I always keep back a few trees every year. As soon as the last bare-rooted tree leaves for a customer, these trees too are packed exactly as if going in the mail. They do not see the light of day, and are completely untouched and undisturbed the whole time it takes for the last customer to receive their order.
Why? To show that I have skin in the game — I call these my ’skin-in-the-game trees’.
Last year there were delays with Australia Post with deliveries into Victoria specifically, but this year was even worse. For two ladies in Melbourne suburbs it took — I kid you not — weeks for their trees to arrive. One took 28 days and the other took 31! (The third worst was 20 days, also to suburban Melbourne.) Yet other orders to the same general areas, posted the same day here, were arriving in about ten days. Why these two with such bad luck?
Stressful times indeed, not helped with tracking showing these trees apparently not going anywhere. One order was stuck in a suburban depot for weeks, just kilometres from one lady. The other was apparently in Sydney for three (!) weeks, then in Melbourne for another week.
Today is the 19th of October 2021. Please, if you’re relying on online shopping for Christmas 2021, for anything, do seriously get this done now as the backlog and delivery times may only get worse. I’m currently in the process of organising more reliable alternatives to Australia Post so this never happens again.
Now jujube trees are tough, but even I was having concerns. Especially as I had copped so many delays at my end as well, and trees were already leaving two weeks later than usual, which I didn’t like at all. But at least I could sneak a peak at the skin-in-the-game trees here, see positive signs, and offer some genuine hope that their trees would survive.
The final ending is still unfolding. Each lady ordered two trees each, and both orders had arrived by end of September. At time of writing, each has one tree very much in the clear. And each has their other tree showing very encouraging signs that it will pull through too. We’ll know for sure in another week I reckon.
Both ladies know that I stand by my trees, and I have offered either a refund or replacement tree next year, whichever their preference, should it come to that.
Now, we are easily a full month ahead of Melbourne here in Wollongong climate-wise. Trees break dormancy earlier, flower earlier, and so on. This was especially evident when viewing the photos these ladies have sent just today and yesterday. My skin-in-the-game trees were potted up the day after the last lady received hers, and it is incredible how more quickly the ones here have responded compared to theirs.
I had snuck a peak at the skin-in-the-game trees when the ladies’ trees were about a week overdue, and they looked good at the time. They had the tell-tale red flush along their trunks that signify their awakening, and some were also budding. Now for most bare-rooted trees this is not good, but for jujubes, meh! Like I said, these trees are tough. But wow, was this being pushed to the limit this year…
So I closed the box and didn’t look at them again until 1st October, the day after the last delivery. I must admit it was a bit of a shock when I did — those buds had developed into shoots, but of a very sickly yellow colour — the colour you’d be too, having been stuck in a cool, dark box for a month.
The Li and Suimen were the most advanced in growth, and looked the worst:
The Chico wasn’t too happy either, but did have a faint tinge of healthier green not too obvious in this photo, but it is there:
The Si-Hong was the greenest of all, though still not the best:
These yellow leaves are not normal. A jujube shoot looks more like this:
and that was the colour I had seen that one time I checked on the skin-in-the-game trees.
But remember that these trees had been bare-rooted all this time (though the roots were kept cool and moist the whole time). Now, however, they were well out of dormancy and leafing up. This leaf growth was being fuelled solely by all the carbohydrates and other nutrients that had been laid down in the (big, strong) roots and trunk during the growth season and just prior to leaf fall during induction (the first stage of winter dormancy).
These shoots were growing, but in the absence of light there was no photosynthesis to replace the food reserves fuelling that growth. The trees couldn’t just stop growing now — once dormancy is broken it cannot be reversed until the winter signals come back — but without photosynthesis to fuel growth, a tree must draw on other reserves, like its new shoots. Those shoots were fading as the green chlorophyll pigments were broken down for the magnesium they contained, needed for the production of the energy molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The nitrogen and other nutrients in the leaves were also drawn out and repurposed elsewhere.
I keep saying this, but these trees really are tough — I heard of a fellow who left a bunch in a pile of wood shavings all season, and they flowered, fruited, and lived to tell the tale! — but toughness can only go so far. All three groups of trees needed sunlight, and soon. So as soon as I knew that the last lady to receive hers had planted them, I planted mine the very next day, on Friday, 1st October 2021 to be as consistent with them as possible.
Photosynthesis needs two things to get started: sunlight and water, and I did what I advised the ladies to do — placed them in full sun and gave them a really good drink, followed by a good watering every day or two depending on drainage and the weather. There was nothing more to do but wait.
Here are before and after shots of each tree. The before shots were taken on Friday, 1st October 2021, and the after shots were taken this morning, Tuesday, 19th October 2021. They are completely unrecognisable, and in a good way!
From the photos I’ve seen of the two ladies’ trees which are well in the clear, they are about two weeks behind in development compared to these above. Of the two other trees, if they come good, they’ll be about four weeks behind in development. This would fit with the difference in climate, and hopefully this account will have a very happy ending for all.
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Comment from: Member
A truly inspiring, extremely well argued and well illustrated article on the toughness of these very special trees.
Looking forward to the fruiting photos of these same trees.