Trial and Error

Posted on: August 20, 2019

By Ronda Roemmelt Sneider, Ruppert Nurseries

Legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said, ‘When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it and don’t repeat it.” I sure have made a bunch of mistakes in my lifetime; too many in fact to count. I’ve even made some mistakes repeatedly. Another famous quote by none other than Albert Einstein suggests, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. I should tattoo that somewhere I can easily reference it when I’m contemplating one more (ill advised) bite of desert or after dinner drink. Neither ever produces any good results And yet… somehow I never learn.

As I write this month’s blog offering, I am sitting on a deck chair at my rental beach house in Plymouth, MA. I am staring at Plymouth Harbor. Our house is directly across the water from the one and only Plymouth Rock. (Otherwise known as the most anti-climactic American landmark of all time. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, however runs a close second.) None of this historical smack talk however, is germane to my point. I’m just setting the scene. As I stare at the water, I am also admiring the Rugosa roses surrounding our home on both sides. So low growing, long blooming and tidy, covered in lovely hips. I wish I could recreate this look in my Maryland landscape.


Oh, wait… I did. Our home in Annapolis is contemporary and looks like it could be a beach home if set elsewhere. I have made every attempt to evoke a coastal feel with both the décor and the landscaping at our home. I planted Rosa rugosa and Pinus mugho at my front door to make my guests feel like they have arrived at the beach. Only trouble here is that while our house is water adjacent, we are not waterfront and do not have sustained ocean winds that serve to keep our Rugosa roses low growing and tidy. My Rugosas are tall and leggy with no hips to speak of. My husband, a native of coastal Massachusetts warned me not to expect my Rugosas to look like the beach roses of my Pinterest dreams. I would, however, not be deterred by his advice.


Similarly, on the side of our home, I have planted a veritable grove of Hydrangeas. I love in a way I love few other things, the coastal feeling of a mop head Hydrangea   I had visions of armloads of old-fashioned blue, pink and purple blooms. But do you know that Hydrangeas actually HATE the high heat and humidity of Maryland summers? My Hydrangea blooms are short lived and sparse. The leaves on my plants are perennially covered in humidity driven spots. My plants are wilted, practically gasping for relief most summer afternoons. My husband advised me about this choice as well and I again ignored his advice. While there are no Hydrangeas at this rental beach home, I have had plenty of opportunity for Hydrangea envy since we’ve been up here. Trial and Error…. My brain turns endlessly with thoughts of what I’ll plant there next.

We have plenty of trials that end in errors at Ruppert Nurseries too. Errors can come in many forms. Too much of a good thing is sometimes not a good thing. Take for example, as few as five years ago, we had nary a Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus diocius) on the farm. In an attempt to react to what we saw as a persistent demand, we jumped into Gymnocladus with two feet. We currently have more Gymnocladus than we can probably ever sell creating a sales challenge we’re determined to conquer so we don’t have to cut them down.

Sometimes though, our courage to try something new backfires. Despite our best efforts to trial a new piece of equipment, try out a new chemical or grow a new product results in error. There are a few that easily come to mind. Take the time we bought a sexy new manure spreader too large and heavy when full of manure to be pulled by any of our tractors. What made this trial more painful was the fact that we painted our new spreader the trademark Ruppert green making it a semi-permanent fixture in our fleet before realizing that it didn’t suit our needs.   Or the time we tried a growth inhibiting chemical to slow the growth on fast growing species. That stuff really works! So well in fact that not only does it slow the growth of trees but it stunts the size of the leaves making the trees odd looking and unsaleable. Trial and error in the name of science. Or, the one time we grew a crop of elms in grow bags which produced nice looking trees with precisely zero healthy roots. We learned some things from each of these trials. We will surely never repeat any of them again.

I will return from this vacation soon. Well rested with lots of ideas for how I will alter my landscape. Determined to learn from past mistakes. Now lets’ just hope that these next trials do not become my next errors. Choose your trials carefully friends but do not be so cautious as to not make them at all. Said best by basketball great Michael Jordan, “I’ve failed over and over and that is why I succeed.” Trial, error, lesson learned equals success!


Ronda Roemmelt Sneider, CPH

ISA Certified Arborist MA-5274A

Sales Manager/Mid Atlantic Sales