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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Greening America, planting for the future

When I first moved here in June, 2005 there were 9 trees and foundation plantings across the front of overgrown yews. While off-loading the household goods from the semi, one of the guys made a comment about the plantings, to which I responded, "If you want them you can have them."

At that point, it became a point of honor for the guys to rip out the plantings with their tractor. Imagine the cab of a big rig chaining itself to the base of a yew which we had already dug out as best we could. I think the neighbors were getting just a little taste of what it meant to have me for a neighbor.

Right away, I took out three of the nine trees. I took out two Crimson King Norway maples--they were planted on the south end of the swimming pool (DUMB move, we had just lived with a mature norway maple on the south east side of our swimming pool in Connecticut and fishing out seeds and leaves from that thing was a major undertaking). I admit, I'm also prejudiced against Norways as they are not native and they seed themselves all over. The third tree I took out was a sickly redbud. I love redbuds, but this one was really ill. Not to worry...I'm still digging up seedlings and root stock from that same tree.

The following spring, my brother came to visit and he took out a silver maple which was planted smack in front of the doorway. Silver maples are great trees for swamps.....and native woods. They are not good trees to be in people's yards. They are quick growing and thus tend to be the developer's choice. Then, I hired a blue spruce to be taken down. It was a beautiful tree, but it wasn't in the right spot. People have a tendency to plant really cute baby trees and not to remember they get to be behomoths.


Now, you might think that I hate trees. On the contrary. I love trees. More people should plant trees. In fact, while I have taken down 5 trees, I have planted 32 trees and many understory trees/large shrubs. I'm fairly careful about siting the tree so that when it gets large, it will still be an asset to the property.

I also look for trees which have more than one season of interest. Here's a short list of what I have planted:

2 Parrotia persica --(common names: parrotia or Persian Ironwood) non-native but wonderful bark and fall foliage.

2 Asian Pears

Stewartia pseudocamelia This is a fantastic one, although it is a real water hog for about the first 5 years. It also has a delicate bark which can be easily girdled. I had one in Connecticut and loved it...the first one I planted here croaked because of our late season droughts. I replaced it with a pricier one...and I hope it makes it.

Franklinia alatamaha
This native was found by John Bartram but has been lost in the wild. It has fantastic leaf color while blooming in the fall with camelia like blooms.

Sweet Bay Magnolia
A large tree, and it will provide most of the shade for the house once it gets going. Lovely lemon scented flowers in June and July. Interesting seedpods. The white flower pictured is the one in my garden.

Beni schichihenge Japanese maple. I'm not convinced by this one yet... It likes a little more acid soil than I have and it sort of just looks sick rather than being a presence, but it is small.

Golden full-moon Japanese maple
. This one is very hard to find and is one of the trees I originally had planted in Connecticut. I dug it up and potted it, and brought it down in April, 2005 rather than leave it in Connecticut. Good thing I did too as it would have been cut down like almost all of the other trees I put in there.

2 Coral bark Japanese maples They're little. They also need lots of water to start.

Sourwood This is a native with lovely color and a small, unassuming pyramidal shape. My friend Martha has a lovely one in Connecticut. The one I planted here died back to the base the first year and put up a small secondary growth. I'm hoping I can convince it to grow in the soil here....it likes acid, and mine is alkaline.

2 Styrax japonica--or japonicus (Japanese silver bells). These were seedlings of the Emerald pagoda I had in Connecticut.

Dwarf "Patio Peach" Bonfire. I'm a sucker for yellow, red or variegated varieties. This peach is small, has red leaves and edible peaches.

North Star dwarf cherry. Wonderful cherry producing great red sour cherries when a late frost doesn't get the blossoms.

Weeping Katsura
. This is a largish Japanese tree, and is one in the corner of the first picture. Slow growing. groan.

Cornus mas variegata
Variegated cornelian cherry. Dogwood relative, small yellow blossoms in spring.

4 Korean fir (Abies koreana) Great little tree...I have the "silberlock" variety and it is the bottom photograph. Cool plant which has PURPLE cones at a very young age. Also needs lots of water in the beginning until it gets established.

Shadbush or Service berry (Amelanchier)
Great little native with neat bark, lovely edible berries (if you can fend the birds off). Wonderful fall color.

Weeping Norway spruce. gulp. It's near my goldfish pond...what can I say?

2 red lace Japanese maples

2 limber pines (Pinus flexis Vanderwolf's pyramid) It looks like a white pine, but won't get to be 100 feet tall. :)

Trident maple (Acer buergeranum). This is a cool plant with exfoliating bark as well...but I could only get it on line. When it came it was about 4 feet tall. But a deer came and chomped it down so now it is 1 1/2 feet tall. Slow growing. Boohoo.

Seven son's tree (Heptacodium miconiodes... ok, this is more like a large shrub as it gets to be 15' tall. But it too has exfoliating bark and wonderfully scented flowers. The bracts are actually more interesting than the flowers.

Acer rubrum "Frank's red"

I put this in to replace a Bradford pear which was too close to the house and which blew down last year in a freak "dry huricane."

Quercus "crimson spire." This one I got on sale this year and put in a temporary spot waiting for the time when the other Bradford pear blows down.

There is precious little shade here....at present. I will never see shade from these trees. I plant hoping that perhaps in the future someone will benefit from them. In a way, I'm doing my own little bit to cut down on global warming. I don't know if they will last. The magnolia, American silverbell, Japanese silverbell, Forest Pansy, Sweetgum tree and the sargent crab I planted in Connecticut have all been cut down. The only saving grace is that they cut down the danged Norway maple as well. I hope that the Stewartia is still there...but it probably isn't.

I'm sure you're tired of reading this....and I haven't even started in on the shrubs!

P.s. we have .77 acres in case you're wondering..or is it .68? My brain is stuffed up from my cold. Just shy of an acre at any rate.

3 comments:

Jessica said...

Sounds like you have a lovely selection. I agree about people not taking time to consider size at maturity or what their soil is like.

Shady Character said...

I wrote a longer comment earlier but Google decided to log me out instead of posting it! Suffice it to say I'm impressed with your skill in choosing woody plant species and happy that you've taken up the noble axe against the norway maple in North America. I hope you'll be posting images of your unusual trees in bloom this coming year. Have a very happy 2010, Lisa and thanks for sharing your garden, quilts and life with us.

Michigoose said...

Jessica, sometimes I push it...I have such heavy clay down here, and I really need to have it tested. Limestone is common here and the water is generally hard, although there is a high iron content in the well water here....

Thanks so much Mark! The funny thing is that we really DID take an axe to the Norways! We couldn't find the chainsaw, and the trees were about 8" in diameter. My friend Bob who was raised in northern Michigan (Hillman) grabbed the ax and went at it. He likes them almost as much as I do. I hope you have a very happy 2010 too, and I really appreciate your kind words. Looking forward to more birds and recipes over at your site as well!