The debate waffled for a year. Do we remove the mature poplar from the front garden, the tree that our daughter planted more than thirty years ago? I remember that adorable child bringing a tiny sprout with two leaves and asking where she might plant it. We chose the spot and tended it. God did the rest as that tree shot upward to dwarf the house and garden.

But now the roots have risen to create trip hazards and large dead zones cover the lawn. I battle to keep those roots out of the butterfly garden. The debate came to a conclusion as I summoned the tree service who made short work of removing that poplar.

Lawn Root Issue

In the week after the tree cutting I began to uncover the roots. The picture shows one of three huge roots I discovered in a small section of lawn. The 25’ carpenter’s tape measure gives perspective, and the red line indicates the start of what was supposed to be grass. Is it any wonder the grass would not grow in competition with the monster?

Around the stump in all directions I found similar roots though some could not be removed due to the communications cables feeding to the houses. The tree service returned with their grinder and turned the stump and several large roots into wood chips in minutes. Did that end the cleanup? Was I finished with this job? Not hardly.

A Portion of Roots

I removed roots from a portion of the lawn and flower beds for days which gave me a good workout without the expense of joining a gym. This picture is an example pile, about one outdoor-sized trashcan full. To date I have removed five full cans, and I’m still digging.

The poplar tree stood through ice storms, winter snows of all depths including a record-breaking 23” dump, hurricanes, thunder storms, and droughts. The staying power of the tree to weather the storms depended on its massive root spread. That structure expanded season by season in the prowl for new sources of moisture and nutrients. The roots extended far beyond the drip zone of the tree into the flower beds where I applied compost season after season. And the flowers suffered in the face of such an aggressive interloper.

Focus and unwavering determination powered that poplar’s expansion.

Former Site of Poplar

In my hours of solitary digging I thought about the spiritual applications. Paul warns the Ephesians believers about the danger of being swayed away from our faith by the words of others. The context is the spiritual gifts God places within believers so that we may minister to one another. Paul chose words such as equipping, building up, knowledge and maturity. As a believer’s roots grow deeper the likelihood of floundering in a cauldron of conflicting doctrinal teachings drops away.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; Ephesians 4:14

The writer of Hebrews describes the hope that we have in God (Hebrews 6:19), “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” My confidence in God’s plan and purpose helps me through the storms that threaten to topple my life. The more adverse experiences I weather the stronger my roots become.

James described a rootless man whose faith waffled between belief and doubt. Like pounding surf this man makes noise but accomplishes little else.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

Jeremiah penned these verses, some of my gardening favorites.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. 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 17:7-8

New Beginnings

The poplar’s spot is open now and light streams into the garden. The new grass is thriving and I’ve mowed a couple of times. All in all the advantages to the garden are positive.

May I never forget the roots I worked so hard to remove, roots that allowed that tree to survive and thrive.