Neighbors along Renfrew Circle in Fort Washington, where a tiny oak tree was sprouting in a giant pothole, awoke yesterday to the hurly-burly of county road crews.

It was a welcome sound to residents whose pleas to fix the 12-by-8-foot hole, which began as a crack in the pavement more than a decade ago, had been ignored for years by Prince George's County.

When the neighbors discovered late Wednesday that the county would finally come to repair the hole, they rescued the baby red-leafed tree, which is just a few inches tall. They placed it in a clay pot and will plant it in the garden of the cul-de-sac's most green-thumbed resident.

"I'll take it out and put it among my plants -- my special plants," said Jeannie Hager, 57, a retired elementary school teacher who is an avid gardener. She intends to place the tree next to her patio, between the gold-tipped cypress and the flowers a relative brought her from Hawaii.

"I can keep an eye on them," she said. "My guess is that I'll look at the tree and think of the time that it took to get the pothole fixed."

When the first of several repair crews arrived about 7 a.m. yesterday, a worker immediately looked for the tiny tree. Clipboard in hand, a supervisor recorded Hager as the owner of the tree for county records, neighbors said.

"I told them that I was just going to keep the tree and nurture it carefully because I wanted to see how big it was when the whole street was finally paved," Hager said with a chuckle.

The county said the hole should be fixed and repaved by this morning. It intends to repave the entire street by the end of the fiscal year.

"It was a major roadway failure," spokeswoman Susan Hubbard said. "It certainly wasn't just a pothole."

Dave Clink, a resident of Renfrew Circle in Fort Washington, studies the pothole repair job.