A Craftsman isn’t limited to woodworking, likely his talents, or at least wanna be interests, expand into most everything around him, regardless of how much he really knows about it.
It began some time ago in a land not so far away, in fact it was right here in northeast San Antonio. My wife and I fell in love with this beautiful 2-story stucco home with a green tile roof. Actually, we were friends with the builder and were planning to buy one of his homes when he called.

He stated that he wanted to talk to me, and that I should hold off on any home purchase ‘til we got together. Well, that sounded intriguing, so I awaited his call.

Sure enough, in came about two weeks later. He explained that he and his wife were going back to California and he was going to let us have the home we really liked at his cost and carry the paper. Wow, what an incredible blessing.

That was some 24 years ago. Over the following years we worked diligently to make the home, us. You know what that means, paint the colors you like, maybe remodel a little, tile, carpet, etc. But one thing escaped us…..the yard. We were so busy with everything else that we didn’t do much with the yard, other than mow for about ten years.

So, terracing began, then thousands of landscape blocks creating a splendid and elegant environment, 5 patios, 2 terraces, a real beauty, or at least headed that way. But no trees.
We were also blessed with the lot next door, for cost as well. So we had a rather large yard to deal with. Finally, we planted Italian cypress across the back and staggered them with “red rocket” crepe myrtles. We designed and built a gorgeous iron fence with the help of a welder friend who lived across the street. In front of that we planted yellow and white lantana. But there was still something missing, trees.

We didn’t want the usual oak or mesquite tree, rather something unusual for south Texas, but weather tolerant and eye-catching. I searched and searched the internet and found the perfect, I thought, tree, an Empress tree. Stunning indeed, covered with very large leaves, fast growing, about 13 feet per year, and in season the branches turned skyward and a cascade of violet booms draped the points. Wow, what a tree, ordered them right away. The advertisement said they would come 2” to 2’ in height. Naturally we received the 2” variety, so under the grow lights in the kitchen they went, for about 3 months. Finally, they reached about 2 feet tall, so outside in two large pots they went.

Oh my, apparently natural sunlight was what they wanted, I walked outside about two week later and they were nearly three feet tall. Gee I thought, better get these in the ground.

So, one was planted in the corner of the front yard and another in the back. Over the next 5 years we had many compliments and questions about these beautiful trees, then it happened. We began to notice cracks and movement in our retaining walls. Blocks separating, pavement lifting, yep you know what’s coming! By this time they were approaching 60 feet in height.

The nursery neglected to state that the root system on these trees was highly invasive, no kidding! So, they had to come down. I took my trusty electric saw and felled those trees. My wife and I sliced and diced for three days, gave firewood to everyone in the neighborhood and still have some left. But that’s not the end of the story.

These trees don’t like to be cut down! As long as you let them grow, it’s just fine, but cut one down and it’s war.

We had gone out of town to help a sick friend who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just days to live. I returned one weekend to pay bills, walked into the back yard and found I had a hundred trees growing in my back yard! Shock, it’s true, I counted them, then cut and sprayed them, then returned to my friend’s side. I relayed the story to my wife and all in attendance, we were all shocked.

A couple of weeks later I went back home to pay bills again, checked the back yard, just curious, and unbelievable! I counted 142 new trees about 2-3 feet tall. That was two years ago, and rather than bore with a much longer story, I’ll just say, we are down to 3 trees, but I’m going to win.

By the way, I discovered these trees were worth about $10,000.00 each in China. They make shoes out of them. Wish I’d known and exporter.

LESSON ……check with several nursery professionals before you buy any unusual tree, and ask a lot of questions!