We can’t garden without encountering and considering roots. Roots are an essential part of the plants. But what happens when the roots of one plant affect others around it? In the square of concrete formed by the driveway and the sidewalk here at Paths of Hope resides a huge maple tree. It wasn’t huge when we moved here thirty-three years ago. It was about the right size, and we added azaleas and other plants inside that square. The bushes and the tree lived in harmony.
Roots provide a channel for water and nutrients to enrich the tree. Roots anchor the tree against the destructive forces of storms. Roots enable the tree’s growth. Jeremiah painted a picture of the importance of roots.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. Jeremiah 17:8 NASB
As the years unfolded the tree grew taller. And wider. The root spread expanded in proportion to the growth in the tree’s canopy. Roots from that tree found an opening between the posts supporting the hand railings and the porch steps. In the end the deformed railings had to be removed and rebuilt. Ugh! What a project. I recall hours on my knees as I removed the offending roots which were too close to structure to swing an axe or mattock freely.
Roots from that tree found a path into the bog garden we had created and overwhelmed the plants. After two seasons of struggling we removed the bog garden. Today a butterfly garden covers that spot, and I have a twice-a-year chore of chopping maple roots from among the perennials. If I skip a season the flowers suffer. That tenacious tree keeps me on alert.
The azaleas are gone. In the last years any attempt at planting beneath the maple resulted in the same outcome. The maple wins every time. As part of the 2020 garden initiatives we have designed and constructed a solution, our new No Dig Garden. Follow the link for details and know that I am excited to see how Shawn will populate her new garden squares this spring and summer.
The writer of Hebrews must have invested time in a garden also. He describes a root of bitterness which might spring up and defile many around it (Hebrews 12:15). The book of Deuteronomy warns against “a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood” (Deuteronomy 29:18). Roots like these are not welcome in the garden. If you’ve ever attempted to remove an invasive plant you know how entrenched those roots are.
We can remove the roots completely as we must do with poison ivy. We can try to contain the roots with a concrete berm which may work with bamboo. Or we can prune the roots as I’m doing now with milkweed in the butterfly garden to stem the spread.
With the maple tree roots our logical choice was to rise above, to go vertical.
That is most often our best choice for dealing with an unwanted root. Help from the Creator.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2 NASB