Trees are generally the most expensive and long-lived plants a gardener will buy. Well-chosen, well-placed, and well-planted, they add structure and definition to the rest of the garden and provide decades of enjoyment. Poorly chosen, poorly placed or poorly planted, they can become a nuisance and source of frustration.
I hope the trees I bought today will provide me with decades of enjoyment. I hope they appreciate that I took a day off from work to go to the nursery, personally select them, and then bring them home to carefully plant them.
Follow along with me on my big ‘tree holiday’, my personal arbor day.
I went in the morning to a nursery clear on the other side of the city because I wanted to have a nice selection of trees to choose from. At the nursery, they wrapped burlap around the trees to protect them for the drive home, since my route home took me on the interstate.
They also gave me a 30% discount for waiving the one year guarantee. The trees looked pretty healthy to me, so I think my risk of them not living at least a year is pretty low. I always ask if they are offering discounts when I buy expensive shrubs or trees. Sometimes they say no, but sometimes they’ll offer a discount, like today.
When I brought my new trees home, the sun was shining. By the time I finished lunch and changed into some ‘tree planting clothes’, the skies had turned threatening.
But I don’t let threatening skies keep me from working in the garden. After all, it could be hours before it starts to rain.
The first task was to clear out the sod where I planned to plant the first tree.I was able to easily remove the sod by first scoring the ground with a ‘half moon’ edging shovel, and then hand digging out the sod with my hand digging hoe. I used the sod to fill in bare spots elsewhere in the lawn.
Then I planted my new tree.Would anyone like to guess what kind of tree I bought?
At the nursery I walked around and looked at nearly every tree they had. Hawthorns, serviceberries, crabapples, tree lilacs, sassafras, dogwoods, magnolias, maples, oaks. I checked them all out one by one.
And then even though I had decided I wasn’t going to get one because my soil is alkaline and they prefer acidic soil, I bought a Carolina Silverbell, Halesia carolina ‘Arnold Pink’.
What happened, you ask? Why did I change my mind? Well, I’ll tell you… as I stood there in the nursery and looked at that Carolina Silverbell, I decided that life is too short not to at least try to grow a tree I’ve wanted for nearly 30 years, ever since I first learned about it when I took a course in Woody Ornamentals in college. I’ll just have to amend the soil to try to provide the acidity the tree wants. That sounds easy enough, only time will tell if I am successful.
I placed my tree in the garden so that over time, it will block the open view of the neighbor’s deck. Where it is planted it will also guide anyone who comes through the gate to turn left as they enter the back yard. I don’t like ‘straight shot’ paths and views into the back yard, I want someone to look through the gate and wonder what else is back there.
What else is back there? Eventually there will be a big planting bed back there that includes the Carolina Silverbell as well as all the other trees that are planted on that side of the yard.
Though I did go to the nursery to buy just one tree, I also came home with a second tree.
It was a spur of the moment purchase. They had just gotten these ginkgo trees in and they looked as good as any I’ve seen. I did not let the fact that I didn’t know exactly where I was going to plant it stop me from buying this second tree because I knew I’d find some place for it.
So after I planted the first tree, I walked around the yard with my new ginkgo to see where it might fit in. Finally I decided to plant it in the side yard, near where I had cleared out and renovated some foundation plantings earlier this fall.
This particular gingko is Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’, a male tree, and it will grow so slowly that it will be a long time before it shades the plants near the house or drops its golden yellow leaves into the gutters in the fall.
In a few years, I think I’ll expand the bed around the ginkgo to follow the property line and provide for another garden area. In the meantime, it will just be there all alone, serving as a ‘sentry’ in my side yard.
Did I mention that it was overcast and threatening to rain the whole time I was planting my trees? By the time I finished planting the ginkgo, it had already started to rain.
And it has been raining off and on into the evening. This makes me very happy. I hope it pleases the new trees, too. Overcast skies, cool temps, and gentle rains. What better conditions could these trees have for starting out in a new garden?
(Tomorrow… hand made gifts for gardeners, that anyone can make.)