As you might recall, I had the rental house next door all spiffed up with the crappy old lawn chopped up, turned over, plastered with cardboard, and topped off with six inches of compost, and it was supposed to be ready by spring, when I could reseed an eco-lawn on one side and put in a tree on the other. It took me a while to decide on a tree and then when I decided on it, it turned out to be hard to find.

The Autumn Brilliance serviceberry tree is spectacular. It’s supposed to self-slather with birds. It makes delicious berries that are reputed to taste like blueberries if you can get to them before the birds do. It turns brilliant orange in the autumn. It’s just what I want in a tree. Almost, even, native. Close enough.

I couldn’t find one in our usual nurseries, at least not yet, and no one could promise me they were going to order any. I could buy one online. The best I could find was a four-and-a-half foot tree for a not-insignificant wad of cash. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting too old, but I’m not in the mood to wait for a tree to grow up. I was willing to pay for one with a little more experience in it. I want to see those birds enjoying themselves soon, and I’m sure Anna, who lives there, wants to also.

Even online, though, there wasn’t much choice. One outfit offered a serviceberry for $25. In a four-inch pot, like a dang primrose. They had a comment section on the website and one person wrote effusively that she had never seen a plant that well-prepared for shipping. Her tree arrived in fabulous condition and she planted it right away, and the next day a bunny-rabbit ate it.

I don’t want to plant a tree I’m likely to weed by accident.

So finally I found a somewhat distant nursery right here that had four big serviceberries all ready to go! Dave and I went out to check and they were just wonderful, over ten feet tall, multi-trunked and beautifully branched! Problem. They do deliver, but delivery cost even more than the tree. We don’t have a pickup truck anymore. We do have friends.

Mike has a pickup truck and serious skills. He tackles a project after searching inside his massive brain for every possible potential setback and contingency. When he arrived with our tree, it was carefully and completely wrapped in plastic wrap like Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes. It had been expertly blocked in the pickup bed and tied down and it wasn’t missing even a leaf bud when it showed up. This is the same man who took down our oak tree using ropes and hand saws and probably a pulley system he rigged up with St. Peter and didn’t so much as snap a single twig in the garden. Our new tree was Perfect.

The contingency Mike did not count on, and probably had no frame of reference for imagining, was me.

I set to work moving soil around and trying to level out the ground for the tree. The bed had subsided quite a bit since I piled it high with cardboard and compost but it still needed to come down a bit. The cardboard was gone! The cardboard had apparently completely turned into earthworms the size of garden hoses, because that was what was there instead! It was a miracle! I dug my hole. I got my hand truck. I had taken the plastic off the tree, probably out of concern it would fry in the sun. We had sun that day and I’m not used to it and don’t trust it. So I went to move my unwrapped tree and I got it into the hole. There was one particular secondary limb on it that was in a simply artful position. Graceful. A thing of beauty, it was!

Snapped that one right the hell off, I did.

Don’t anyone tell Mike.