the backwards pine

Every so often, especially when the garden is on tour, someone suggests to me that I’m not the most realistic person in the world. I don’t know what it is that makes people think something like that.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been thinking about buying a couple of “landscape sized” plants of Yucca rostrata. It’s the fashionable yucca these days, and even though I do have two in the garden already, they grow awfully slowly, and a couple of gigantic ones might look like they had been here for decades. Make a dramatic statement, that sort of thing.


Yucca rostrata from Black Gap, TX


Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’

The big ones aren’t cheap, and there’s no room for any in the front yard, so they would have to go in back, where, surprisingly, it looks like there’s quite a bit of room, at least at this time of year.

Earlier this year I finally decided to go to Timberline and get a couple, but—this is how my mind works–I bought three pinyons instead. In my mind I thought these would look more “western”.  And the idea of adding three more conifers that could potentially get huge and shade out everything was an additional selling point. Not to mention the fact that I had absolutely no idea where to put them.

The pinyons (Pinus edulis in this case) that you buy at nurseries are collected plants, and the roots are wrapped in burlap which is encased in this big heavy-duty wire cage. I couldn’t get my arms around the wire cage if I tried.

They were delivered. The guy who delivered them pushed a ramp out from the back of the truck, then pulled the pinyons out with a hay hook. When I told him I would just put them on the dolly and cart them over to where they were to be planted he looked at me as though I had just dropped down from Mars. Each one of the caged trees weighed about four hundred pounds.

Almost immediately after the truck left, I discovered that I could not lift something that weighed four hundred pounds. Huh. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that when I looked at the pinyons in the nursery; maybe they looked lighter there.

I pushed one of the pinyons over, attached a heavy rope to the wire cage, and dragged it to the planting hole I’d cleverly dug beforehand, while I was waiting for the delivery truck. I would have enlisted the dog’s help but he was sound asleep.


After I got the first one planted (it slid right into the hole and needed almost no straightening) I began to hear a sound like a helicopter in the distance. It was my pulse. I think my body was trying to tell me something. One time I took a prescription medication without reading the directions, and my pulse rate doubled, but this time it was even faster. Like a hummingbird’s.

I still had two pinyons to go, and that little voice inside my head, the voice that never shuts up, said “Plant them in the back yard, they’ll look nice there”, when the rational thing to do was leave the things on the driveway and put a Free Pinyons sign next to them. I listened to the little voice.

Hay hook, I thought to myself. Hay hook. Where in my mind’s eye had I seen one of those? Ah, the shed. My wife had decorated the shed with all sorts of things, and there was an old hay hook hanging by the window.


Dragging a four hundred pound pinyon by its wire cage from the driveway to the place in the back yard where, again, I’d cleverly dug holes just after listening to that little voice, dragging them a distance of about one hundred and seventy five feet, was as much fun as trying to drag a car across the street using a hay hook.

I told this story to my doctor, who said this was “good exercise”. If this is the definition of exercise, I’ll never exercise again. I might die.

The outcome of all this should be obvious, but in case it isn’t, the next day I went out to look at the pinyon planted way out by the fence, and it was backwards. The “good” side was facing the open space, instead of facing the garden.


The thought of digging it up and turning it around crossed my mind. For about two seconds. I’m too much of a realist for that.

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11 Responses to the backwards pine

  1. Peter says:

    Yucca rostrata/400 pound pinyon – hmmm. I now better understand the quizzical looks on Chess’s face. Congratulations on your new trees and your admirable work in planting them. Exercise is bad mkay.

    • paridevita says:

      I kind of suspected that my whole life. Anything that “builds character” has just got to be bad for you.
      And to top it all off, my doctor said gardening wasn’t exercise. Moving 1200 lbs of pinyons, exercise, but just gardening, not exercise. Try to pull weeds in this rock hard soil without sweating, that’s what I say.

  2. If I lugged three 400 lb. trees, I too would be a miserable gardener! Sheeeesh, Bob! You did this during this polar spell? You never cease to amaze me.

    • paridevita says:

      No, during the summer, when it was 100 degrees.
      The amazing thing is the whereabouts of all those people who “would of helped me if they’d only known” during this procedure. Orbiting the earth, brain transplant, meeting with the President, all those familiar excuses.
      I dug up the gigantic tree peony on the other side of the front walk all by myself. It was like digging up my neighbor’s detached garage.

  3. paridevita says:

    I added the phrase “earlier this year”. Thought it was there by my mind was elsewhere.
    100 degree weather is the best weather for doing work like this. Gives you perspective. Builds character.

  4. Susan ITPH says:

    This is a hilarious account. I’m glad you’re still with us to tell it!

    • paridevita says:

      The best thing is that the pinyons are still alive. I didn’t make it clear that it took place this summer, maybe in July.
      I have a neighbor who has a Bobcat, the loader thing, but it wouldn’t be able to get in the back yard. Maybe I could rent a crane or something, the next time I try this. (I never learn any lessons.)

  5. Loree says:

    Reminds me of the time I planned to “just pick up a couple of those pavers, so we can decide on the color”…except each one wieghed 90 pounds and is 2ft x 2ft. No way I was picking up even one. Of course the difference here is you actually did it, 400 pounds, wow. Of course you still need a couple of tall Yucca rostrata…

    • paridevita says:

      I know, big yuccas. When we moved into the house there was a pry bar in the garage, and that’s been very useful over the years.
      I could just park the car on the street, leave the yuccas on the driveway, and pile gravel around the bases, a la George Schenk.
      But I have managed to move troughs all by my lonesome, and they weigh hundreds of pounds when planted.

  6. Pam says:

    This is hilarious! Thanks for the laugh over my coffee this morning. –By the way, most exercise guides for caloric accounting, do list gardening in the “light” category which is like 150 calories per hour. Hmm…

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