A large, stately, 75-year-old mulberry tree lives in my garden. Twelve years ago, I planted a rambling rose at its trunk to rise up to levels most roses cannot go. I supported the prickly ramblers so they could climb up the tree’s branches, but over the years it has never produced any flowers. During the time the rose would normally bloom, it was always in the shade of the mulberry’s lush green foliage and abundant berries. I have fond memories of the comical sight of raccoons, squirrels, birds, my children and their friends all climbing the tree’s branches to pluck the luscious red-black fruits. The mulberry was a gathering place for all of us at the beginning of summer.
The last few winters in New England have been more severe than usual, and many of the mulberry tree’s branches are now bare. This spring, it showed signs of dying. Meanwhile, this has been an exceptionally good season for all the roses in my garden. Yet among the dozen or more varieties, the rambling rose has been truly exceptional. For years the rose has quietly climbed the mulberry and this spring it took over the bare branches with hundreds of pearl pink flowers cascading 30 feet above the garden. We enjoyed this incredible display of beauty for more than a month. Family, friends, neighbors, students, clients, bees, insects and birds all gathered to receive this nourishment.
Besides creating space for the rambling rose to grow to its fullness in the sun, the dying mulberry tree has expanded the perimeters of the garden. Its branches used to shade parts of the garden so that it was impossible to grow many light-loving plants. Now the additional sunlight has given me the opportunity to plant dwarf plum trees as well as many other perennials that could not grow there before.
Although this is just another summer in the many seasons of my garden, it feels very significant that the oldest member, the most firmly rooted, is showing signs of letting go.
The bare branches of the mulberry tree now provide the perfect structure for the new growth to come into the light. Although I feel a certain sadness about its passing, as many of you have heard me say, in order to receive nourishment, we need to make space, and making space requires letting go of what is no longer necessary.