Overheard yesterday as I shopped at the garden center:
Dad, look here, these are dogwoods.
I was behind a tightly jammed stand of container trees, all about 5 feet high, and they blocked my view of the shoppers on the other side. But it sounded like an older woman, and a man answered:
Oh? The same kind I got?
I don't know, Dad. The tag says Kowza.
What the heck are kowza trees? I want dogwoods to replace the dead ones I got.
At that point an elderly man's face appeared amid the foliage.
Hi, I said. Those trees are Kousa dogwoods. They're a kind of dogwood that is a little bigger than your flowering dogwood. And more disease resistant, I added.
They don't have flowers? he asked, alarmed.
Oh, they do, I said. Big showy ones. White.
That's good, he said, relieved. Cause I want to replace mine. They got that disease.
Anthracnose, I said. All the beautiful dogwoods around here have it, but the kousas don't get hit with it.
We chatted for a while, and his daughter came around to join us. I told them the kousas were bigger than what he had, with a more rounded shape. They both said that was good, they'd plant several 10 feet apart to allow room. I suggested more space than that. Oh, good to know. I told them I was just another customer, not an employee, but they were very grateful for the help.
What about those other trees that are so pretty, you know, the ones that bloom? Do they have those?
I took a wild guess and said, you mean Bradford pears? They do sell them here, lots of them. They're kind of a problem, though. Pretty, but prone to structural problems, and they are actually invasive.
Oh I know, she said, there's a ton of them in the mall parking lot.
No, those were planted, I said. Yeah, she replied, the town center has so many too, they're really invasive, aren't they?
Ummm.... get the kousa dogwoods, I suggested. You'll be happy with them.
They thanked me sincerely, asked a few more questions, and went away very grateful for the help and advice.
And me? I was also so grateful. Grateful for the fact that I could offer even this modest advice and I knew what I was talking about. I was such a newbie a few years ago that I also would have asked someone for "that tree that blooms", or "that one that has the bark". I know so much now, and I can even help people as they decide to plant trees.
But I was more grateful for the fact that this nice man with the dead trees wanted to replace them with something pretty and hardy and growing. He had to be 80 years old. These container trees were $29 saplings. He would never see them reach any size, and maybe never even see them bloom.
But he was planting trees.