tree became a family project. I think family members took pity on me ... and on the tree.

In the first few years of our marriage, I usually remembered to water the tree, but then the children came and the waterings sometimes got skipped.

My grandfather would stop in to visit and he’d fuss because the soil in the pot was so dry. Then he’d get out his clippers.

“Child,” he’d say, “you have to get rid of these dead branches so the living ones can breathe.”

Thank goodness for the green thumbs in my family.

My mom would tell me when it was time to transplant the tree.

Oh. These things just never occur to me. I am quite the brown thumb.

I mentioned that to a local Master Gardener recently, and she said a brown thumb is OK because brown is the color of the soil.

She was talking with me for a story on preparing lawns and gardens for fall and winter. It was a story I was hesitant to write because of my history with plants.

My editor reminded me that any journalist worth her stuff can write a story on any topic if the sources are good.

Yes, I know, I know, but if you’re incompetent in an area, it seems rather hypocritical to write a “how-to” story on that subject — experts or no experts.

Writing about something is a great way to learn about it, though. It also helps to have reminders and promptings from those who are older and wiser.

Perhaps we’ll be able to keep our plant around for a few more years.

I might even put some red bows on it at Christmastime.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail’s Family page. Send email to her at

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