Wednesday, December 14, 2011

View from the top (of my car)


I was desperate.  I needed a photograph of the fruit of the wonderful small tree, Crataegus viridis 'Winter King' (common name: hawthorn) for my column in the newspaper.

There was only one possibility I could think of without driving 60 miles one way - the Publix at a shopping center across town.  I had noticed the trees a couple of years before, thinking what a good choice for a parking lot.  'Winter King' has white flowers in spring, nice fall color and best of all, persistent red fruit in winter.  As a bonus, the bark becomes more beautiful as the tree matures and begins to exfoliate.  Gray strips peel away to reveal a cinnamon color.  Altogether, a great small ornamental tree.

The only problem was, when I drove up to the grocery store, the trees, though usually slow growing, were taller than I anticipated.  I circled around and waited for a parking space next to the trees.  I was in luck.  Someone pulled out after just a couple of passes.

Then, the embarrassing part.  I backed into the parking spot, got out and climbed onto the roof of the car.  At the time, I was driving an SUV (today, I wouldn't be able to stand on my Honda Civic).  Soon, I had my camera pointed at the gorgeous red berries.

"What do you think you're doing, lady?" a gruff, booming voice came from below.  I froze, picturing the manager of the Publix who was going to get me for trespassing.  I turned around to see a pleasant looking man, probably about my age.  He broke out in laughter.

I bumbled out an explanation, telling him all the wonderful features of this Southeastern native tree and why I was going to such lengths to get a photograph.  He said he'd often wondered about the trees, thinking all along they were some kind of holly.

The next thing I knew, he asked if I'd like to have lunch with him some time.  Again, I started fumbling for words.  I had been newly widowed, so I had no idea about what to do.  I said I didn't think my husband would like that.

Did I miss my chance?  I don't think so.  He probably wasn't Jack the Ripper, but it just didn't feel right.  Over a decade has passed since that encounter, so I don't think I could garner such an invitation if I tried this caper again.  I did get a picture - though not the sharpest.  Still, you can see how this is just about the perfect tree for the winter landscape.

Note:  Plant in full sun.  An ideal spot would be in front of a bank of tall evergreens.  That way you can appreciate the bright red color and beautiful bark in winter.  Grows to about 20 feet tall.