The term "gift plant" usually brings to mind (at least for me) potted hydrangeas with oversized blossoms, or tiny, tender azaleas blooming in December at a height of eight or ten inches, the kind of plants that generally die the moment they're exposed to actual weather (at least in this part of the world). But the month of April has brought another kind of gift plant, some in large numbers.
Given that West Virginia was once part of the Great Eastern Forest, it should be no surprise that forest plants are showing up in droves in the unmown parts of our back yard (and since most of the grass growing in the unwatered yellow clay in the limited sunny areas of our back quarter-acre is pretty scraggly and tops out at four to six inches, mowing doesn't happen very often). Given my general laziness and overall fondness for trees, it also comes as no surprise that I am delighted to see our yard growing its own privacy screen and bird habitat. Some things will be encouraged to join the Great Compost Pile of the Plant Hereafter (we do not need a hundred wild cherry trees) and eventually improve the yellow clay subsoil that was left exposed when our neighborhood was created; others, however, will be encouraged to grow, preferably quickly.
Most civilized folk are not overly fond of sweet gum trees, given their penchant for littering the universe with multitudes of prickly gumballs. Still, their fall color is almost unbeatable, so I didn't object when the tree across the street gifted us with a healthy seedling, grown to a three-foot height in our shady compost area. We just so happened to have a bare spot at the edge of the backyard slope, where a sweet gum can receive several hours of sun and drop its gumballs into the dip where the oak trees leave their leaves every fall. Prickle problem solved.