Trees: Pretty and Delicious

May 23, 2023


Sheila Oliva
As a former corporate communications professional in the energy industry, Sheila helped educate external audiences on the potential and value of current and future technologies for powering our planet. Today, she is a freelance writer and student still exploring how people can live in harmony with the planet we inhabit.

I have known for quite some time that I am not much of a gardener. You might ask – what gave it away? Was it how my previous attempts resulted in only short-lived dedication to planting, pruning, watering and weeding? Perhaps it was the number of dying or wilting plants in my garden and around my house. Or maybe it was the dreading of the heat and mosquitoes that always eventually accompanied any amount of quality gardening work ethic. Most likely it was a combination of all of the above.

But then I discovered TREES! The number of trees native to North Carolina, which boast some of the most exquisite blossoms, is incredible. From dogwoods to peach blossoms, the flowers that can decorate one’s yard in the spring are truly a cornucopia. Nothing is quite like the happiness I get from looking out my window and seeing a wide variety of flowers — in color, shape and smell.

When I first moved into my current home, it had only one tree. It was a beautiful, full peach tree that exploded in the most amazing pink blossoms every spring. I was hooked! Over the years I have slowly added trees, such as the predictable North Carolina trees, like crepe myrtles. However, a small trumpet tree now also graces our front yard, and I smile and giggle like a child whenever I walk by the flaming red of the miniature Japanese maple we planted in our backyard. Each tree brings its own brand of improvement to the look of our yards. Some big, some small. But all have brought the same feeling of satisfaction I used to get during my short periods of successful gardening.

My devotion to trees increased still further when I realized they could be both pretty and delicious. My first experience was when I got talked into buying a miniature lemon tree by one of the workers at the North Carolina State Farmers Market. While it took a couple of years for the tree to bear fruit, the blossoms were beautiful and some of the best-smelling flowers my nose ever had the pleasure of sniffing. It does need a bit of love in the winter — moved closer to the warmth of the house, so it will probably make a pot its home forever — but that is the extent of the “work” one needs to do to reap the benefits of one to two dozen lemons every winter.

That lemon tree began my own personal tree trend. I bought my husband a small olive tree a couple of years ago as a birthday present. It too will spend its life in a pot but has also begun to produce fruit. We got our first beginnings of olives this year and are eager to see how many mature to full olive-eating age.

Then there was the fig tree that my husband got me for my birthday last year (yes, it does seem like trees are becoming a birthday theme). Again, fruit is something that will come in a few years, but the leaves are a cool shape and serve as a nice addition to other trees and bushes in our yard.

I feel I have only begun to explore all that trees have to offer. But I am already convinced that a well-placed tree can deliver for many of your senses: smell, sight and taste. There is the upfront work in planting them, and potted trees may need to be moved or protected from frost a few times a year. But they do not demand daily or weekly maintenance, and with a little patience, they will deliver pretty views and yummy additions to your kitchen.

If you have not tried adding trees to your outside space, I encourage you to. If you are already a tree lover and have any recommendations, please share! I am looking for another tree project and would welcome thoughts on which one to fall in love with next.

NC GreenPower recommends that you plant for the benefit of the environment: Native pollinator trees, native plants, and find a local Master Gardner program for help. If you are in the Triangle area, you should consider a free consultation by Leaf and Limb when looking for tree-related advice.