Accidental Christmas Tree

Last week I mentioned that because of our rambunctious kitten, Persephone, Jim and I weren’t planning on having a Christmas tree.  Turns out we ended up with one after all.  The story begins in the spring of 1996.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Oh, Christmas Tree!

When I moved into this house a few weeks before Christmas 1995, the yard was a wasteland.  On the east side there were two rose bushes, both dying.  On the west side only a single scraggly juniper shrub tucked back in the far south corner survived.  I say “survived” rather than “was growing” very deliberately.  This juniper was so small and bent that we assumed it was one of the miniature, ground-hugging varieties.

In the Spring, Jim took a pruning saw to the juniper and removed about ninety percent.  We didn’t dig out the stump then because we had a lot to do elsewhere.  Anyhow, we figured the job would be easier if we waited until the plant finished dying.  A strange thing happened, though.  Without any further care, the juniper kept living.  Given the general condition of our yard, we left it alone and worked on parts of the yard closer to the house.

Occasionally, we’d toss a little mulch back there.  We planted a water-hardy chaste bush behind the juniper, figuring that it could take over when the juniper died.  The juniper didn’t die, though.  Maybe the little bit of water we gave the chaste bush had something to do with the juniper’s survival, but I firmly believe that the real reason was that plant was just determined to keep going.

As the years went by, the little juniper began to fill out.  Back-dropped by the chaste bush, it gave us some silvery green in the far end of the yard.  However, I didn’t realize just how big the juniper had become until just a few days ago.  I was looking out our bedroom window, enjoying the antics of the birds as they hopped on the ice to drink from our little pond.   The exodus of a bunch of juncos toward the back of the yard drew my attention to the corner.

To my astonishment, a Christmas tree stood there.  It was a bit oddly shaped – more as if one of Tolkien’s Ents decided to masquerade as a Christmas tree, rather than the classic living room ornament –  but it was green, at least eight feet tall, and had the right shape: high in the middle, tapering down along the edges.

“Jim!  The juniper’s turned into a Christmas tree!”

Jim wandered over.  “You’re right.  We should get some ornaments.”

And we did.  We purchased  a container of weather-hardy ornaments, bright in silver, gold, red, and green.   There were enough to decorate the desert willow outside the office window, too.  The long seed pods provide a sort of natural tinsel.

It’s very festive.  And it’s very nice to have a Christmas tree (or two)  after all…

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7 Responses to “Accidental Christmas Tree”

  1. Heteromeles Says:

    Cool! For years, when my grandmother was still alive, we’d take a little bonsai juniper, cover it with miniature lights and ornaments, and take it down to be her Christmas tree. After the holiday, we’d take it back, pack up the ornaments, and keep it going for another year. I think junipers make great Christmas trees, and their surplus foliage (if it’s the scaly kind, not the needle kind) also makes for great Christmas wreaths.

    Then, in the summer, if it puts out berries, you can make your own gin, too.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Sally Says:

      The berries are also tasty nibbles, if you catch them when they are ripe–sweet to go with the gin flavor. Not that you’d want to eat a lot of them.

    • Heteromeles Says:

      Yes, and boy do those berries make your breath smell like gin! I used to get teased about drinking on field trips. Anyway, I understand juniper berries are used in some Mediterranean or Middle Eastern recipes, so there are quite a few uses for them.

      • janelindskold Says:

        I remember one time my mom was making a recipe that called for a few juniper berries and the little jar she kept was empty — I foraged and found enough (this was back in Maryland) for us to finish.

        Certainly, wouldn’t be hard, here… I’ve actually pinpointed a few shrubs in my area that have better tasting berries.

  2. Nicholas Wells Says:

    Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? You decide you can’t do something for one reason or another, then life comes up and gives it to you anyway.

    Keeps you on your toes that way.

  3. Heteromeles Says:

    Hope you have a wonderful white Christmas.

  4. Barbara Joan Says:

    How do you make gin? I have several juniper trees (very large ones)in my yard and outside of shedding and being messy have never thought to do anything with them.

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