BENIGN NEGLECT of plants has never worked for me, although it seems to be workable for the absent owners of our town's vacant houses. I walk past these empty residences and notice bushes thriving and lawns as green as mine. Yet I never see anyone providing care. No one waters or fertilizes at these places, yet it doesn't seem to matter. At my house, it would matter; the plants would die.
Just down from the Post Office there is a delapidated trailer, the roof caved in, the siding peeling away, the insulation exposed. In the nine years I've lived here, no one has ever shown up to maintain this ugly carcass yet, inexplicably, near the front door, a gangly rose bush blooms every summer. Under my care, however, every rose bush I've tried to nurture has died save one which I am presently attempting to coax back to life.
There are many fruit trees, mostly apple, growing unattended on these vacant parcels. Each year thousands of ignored pomes fall to the ground and rot, their intoxicating aroma filling the air. In my tiny 4-tree mini-orchard, three of the four trees failed to even leaf out two years ago, despite my watering and fertilizing. I eventually noticed new growth rising from around the tree bases and cut down the main, bare 6-year old trees, watching now as 4 or 5 new main stems grow up as replacements. Time (irrespective of what I do) will tell.
Indiginous plants here have accustomed themselves to our dry conditions and thrive without regular rainfall. I know when I bring in a new plant, I am taking a chance in this preposterously deficient soil. I use additives and cross my fingers. Some make it; some don't. I keep trying, most recently with the tiny baby trees I got in the mail from Arbor Day Foundation. Several look great; several seem unexcited about their new location; several aren't making it at all. Presently, First Place is shared by one Washington hawthorne, one redbud, and one golden raintree. The next challenge will be to mother hen them through the coming winter. I have hope but, as Jean Kerr once said, "hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent."