Legacy of a Parent

After reading a post from Jenny Litchfield’s blog (wonderful blog about life and gardening from New Zealand) about tree planting


I just had to tell my father how his concern for the future had such an impact on my life.  As a teen I absolutely hated the time I had to spend doing yard work.  I bitched up a storm and genuinely made myself as unpleasant as possible.  I still ended up doing the work, but never got to enjoy it. My bad!

Somehow though I found myself drawn to growing things as a college student (I once had 100 houseplants I carted around from apartment to apartment), and spent some of my spare time at a little nursery near my university.  I even had a 6 ft ficus growing in a pot behind the headboard of my bed (it was like sleeping in the woods, sort of). 

From there I found myself planting stuff whenever I could at whatever apartment I lived at if there was some bare dirt at the front door.  Since then I have planted more and more elaborate gardens at each house where I lived.

But the legacy my father left me was not so much to be a gardener.  He really never was much of a gardener.  He had terrible allergies and hay fever (one of the reasons I got to do the lawn work).  However, he told me his goal was to plant a tree at every house he ever lived that would outlast his time in that place.  He had a notion of leaving behind a living legacy.

I have re-visited the houses where I grew up and there are beautiful trees in each lawn – a 40+ year old red maple in one place, evergreens and a gorgeous crabapple at the other.  His most recent home has had its challenges with pear trees that break apart.  But he is still working on leaving his legacy behind, even as he enters his late 70’s.

After reading Jenny’s blog though, I had to tell him that his legacy would continue through my efforts and I fully expect through the efforts of my children. 

As children my parents encouraged us to plant trees.  The synagogue would hand out these little cardboard coin holders and we would fill them with our quarters and each filled holder would go to plant a tree in Israel.  Somewhere in Israel, my siblings and I have more than one tree we helped plant in a forest planted by thousands of American Jews.

As an adult I have followed his example and planted trees (and gardens) in each of the houses I have owned.  I signed up for the Billion Tree project and planted three trees this past fall.  I am sure I will plant more as the years go by and will work hard to make my little woods stay healthy.

My first house - 20 yr old camphor trees

My little piece of mother nature

Somehow, magically I have passed this love of planting things on to at least one of my children.  Today he is a Phd candidate doing research in the environment and plant biology and genetics.  He left his first rental house a little better off than when he got it, planting a little garden in the back yard.  He has experimented with growing veggies and herbs too.  I suspect that when he gets the chance he will put tree roots in the ground and make a stand for the future as well.

There is even hope for my other son who, when we first moved to these parts of North Carolina would not go outside.  Now he hikes and camps out with friends.  He has even come and helped me re-plant my small piece of lawn.

What a legacy for a parent to have, to see into the future and plant the seeds of knowledge and vision!


~ by in2l on February 2, 2008.

6 Responses to “Legacy of a Parent”

  1. What a moving read, in21. Thank you for sharing photos of the wonderful results of trees planted. Your father sounds very similar to my late Dad. He held similar values and quietly planted many trees. Last year, we, his adult children, arranged to plant a grove of about twenty or so native Golden Totara in his favourite place where he used to farm. This tree was of deep personal significance for him. Decades ago, he showed us a stand of mature Golden Totara planted as a memorial in remembrance of local men who did not return from WWI. He himself saw active service during WWII. I think it was his quiet way of remembering his mates and of trying to restore the land. I view trees as living connections (March 2007 post). So now, my siblings and I have planted Golden Totara at the places where we live as part of this living legacy as have my two adult sons who know the story. Like you and your family, we’re reaching into the future both in an emotional and an ecological sense and are sowing the seeds of hope. Our Dads’ actions have shown the way.

  2. […] https://in2l.wordpress.com/2008/02/02/legacy-of-a-parent/ […]

  3. I LOVE your father’s idea of planting a tree at each house in which he lived. We lived in the same house from the time I was born until the time I left home to go to college, but my father planted numerous trees around our yards, and he talked to me often about how important trees were and how they gave character to a place, especially a home. We had a huge ash tree in the front yard which the nursery used to send prospective buyers down our street to look at, a huge maple tree in the back yard and numerous fruit trees as well–lemon, orange, peach, plum… But it’s the big shade trees which i love to this day. Now I live in Northern California, near truly awe-inspiring trees, the California redwoods. I got married in a redwood grove, and unbeknownst to the park rangers, some of my husband’s ashes are scattered there. Thanks for your lovely post, and for Jenny Litchfield’s link to it which is how I found it.

  4. Thank you for your wonderful stories. My first big garden also ended up being a sales office for the guy who designed it. It was a wonderful way to meet other potential gardeners.

    I believe your husband has become a part of each of those wonderful ancient redwoods and will live on and on as a result.

  5. Jenny – your dad had a wonderful and moving idea. As always your mention of tree names I have never heard of led me to the plant catalog. The totara is a beautiful tree, I planted something similar (a weeping podocarpus) years ago. The sound of the wind through the grove of these trees must be wonderful.

  6. One year and one month on my three new trees are pushing forth new buds and leaves. The crabapple fruited last year, the flowers were beautiful. The apple tree and redbud are coming along as well.

    Later in the year I planted a ginkgo tree, the leaves are such a wonderful shape and color and it gets really pretty in fall. My step-daughter uses the leaves in her artwork.

    Trees are wonderful creatures, I think I will go give one a hug and say thank you for all the pleasure I am receiving from it.

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