“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. ~Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928
We bought our current house in Annapolis back in the summer of 2004. My husband and I have always loved our neighborhood, Amberley, long before we were even married. His parents moved here in 1986 and still live here today. During our courtship and early marriage, we’d often talk about how wonderful it would be to live here and raise a family.
So when his parents’ next door neighbor decided he was getting too old to live alone and care for his 1-1/2 story, four bedroom Cape Cod, we jumped on the opportunity to put a contract on it. We got our old house ready in three weeks and put it on the market, and it sold in five days. (Ah, to be in such a real estate market again.) That was a whirlwind time.
Our new home was built in 1958. From what we understand, there have been four other owners before us. Unfortunately, the man we bought the house from didn’t do much in the way of home maintenance. We’ve spent years (and still going strong) updating systems, trimming tree limbs, putting in new gutters and downspouts, a new roof, landscaping.
I love to cook, but the house had a teeny L-shaped kitchen. So we put a new kitchen/great room addition on the back of the house. And most recently, Maddy got a new fenced-in back yard so she can run around to her heart’s content.
One Saturday last summer, we were out on the deck grilling some burgers. I walked around front to get the bug spray (mosquitoes around here are nasty enough to carry away a small dog). I saw a car turn onto our road, driving slowly. Then I noticed the passenger was hanging out her window taking pictures. Wha?
Thinking they were in charge of judging “Worst Lawn in Amberley” I waved. They pulled into our driveway. A man who looked to be in his early 50’s and his wife got out of the car. His name was Mike, and he proceeded to tell us that his parents built this house in 1958, when he was just six months old, and they lived there until he was 13 years old.
One of the things he told us was that his mother planted a beech tree in the front yard and another in the back. He said she was very dedicated to their surviving and thriving, and faithfully watered them regularly.
I have always loved these trees! According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the American Beech is a slow growing tree in the same family as oaks, with one single species native to the U.S. The American Beech can live to at least 350 years. The average maximum height can reach 60 to 70 feet. The diameter of this straight growing tree can become 2 to 3 feet, with a canopy spread of 40 feet.
I felt like Mike’s mom and I were kindred spirits, protectors of the trees. You see, the beech in the back was quite close to where we wanted to put our kitchen addition. Before beginning construction, I had three or four tree guys come in to give me their opinion on whether we could keep the tree or if it wouldn’t survive the disturbance from the construction work.
The last man that came out, an older gentleman who was an arborist from The Care of Trees, said to me, “You cannot take this tree down. People would kill to have such a large, beautiful beech tree in their yard!” That’s all I needed to hear. He suggested roping off an area around the tree so heavy equipment wouldn’t drive over it, which would compact the soil and prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots.
I’m happy to report that our beautiful American Beech is alive and thriving. We had to trim a few of her branches as they were interfering with the chimney draft for the fireplace in the addition. But aside from that, it continues to be a focal point in our back yard.