A Christmas Shrub?

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Did you really need a tree? A story of giving the children what they want.

   My son has left us to spend Christmas with his family in Mexico. My parents and my brother’s family had a Christmas dinner last week. That leaves my wife, my two daughters, and I to have a Christmas here. This has been a strange season. My wife and I have both been working, and we have had several family birthdays, which has left us with little time to decorate. My wife enjoys have the tree up early, while I see the tree as a gift for Christmas eve. We compromise by obtaining our tree on the third advent most years, but this year we did not. Yesterday, I took the girls to find a tree. My wife was thinking of something really small, but I was going to leave it up to the girls. I was surprised by their choice.
    We enter the garden center, heading towards the trees. Katya stops in front of a few smaller plants. She looks, and she becomes determined that there is one certain “tree” that she wanted. This was no tree; it is a golden oriental arborvitae, which stands about two feet tall. This shrub only reaches about two and half feet high, so this tree most certainly fits my wife’s desire for small. Although, I do not think that is what she meant. I look at the choices, to suggest a larger specimen, or something different. No was her reply; this is the one. I attempt to appeal to my younger daughter, Sakura. Is this what you want?  I am not sure if she understood, but she heartily agrees. I glance over at the trees saying but, but, but no. My Katya has made her decision.
    We bring the tree home. I set it down on a cabinet, wrapping the base in a sheet of plastic to catch the water. I then surround the base with the skirt for our Christmas trees. They want to begin decorating; however, I knew that my wife prefers to be the one decorating with the children. I let Katya place an angel on the tree though. This leads the girls to break out in songs of Christmas joy. Mostly of their own creations, so I am hailed with a Hanna Montana Christmas (we do not watch the show, so where did that come from?), the Shake It, Shake It Christmas, and others. Lines of other Christmas songs enter these endeavors, and I notice that they replace the word “snowy” with “foggy” (life in Houston, I guess, or maybe this substitution comes from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer).  I proceed to prepare dinner after the performance (they did have me sing a few songs in German for them).
    During my preparation, I realized that I had a perfect vegetable dish for the holiday: swiss chard. I had harvested some chard, and I thought how perfect the bright red of the stems and deep green of the leaves were in the pan. Here is a good way to prepare chard: sautee onions in a little oil, until they brown. I then added caraway seeds, a little salt, and a little pepper. Caraway is not always popular with everyone, but I love this flavor. Cumin seeds may be a good substitute. I added a small pat of butter. Once the butter melted, I added the chopped chard and parsley to the pan. The leaves wilted when they had cooked through. I sprinkled the yellow flowers from the broccoli raab over this dish. 

   My wife prefers rice, but I think that I will make a potato dish with the chard for tonight. Roasted potatoes in a vinegarette. I have really thick lamb chops, but I am thinking of the chard as the star of the meal. I will brown the chops, and let them finish in the oven. I make a pesto with rosemary, parsley, garlic, and almonds (blended in olive oil), where a little pesto goes onto the chops as they finish cooking on the oven. Except for the almonds, I only have to go to the garden for the pesto ingredients. Maybe I should begin to grow a pecan tree, justified for the pesto. The pecan tree is the official tree of the state of Texas. I will try to convince the wife on that one.
   After the new year, I will plant this arborvitae near the girl’s teahouse. This shrub does not seem a great choice for Texas. It desires moist ground, which we do not have with this new drought. The shrub also wants only about four hours of sun each day (the tea house is in a shady spot). I think this will be a special plant for Katya. I wonder what will be the choice for next year’s Christmas.  Whatever the choice, the memories of joy as the tree, or shrub, go up will be what I cherish.

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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