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Baby Yewie


Baby Yewie in its old home

Confession time: I am a notoriously bad gardener. I start out with a bang, all pure enthusiasm as I’m digging in the cool, damp earth and picking out plants from our local nursery. But as weeds continually defy my efforts, and the brutal heat of summer sun scorches and withers my tender babies, I lose interest. I lose hope.

Let’s be honest. I get lazy.

But this year, I’ve been handed a sacred baton. A special gardening project that I will not, must not, allow to fail. We’re talking family heritage here.

Once-upon-one-of-my-mother’s-birthdays—can’t tell you which one—her only sister, my Aunt Charlotte, gave her a Taxus Yew. My mom had wanted a tree for the front yard of my childhood home, one she could decorate for the holidays, but that wouldn’t get so big as to overwhelm our tiny, one-story home. The family lore varies as to who’s telling the story, but I believe my aunt and my mother planted that tree together, one early spring, when I was just a kid.





The tree couldn’t have been more than three or four feet tall when my aunt and mother planted it, I’m sure. But by 1985, it had reached Christmas tree size, when my brother and his wife took over the family home. A favorite photo spot, my nephew Ryan’s first day of school was memorialized in September of ’85 standing in front of Mom’s Taxus Yew.



Now both my parents are gone, but Paul and Terri still live in the tiny stone house I grew up in. They have taken such pains to revive, restore, and preserve the home. But special credit goes to them for struggling to preserve Mom’s Taxus Yew.

Tree_1993-12Unfortunately, time conquers a lot more than we’d like. This picture of Mom’s tree in 1993 shows how the deep snows, perhaps aided by the voracious appetites of deer, were taking their toll. Sadly, about five years ago, my brother was forced to cut it down.

But there was hope. Before its demise, the tree managed to drop two seedlings at its feet. Diligently, all these years, Terri nurtured them. Research tells me the Taxus Yew is poisonous to both animals and man, but someone didn’t notify the deer, who continued to nibble on the seedlings. This spring only one remained.


Baby Yewie at Claire’s home

Earlier this month, fearing for the last little baby tree’s life, Terri insisted I take it home. On a rainy day when the soil was soft, together we lifted the delicate ball of roots into a pot. And Baby Yewie made the trip from Middletown, N.Y. to Webster, MA.

Oh, boy. Now I have a HUGE responsibility. I hope my mother and aunt are looking down on me when I choose just the right spot, and just the right time, to transplant my little tree. Any seasoned gardeners out there with relative experience, please share your advice!

I need your help. I have a family heirloom to protect.


Claire GemGardening, for author Claire Gem, has always been a challenge. She’s had much more success with indoor plants than outdoor, and prizes a rather large collection of orchids (at last count, she was up to fourteen). When she’s not talking to her orchids, she’s writing spicy, contemporary romance with a paranormal twist—she’s an amateur ghost hunter, and loves writing about spooky and haunted places. You can learn more about her at http://www.clairegem.com