Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Right Location

We have snow on the ground. Things that I know to be two feet high out in the yard are not visible. It's been single digits at night and in the 20s in the daytime. Very wintery. Let's look at plants I want to do something with this spring.

I planted a red buckeye, Aesculus pavia, in late summer of 2012, but I'm not sure it's in the right place. I keep planning to move it. This interesting tree requires a specific location for several reasons.

First, like most buckeyes, the big floppy leaves need some afternoon shade in summer and even then they brown and go limp.

Early spring foliage and flower in May

Second, it loses its leaves in mid September. It just does. All of them. It drops early, so you don't want to site this for fall interest. It should be put where you can enjoy the scarlet spikes of flowers in spring.

by September 24, red buckeye has dropped every leaf

Third, it doesn't respond well to dry periods. It needs to be watered when dry summer conditions hit, so it needs to be near the hose.

Fourth, the seeds and young twigs are poisonous to humans and to wildlife. In fact, Native Americans crushed up the seeds and twigs and put them in the water to stun fish for easy catching. Really.

I'm not very worried about poison seeds but if I had grandchildren toddling around my garden putting things in mouths, I might be.

So where did I plant Aesculus pavia? Is it in the right spot?

I first saw red buckeye on a garden tour in upstate NY, and it was in flower next to a big red barn. The scarlet flowers complemented the barn so beautifully.

May 12, 2012 on a garden tour in Amenia, NY

With no red barn nearby, I ended up putting my little sapling at the entrance to our gravel seating area, right near the red painted cellar door.  You work with what you have.

Still in its pot before planting

So is it in the right spot?

It is near the house where it gets deep morning shade but is then out in the afternoon sun the rest of the day. Not really ideal, although it's not in full sun all day.

It's convenient to the hose near the house. I do have to water it when we have dry periods. It gets stressed looking.

It is part of my allee along the walk that goes from the front to the back of the house. With bare branches in early autumn, this buckeye doesn't add anything when the whole allee is gorgeous in fall color. But the stewartia and other trees forming the allee do their part spectacularly, so I guess I can forgo fall foliage in this spot.

Part of my young allee - a stewartia and the little buckeye

It is, of course, too close to the house, the walkway, and other plants, just as everything in my garden is. Here is a mature one next to a college building so you can see the size.

mature Aesculus pavia at Smith College

I will have to limb up my tree as it gets bigger in order to be able to go down the walkway and get into the gravel seating area, or even if we want to be able to open the cellar doors.

I'll have to limb it up a lot.

But I think (I think) that will be okay. This tree has a shaggy aspect that might look good limbed up about 6 feet. The firecracker flowers -- its main attraction in spring -- are certainly going to be visible when you have to walk right under it. With it sited so close to the house, the flowers will be easy to see even from inside looking out the windows.

But then I think I should move it to get more afternoon shade. And to give it more space to be the natural size tree it wants to be. Maybe it shouldn't be part of a line of trees, particularly in fall.

I'm leaning toward leaving it and limbing it.

Or maybe I should move it.

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