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The Lorax Lesson

The Lorax

Image via Wikipedia

One of the joys of parenthood is indoctrinating your child in your views, molding their impressionable minds into clones of yourself and your thinking.  Launching them upon society, a parent hopes that one day those seeds will bring forth an adult as completely entrenched in their visions as they are, which, of course, is The Only Good and Just Way. 

 If you’re a gardener it means saving the world, one seed at a time.  So it was with purpose that I read to my toddling son books and tales of controversy, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Good Night, Moon.  Deliberately, I selected material to foster in him environmental awareness, rabid tree-hugging, and rampant dirt worshipping.  It meant, of course, that I read him The Lorax.

 The Dr. Seuss classic, published in 1971 and now a major motion picture, is, according to some critics, a left-wing Hollywood conspiracy, a pinko-commie plot to indoctrinate children into being anti-industry and pro-trees.  Cue the outraged gasps. 

 What’s surprising is that anyone would assume the movie would have a different message than the book, which is a lesson in the effects of deforestation, human-centric consumptionism, and the dangers of a throw-away society.  What shouldn’t surprise others is that many gardeners will flock to see it.

 Growing up in our house, my son saw parallels between the book and real life every day, so the message doesn’t frighten him.  If you’ve read it, you know it’s a tale of a furry, mustachioed creature that “speaks for the trees,” something I do regularly by shouting at television ads and whispering warnings to shoppers in stores.  

 When the Lorax appears, he’s mistaken for a tree since he’s wearing foliage on his head.  Nothing new about that in our house, either; it’s a source of pride to see my son pluck a seed from me and joke “you’ve got hollyhocks in your hair again.”

 Saving trees is a message we get behind in our house, and I confess that the moment the Once-ler gave the boy-hero the last Truffula tree seed, encouraging him to plant it in the middle of town for all to enjoy, I nodded, because a gardener would plant over everything if given the chance.

 For me, that’s the message – go out and plant a tree, and the best time to do so is now.  Choose the site carefully for exposure and room for the tree to grow where it won’t rub against houses or power lines.

Measure the height of the root ball to determine depth of planting hole, which should be one to two- inches shorter than the root ball.  Dig a saucer-shaped planting hole, three-times the root ball width.  Straight sides limit root expansion, so slope the sides of the hole. 

Prevent sinking of the tree by firmly tamping down the bottom of the hole.  Remove the tree from container, clip any girdling roots, score the root ball, then set tree in place so that the knees of the root ball – where the ball begins curving in toward the top – are an inch higher than the soil line.

Pack soil around the lower third of the root ball, to help stabilize it, then backfill the rest of the hole, leaving soil loose.  Add water to firm the soil around the root ball, then backfill again.  Water the planting area and mulch the tree.

With car chases, a granny with attitude, and corny musical numbers, I worried that the message would be lost.  But in the closing scene, as tiny, new Truffula seedlings were tended by the contrite Once-ler, a little boy in the row in front of me said “I want some of those.”   And I thought, yes you do, and so do we all.

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