Posted on 35 Comments

My Pandemic Tree

On March 16, 2020, the governor of our state issued orders to help curb the Corona-19 virus. In compliance with those orders and in the interest of the well-being of our staff and customers, I closed the brick and mortar portion of our business and went strictly to online sales. This was also two months to the day since my husband passed away.

I took a walk around my yard that day, noticing the signs of the rebirth of spring. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The hellebores were in full bloom, daffodil buds were beginning to open, and it was a good time to reflect on what was going on around me.






As I was walking up the steps to my kitchen door, a plant, right under the bay window and near the bird feeder, caught the corner of my eye. It looked like a large weed. I went back down the steps prepared to pull it up and stopped myself. If it was a weed, it was a rather more important weed. The stem was quite strong and the leaves quite large. It was about 10 inches high. We feed the birds shelled sunflower seeds and I wondered if one of those seeds had sprouted. I decided not to pull it up and see what would happen.


Young tree


The plant proceeded to grow at least a foot every three weeks. By mid-June it was four feet tall.  I still thought it might be a sunflower and what a nice treat that would be for the birds once it flowered. Also, about that same time, I spotted this newly born fawn camouflaged amongst my pachysandra. I sent the photo to my grandchildren and my daughter wrote back “It won’t be so cute when it is big enough to start eating your perennials.”



On July 16, exactly four months from when I first saw the plant, it was now taller than me and halfway up my bay window. I now determined for sure that it was definitely not a sunflower. I made up my mind that it had to be Jack’s Bean Stalk, reaching up to the clouds.



Also, the fawn was now definitely big enough to enjoy my plants.



By August 16th the “bean stalk” was almost up to the gutters and the leaves were so huge some of them were as much as 25” across.



I decided to get serious and see what on earth it was. I followed my granddaughter’s advice. “Just ask Google. Google knows everything.” And sure enough, according to Wikipedia:

“Paulownia tomentosa, common names princess tree, empress tree, or foxglove-tree, is a deciduous tree in the family Paulowniaceae, native to central and western China. Wikipedia”.

The tree been used for centuries for medicinal, ornamental and timber uses. It was imported to Europe in the mid 1800’s and shortly thereafter introduced to the Eastern United States.

In April or May the tree sends out beautiful purple foxglove-like fragrant flowers.

I did a little sleuthing and discovered that a neighboring farm has for years been planting the trees as a crop. I guess one of the birds at my feeder also visited the farm and brought a seed to plant in my garden.

By September 16, it was reaching towards the chimney and by October 16 it was literally at the chimney.



Now, the middle of November, my pandemic tree is rather sad looking, having dropped all its leaves. It is as though it is crying for all those lost in this “lost year.”

Paulownia Pandemic tree will be moving soon to a location where the fast-growing roots won’t destroy the foundation of our house and where it will have plenty of room to grow to its eventual height of 50-70 feet.



As I watch it go into its dormancy stage, it brings me hope that this “lost year” will be in the past and that when my tree awakens in the early spring, the world will also begin a rebirth and that we will get our lives back to some kind of normalcy in 2021.

35 thoughts on “My Pandemic Tree

  1. What a sweet story. Thank you for sharing. Happy holidays and hopeful rebirth in 2021.

  2. I’m so glad you decided to not pull the “weed”. It’s beautiful and full of memories. Thanks for all the pictures. Please keep us updated on the progress of this tree. Also love the pictures of the fawn. I see the tree and fawn as hope for the future.

  3. Thank you for such an inspirational email!!! Happy Thanksgiving!! Please stay safe!! You continue to inspire and motivate me in many ways!!! I am very grateful!!

  4. What an amazing story…..thanks for sharing! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours….this has been a year with a lot of changes and challenges for all of us, and even more so for you. Take care, and keep looking forward.

  5. How moving and poetic, thank you, Jinny, for sharing your story with us.

  6. Thank you for the beautiful image for hope ❤️. May your Thanksgiving be blessed !

  7. What a precious gift you have shared with all of us. So sorry for the loss of your husband; a difficult year indeed. But you see the world with thankful eyes. Thank you for sharing that vision, and for your beautiful quilts.

  8. Pawlonia’s have a bad habit of coming up right next to foundations. It is a very good idea to move it out although it is a little big to move well. They are very messy, so plant it well away from anything.
    Next year is bound to be better!

    1. that tree needs to be moved it is a huge tree, also these trees are almost indestructable, the root that was left behind will grow another tree and you do not want it that close to the house.

  9. A beautiful post. So sorry for you loss always seems to be such an inadequate phrase, but I hope the pain lessens over time. Thank you for bringing so much beauty into this time and for all the beauty you’ve given quilters for so many years. Beauty can evoke joy. Happy Holidays!

  10. What a lovely post for thanksgiving. A great reminder to find joy wherever we can.

  11. What a hopeful sign, when we really need one! Thank you so much for sharing. While this year has been something we’d like to forget, our memories of the good parts will hold. I’m so sorry about the loss of your dear husband and am also sad about the closure of your shop, which was always a lovely place to come and share our love of quilting with you and your staff. Life moves on, but sometimes it’s not my favorite part. Please be safe.

  12. In my heart it might be a tree but it could be how your husband can watch over you. He is very busy helping so many people but doesn’t want to lose sight of you. Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. Stay safe, next year will be better.

  13. Jinny, I know it has been a difficult year. My heart goes out to you. It was 6 years for me on Sunday.

  14. I am sorry to hear of your husbands passing. Such a troubled year. Great story about life around you. Take care, be safe, give thanks.

  15. Thank you for a beautiful message. Just lovely photos that make you believe in wonderful tomorrows. We have lost loved ones this year also and it is so nice to remember them and think of positives. I love your fabrics and color choices always bring a smile and warmth.
    I took a class from you many, many years ago on borders and clothing and remember it fondly.
    Thank you. Donna J. Hendricks

  16. Jinny, I was sorry to hear of your loss. On Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for your inspired design talents, your creativity and especially for your willingness to share your insights with others! My mom is in hospice in a nursing home with limited visitation unless I’m working there. Thank you so much for the joy you bring!

  17. Thank you for the lovely Thanksgiving Day story. The photos and text both lifted my spirit.

  18. What a beautiful photo story. It should be published as a book. Thank you for sharing it.

  19. Thank you for sharing about your tree. It is beautiful even in it’s winter state. The little fawn reminds me that spring will again return. Please accept my condolences for your husband. I’m sure it’s difficult. Thank you again for sharing. Your flowers will be blooming again before you know it. 🌻🥀

    1. Thank you for your lovely message of hope.This has been a year we have needed every drop of hope. I am so sorry your husband passed away. I lost my husband suddenly six months before COVID. I appreciate where you are. I am thankful to God for the marriage I had. Thanks you for your positive message and beautiful quilts.

  20. What a wonderful ‘mystery’ your tree provided you, this year, in your beautiful garden.
    I hope it transplants well and I look forward to a future post when it flowers. I planted some foxgloves this year, which should flower next year, to repopulate a bed that had to be destroyed in order to replace the fence. Gardens can provide such solace.

  21. Quite a detective you are! Sending you love during this difficult year.

  22. Words to live by. 2020 will be remembered for all the illness, strife, and unrest. 2020 brought out a little good in all of us. Let that take root and live like your little (not so little) tree. Thank you for this story.

  23. Thank you for sharing the story of the tree and the beautiful words at the end. It has indeed been a tumulus year for all of us but our beautiful earth will recover and the cycle of life will go on.

  24. Dear Jinny,
    Thank you for your tree story and for the beautiful pictures that came with it. Such a joy! keep us posted. Clara Sue

  25. There is a Chinese (I think) tradition to plant a polownia trees on the birth of your children. We bought a house which had three in the front garden. They are lovely shade trees in Summer and the first sign of spring for us (in Australia) was the flowers appearing on these three trees.

  26. A beautiful story, and a beautiful symbolism of some of the blessings as well as the trials of this year especially, and life in general. May peace surround you this season and I thank you for the joy your fabrics patterns hand quilting tutorials and inspiration have continued to provide me.

  27. I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband, Jinny. I remember him and all your family fondly. I hope that you’ll find comfort with your grandchildren this season despite the pandemic.
    In the meantime, I’m glad to see you’re still travelling and designing fabrics and patterns. I would love to take another trip with you one day. Perhaps I can take your garden tour and see the tree one day.

  28. The fawn, the tree, hope for the future! Thanks for sharing!

  29. So sorry to read about your husband, Jinny. Big hugs.
    What a lovely post this is. The garden is delightful. Take care.

  30. I have one of those trees. I got it from my father who “found” it in his flower beds… the first year he got a leaf from it that was almost 3 feet in diameter…i cast it in concrete.. then he decided to get rid of it. He has cut his tree down, poured car grease on it..dug it out several times… transplanted it to my house.. and he STILL has one growing like crazy… you cant get rid of them and they grow and thrive like nothing i’ve ever seen… enjoy your plant (as i do) will be with you forever lol..sincerely, fellow owner of a jack and the beanstalk plant.

  31. Hi Jinny. Greetings from NZ. Just found your website and read this story. The saddest part was learning that John has died. So sorry to hear that. Blair and I have many happy memories of our stay with you and your visit to NZ. You continue to be an innovator and an inspiration to quilters. Hopefully 2021 will be a whole lot better than 2020 in many ways. New Zealand has been fortunate that we are in a bubble down here at the bottom of the world with very few people losing their lives but very many impacted by the economic impact of a closed border and job losses. All the best to you and your family. Your books and fabrics are still my favourites.
    Xx Kathie and Blair Furlong, New Zealand.

  32. I just read this beautiful story – – How fun to watch this grow – – I’m sure my barn animals would enjoy munching on that daily – – thanks for sharing

  33. Hi Jinny,
    This is a nice story. Unfortunately, this plant really is a weed. It is on the Virginia Invasive Plant list.

    It is listed as a medium threat. Being invasive means that it can spread really easily and take over native landscapes. You see how easily it spread to your house! And how fast it grew.

Comments are closed.