Love grows in many splendid ways - a realization that is growing on Hong Kong people anew after a savage, indecent assault on Mother Nature focused them on what's good about life.
We're talking about trees and the special place they have in the minds of an increasing number of people after years as rare outsiders amid the concrete, steel and glass that seemed to be all that was wanted to grow in urban areas.
The refreshing turn for the better on how people view shades of living green has been underlined after the wrenching of heartstrings that came as the extent of last week's mauling of trees by Typhoon Vicente sank in.
The ordeal included three hours with the highest storm signal, No 10, raised for the first time since 1999. A lot has grown on us in the dozen years since, and that's reflected in the anguish felt by residents in many a district as relatively new neighbors planted along previously barren streets were uprooted and toppled or torn by unexpectedly nasty Vicente.
This is quite different from the sense of loss or damage involving century- old banyans, which have been protected and cherished in many a district. They have always been venerated for their spiritual powers as much as their form, and harm to them is always a cause for concern.
What's new is the emptiness noticed and felt by Vicente's felling of more humble species among the many millions of trees that have recently been planted in government programs.
Many stood on streets that for years had not been kissed by a falling leaf unless it was one that drifted down from a potted plant on a balcony. Some were in giant tubs as certain streets just can't have a tree in them because of utility connections. Many were rolled.
The count of trees to suffer in the typhoon has still to be completed. Checks continue on how many fallen can still be saved while work crews saw and chop at obvious goners or trim damaged limbs to provide regrowth chances for others. Losses are going to run into the thousands, however, and the financial cost of putting things right will be in the millions of dollars.
Estimates are that government might need to outlay HK$3.4 million for planting trees to replace the fallen. The cost of righting a mature tree that's down but can be saved is around HK$200, while cutting and hauling away one that's finished can be at least HK$1,500.
Yet sadness faced by residents who have come to appreciate, and therefore expect, natural shade and a burst of birdsong as they walk along a street also offers a sort of consolation - a sign of progress - for conservationists, who until recently could be dismissed as pesky "tree-huggers" as they campaigned for greening of urban areas.
Southern District councillor Lo Kin- hei, viewing fallen trees at Wah Fu Estate in Pok Fu Lam and Lei Tung Estate on Ap Lei Chau, says: "I'm so saddened to see such a huge number of trees down."
Adds Ricky Fan Hai-tai, a tree expert and chairman of the Environmental Protection Association: "There's no question trees provide benefits in the community. So it's sad to see them downed by the typhoon, for a tree has life. Still, recently I've noticed that people have become more passionate about trees."
Another "positive" result of Vicente's harsh touch is the growing realization that trees provide considerable business opportunities and job openings, though local firms are hard pressed to find skilled staff for a variety of jobs ranging from coaxing seeds into action to managing mature stands of timber. The sector's workforce currently stands at around 3,000. An immediate need - one that the typhoon showed up - is for people who know how to prepare ground for saplings. Too many young trees that should sway but remain standing in strong winds went down.
That, experts say, is because saplings are being shoved into pavement and streetside settings with inadequate space for roots to spread and sink like nature intended. So a lot of time and money will be wasted if the green recovery and rehabilitation efforts that we can expect to start soon fail to take this into account.
For dozens of contractors now backing government departments in the cleanup, however, that will be a job that must wait its turn.
"It has been a busy week for our workers to clear those fallen trees," says Li Kwok-man, chief arborist of Worldwide Forestry. "We've deployed all our workers to tackle fallen trees and pruning others.
"Each time a typhoon lashes Hong Kong we're extremely busy in clearing fallen trees on streets, pruning, fertilizing and replanting trees in different areas. A typhoon is indeed a business opportunity for us."
Grow their bank balances
Even without Vicente and other typhoons blowing in opportunities, there is much scope for green-fingered contractors to grow their bank balances. For there are lots of trees out there that require care.
Experts don't want to even hazard a guess other than "many millions" on the total number of trees - planted and natural stands and individuals - in Hong Kong today.
But officials in the Development Bureau keep precise figures on trees planted. The numbers are impressive: 18.8 million between 2001 and 2011, and HK$455 million has been outlaid on planting in the past two financial years. Much of it has gone on buying young trees from the mainland, which meets most of Hong Kong's needs.
Over at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the record shows it planting between 700,000 and 900,000 trees annually in 24 country parks. About half are planted by government workers and half by contractors who tender for the work.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department is also in the growing picture, with about 400,000 trees under its management. They include species such as the Hong Kong orchid tree, Philippine acacia, queen crepe myrtle and the Chinese banyan tree - all very familiar on urban streets and in parks and gardens.
Its own staff are involved in planting and maintenance, though there are 10 service contracts worth a combined HK$300 million currently running for horticultural and tree services.
There's always going to be more demand. For instance, The Standard reported earlier this week how 300,000 fruit trees - hog plum and strawberry trees, mainly - have been planted around the Kam Shan ("Monkey Mountain") and Lion Rock country parks to provide food sources for 1,600 wild monkeys and thus keep the simians within them.
Then there are the increasingly strident demands for thorough inspections of trees - particularly old ones clinging to life in some unlikely places in urban areas - against a backdrop of falls that have included deaths of people passing beneath them.
In mid-July, five pedestrians were injured when a 14-meter Chinese banyan collapsed on one of Tsim Sha Tsui's busiest shopping streets.
Worldwide's Li also sees opportunities spreading into urban areas rather than being based solely on country parks: "There are a huge number of greening projects and tenders for planting and inspection of trees in public areas, such as in housing estates, recreational parks, on slopes and alongside expressways.
"It offers a great deal of business for firms in the tree-management industry and job opportunities for arborists and tree workers.
"That's why more gardening and landscaping firms have started bidding for government projects. In fact, competition has become really keen, but firms are struggling to recruit the right people."
While government work is welcome, green contractors also say demand is increasing rapidly in the private sector. For even without binding conditions on land use, trees, shrubs and open green space have become essential features if homes are to command top- dollar prices.
Tommy Wong, director of Jia Yu Engineering, which provides planting and inspection of trees in private housing estate areas, says: "Our company's business has increased rapidly in the past few years. Property management companies provide strong demand, and we expect more surges in demand for tree care and conservation services.
"And after Vicente hit, various companies asked us to examine the condition of trees and to trim broken branches. We have also helped assess the risk of collapse of decaying trees."
Fan agrees the tree business can only go up. Besides existing commercial opportunities and the potential, he says, "citizens have powerful aspirations and a higher awareness for protecting the environment amid widespread concerns about various issues, such as reducing solid waste and improving air quality.
"When it comes to planting, replenishment, inspection and removal of toppled trees there are many job opportunities for local workers in landscaping, gardening and tree- management sectors.
"There are plenty of opportunities for gardening and landscaping firms to purchase tree saplings for planting in Hong Kong."
For renowned tree expert Jim Chi- yung, who has the chair of the University of Hong Kong's Department of Geography, an improved quality of life that comes with trees also requires an improved quality of trees to be spread around Hong Kong.
And collapses of trees without a push from a storm point to inadequate space for growth and a lack of regular checks on their health, he says. Trees are being planted in such confined spaces that roots cannot spread. That can lead to decay and death.
In fact, Jim says, Vicente only exposed long-standing problems with urban tree management, and some of the toppled trees might have been on the verge of falling before the typhoon hit.
He is also critical of the quality of saplings being brought in, which includes some roots that have not developed as they should.
Besides seeking an improvement in quality of what's being brought in, Fan adds, government planners must look to developing local tree species.
Some exotic tree species - introduced varieties rather than natives - might not offer habitat and food for a wide range of wildlife such as birds.
As for developing the business of trees, Fan says, "first we need to resolve the problem about Hong Kong lacking a pool of tree specialists. Certainly, there will be growing demand for tree specialists as the government and property management firms allocate more resources on tree-management services."
Jim and Fan both point out that not a single Hong Kong university offers degrees and master's courses in agriculture, forestry or tree-management subjects.
Some qualifications claimed by certain local arborists are no more than certifications for attending tree-related courses, Jim adds.
Yet to be recognized as an arborist in many countries requires a person gaining at least a degree in forestry and tree-management subjects and then to practice for several years before gaining a formal qualification.
So the government should encourage universities to provide such courses, Jim says, and "in the long term we need to build a unified standard for the local arborist profession. It's important for us to increase the level of knowledge and professionalism in the industry."
Then, perhaps, Hong Kong can present a powerful green front to defy even vicious typhoons like Vicente.