I Talk To The Trees

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gnat hatThere are some heavy duty conversations going on in my garden right now.

The trouble is, they could land me in psychiatric evaluation should anyone realize that the person or persons to whom I am speaking, flattering, soothing, cajoling, admonishing, and generally sweet-talking are green, sometimes woody, and without exception physically unable to answer me.

We talk about many things, my plant friends and I. Politics, religion, unreasonable search and seizure, European gas prices – things that might not necessarily occur to one to discuss with a plant. But why not? In these conversations I am always right and there are never any awkward pauses while everyone watches me extract my foot from my mouth.

I have finished arguments with my husband out in my little kingdom, secure in the knowledge that I cannot be answered back by a mouthy hydrangea intent on pushing my buttons. (Although I find it far more satisfying to pair that particular pleasure with the carefree brutality of pulling weeds particularly the tough ones who think they know everything.) I have chatted over things I need to work out in my head – and a few I need to work out in the heads of others. In short, it’s a therapy patch, without the steep price tag and need for a babysitter.

Someone's getting a lecture

By the look on my face, someone's getting a lecture

Most of the time however the conversations are – quite wonderfully – very dull indeed. Extended salutations such as “Haven’t seen you in awhile, you’re looking well – oh look you’ve had a baby” frequently abound, and usually end with the usual, “We really must get together more often etc..etc…” I give them gentle ribbings about places in which they’ve chosen to put down roots or chastise the flagrant promiscuity of loose self-seeders for whose offspring I must now find adoptive homes. But the discussions can also grow serious. Just last week I had to sternly counsel a depressed caryopteris that had seeded himself under the deck and away from the world, and if you had been present for the tongue-lashing I gave four dead arborvitae at the end of the autumn last year, you might have sincerely feared for my sanity.

I stop short of singing to my garden (though I know it’s commonly done). Yet had I an acre and no chance of eavesdropping neighbors, who knows what Handel arias might float through the air and regale the snap peas with tales of romance and intrigue in the key of D. Had I two acres, they might even hear some Jason Mraz or a little James Taylor on a wet afternoon. I’m sure they would relish it either way – because, you see, I think they benefit from the attention.

headphones-graphicYELTwo years ago, the Royal Horticultural Society conducted an experiment to determine if people like me are completely mad, or actually onto something; comparing growth patterns between plants that were completely ignored and those who were read to from various bits and pieces of literature. In fact, the study went even further by hurling abuse at some poor tomato plant that never did anybody any harm and found himself on the wrong end of a grumpy researcher with a license to vent.

The result? Plants that were read to by a female voice had the edge in the growth sweepstakes – by as much as two inches. And ironically, the bit of literature used in the experiment was Darwin’s On The Origin of The Species.

Well, what else would you read to a growing tomato bent on world domination, besides, of course, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War? It’s a jungle out there, Keats’ Ode To A Grecian Urn is just not going to cut it.

By | 2018-02-20T20:41:33+00:00 April 23rd, 2011|

About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.


  1. JAMES M. BLASS April 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm - Reply


    as told by Bob Wetzel  

    I was visiting my in-laws in a small town in Michigan. As one evening of beer and conversation was drawing to a close, we, my father-in-law and his oldest son had discussed most all the subjects of interest to us all when my brother-in-law Ken started speaking about his talking tree. His father then said to me, “That boy just keeps on talking all the time. I think he just likes to hear himself.”  The upshot of this exchange was an invitation from Ken to go out to his spread in the woods and experience his talking tree.  
    Ken and I went out to our cars and argued a bit about how we would travel to his cabin in the woods. It was a six mile drive north of town. We finally decided to drive separately so we would have freedom of decision and movement. I followed Ken up the highway and into his property of oaks and pine.  
    We sat on his porch and cracked a couple from a six-pack and Ken began explaining to me how he had conversations with the tree just off the corner of the cabin. He asked if I could hear the tree. He insisted I approach the tree, wrap my arms around it, listening closely. I did all that, but, sadly I heard nothing.
    Because we were enjoying this grand summer night in the woods of Michigan and both had a taste for the brew the conversation went on until the wee hours. No matter how convincingly Ken would argue that he spoke with and had a dialogue with the tree I couldn’t hear it. The tree may have heard me, but couldn’t respond in my frequency band. I don’t know.
    It was an interesting and relaxing evening and night.
    Ken died last year. Some time over the winter a wind storm broke one trunk of the talking tree and the other had to be cut down because the interior was rotten. Maybe the tree was complaining of its sickness and Ken heard that. The property was sold and is no longer in the family.  
    My wife, Ken’s sister, and I decided to plant a tree on our lot and we named it Ken after her brother and in honor of his love of the woods and his talking trees.
    Note: I have pictures but, couldn’t attach them.
    J M B  

  2. The Sage Butterfly April 24, 2011 at 9:28 am - Reply

    I have heard that talking to your plants encourages their growth, but I have always talked to them, and any wildlife that stops by, because I was out there with them. I am sure people must think I am nuts, but when I am gardening they are my family. 🙂

  3. Donna April 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    what a refreshing read…I can completely understand what you are doing as I do it too and you know you are not mad…all the rest who cannot understand are the ones who are mad…I cannot wait to drop by your blog more often..so glad I found you!!

  4. Talking to plants or talking on a cell — who knows these days. 🙂

    I do it too, but if I’m out there for a while I’ll usually end up being as quiet as possible, especially if the neighborhood is quiet. I enjoy just listening to the garden at those times.

  5. Hanni April 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Cute post…I talk to my garden sometimes too…
    I do remember a particularly trying time when we were moving to a new home that I assured all the garden plants that I was transplanting not to worry, that I wouldn’t leave them all there to suffer. 🙂

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