The Value of Things: The Killing of the Black Tree


My friend Bronwen  is a gardener and in her care things effortlessly thrive and grow strong.

Gardeners are providers of food, makers of homes for wildlife, artists & designers, caretakers & nurturers of the land, and sowers of hope.

I might describe myself as a gardener, if my skill and patience matched that of Bronwen’s, even fractionally.

In Bronwen’s garden, there is a tree, and I’ve coveted this tree for many years.


I found one like it for sale in a nursery – quite by chance. It cost way more than I’d hoped, but I wanted it so bad, that I just handed over the cash and got it home.

I watered it and sat it in the shade and let it acclimatise for a few days and then chose the right spot, and dug a big hole. I filled the hole with water, and put the tree in, filling the soil back in with care, and finally patted it down to make it feel secure and loved.

Every day for a week I visited it, and it became the most valued thing in my garden and this remained the case for the next 8 years. It became known as ‘the black tree’
Paul said to me one day

‘of all the things in the garden, that black tree really is my most favourite thing’.


And like any gardener, I felt proud to hear this, but would never allow myself to openly agree to such a statement of preference, as doing so would be akin to admitting I had a favourite child.

Each Spring and Summer the tree bloomed for me, and the contrast in colours took my breath away, but despite that I became a little disappointed by it’s progress in comparison to the tree I admired so much in Bronwen’s garden.

Why had my tree not fulfilled its true potential I would think to myself. After all it was definitely capable of more.

In its 9th year, and after months of a grey dreary Winter the Spring came in. When Spring chooses to arrive she comes all of a sudden and in a rush of colours. The garden was suddenly filled with sunshine and noise.

Everywhere there is life,  joy and optimism.

I noticed that the black tree had become quite grown and beautiful. Though it was tall, it was hidden, and as the Spring turned in to Summer, one evening (and very much on impulse), I conceived an ill thought out plan to move it. Because if I moved it, it would be admired more.

So, fuelled by pride and I began digging.

And three hours later I was still digging and frustrated at being no further forward.

Initially there had been care and consideration but now with dusk coming, I turned to brute strength and tried to leverage it out.

Still no movement from the stubborn tree

I stood in the hole I’d dug for myself, right up to my knees and knew I’d come too far to turn back. Even if I wanted to, that moment was gone.

So taking the spade, I dealt a cowardly blow to the thickest root,  slicing straight through it. A fait accomplis

If I’m honest, I think the tree and I were both a little shocked by my brutality.

It fell to its knees as it tried  to catch its breath.

Frightened, I gathered it up quickly, replanting it in the dark, regretting wholly the sorry part I’d played in the story.

Two days later it shed all of its leaves in silent protest. I found them in a pile at its feet when I visited it.

Treating nature in a casual way comes with casualties. Always casualties.

My tree, in actual fact, had been just as beautiful as Bronwens. For all the looking I’d done over the years,  I just hadn’t been able to see it. 

Life is funny like that, realisation can come in the snap of a finger after living so long in obliviousness.

There’s not much left to say, apart from Autumn came soon after, and that was pretty much that.


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