Andrea and Tracy gave us a Texas laurel bush as they left Casa Caridad for novitiate last month. It has been sitting outside waiting for the perfect location to be agreed upon and for the energy to plant it. When we built the house almost seven years ago, at the back of a big alfalfa field, it was necessary to haul in many truckloads of rock, gravel, dirt and sand to create an 18 inch deep pad for the foundation. That’s so when we irrigate the field our house doesn’t flood. But anytime we want to plant a bush or tree we have to contend with that 18 inches of compressed rock and gravel!
It seemed clear that we would choose a site where we had already planted something that didn’t make it. Carol, our primary landscape artist, suggested some potential sites before she left for vacation in Montana. Peggy, Romina and I made the final selection on July 4 and early yesterday I decided it was “a time for planting”- or at least a time for digging.
While it was still relatively cool, I took the shovel and was delighted to see that the remains of a sage bush came out easily with the first spadeful. But the second attempt hit rocks and soon I was down on my knees in the gravel using a hand trowel. When I had about a two gallon hole for the intended five gallon bush I decided to let water do some of the work for me. I filled the rock-lined space with water. It took hours to absorb but it loosened the packed gravel enough that I could chip away more and more. Soon my arm was digging more than elbow deep, but the sun was high in the sky and I was out of steam. I managed to get the bush on a large piece of cardboard and pulled it from the porch across the yard. (Of course it was sitting at the farthest possible location from the place we decided to plant it!)
I put more water in the hole and decided to wait until this morning. Lo and behold, we had a beautiful rain last night. In my pjs early this morning I finished chiseling the hole. I rolled the 5 gallon container on its side, pressing the nice mulchy black dirt to loosen the bush. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it out of the pot much less get it into the hole- but I could and I did. I remembered Carol’s instructions to put some fertilizer pellets alongside the rootball (not underneath it) and found several in a brown bag on the porch. After checking the alignment of the bush in the hole and deciding several times it was “good enough”, I tucked the beautiful black mulch into the stony pit, mixing in some sand and gravel along the way so that the little developing roots won’t be totally surprised when they hit the wall.
The sun was just over the mountains when I put the finishing touch on the project. Part of the gift of the bush was an engraved sign with a quote from the prophet Isaiah: “The desert and dry lands will be glad; the wastelands will rejoice and bloom!” and a prayer: “May the seeds planted here blossom and the Sisters of Charity flourish always.” I placed it at the entryway to our desert garden with a great, “Amen!”