Sunday, June 5, 2016


Here's the hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) I mentioned on my tree tour the other day. I didn't post a picture of it, but I should have, because it tickled me. It is planted in the meadow, and I view it from between the blue spruces on the berm in front of it, which makes a nice frame.

I plant tiny trees from one or five gallon pots, wait for several years while they add skinny branches to the two or three twigs on the original stick, and then one day they get all tall and gangly and make me laugh.

When it eventually outgrows its gawky stage, it will become a large rounded pyramid of a tree, like this one:

Ostrya virginiana has flowers that develop into dangling pods that look like hops. Mine hasn't flowered yet, but that will be the next stage that makes me smile. In a few more years.

Talk about gangly -- this red oak (Quercus rubrum) was planted as a bendy stalk in a 5 gallon pot from Home Depot four years ago. I did show it in my tree tour post, but look at it close up. It shot up this year and has a kind of topknot thing going on.

It's next to a dappled willow, and eventually the tall oak and the billowy willow will become one planting. The oak trunk will be thick and its canopy will overtop the willow at its base, and it will fulfill my fantasies of a leafy mise en scene.

Trees don't have to be large specimens to complete my visions, though. I like this little one rising above the purple blooming amsonias ('Blue Ice'). This little tree has the small grace and openness of a Japanese maple, but it's a dogwood.

It is a Cornus racemosa, or gray dogwood. It's actually a thickety shrub when left on its own, and can cover some real estate in large colonies after a time. But I have pruned it up, leaving just one low-branched trunk, so it will be tree-like rather than shrubby. But it will remain kind of open and it won't get very tall and I imagine its gracefulness in the future.

This spring there is a tree I am dreaming about that I don't have in my garden (there are two types of trees in my hardiness zone, I discovered: Trees I Have Planted and Trees I Have Not Yet Planted).

The object of my desire this year is a fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus.

I never planted one before, partly because I thought the fringy white flowers were kind of too much -- too fluffy or something. And partly because I had seen a couple struggling saplings in other gardens and was not impressed. But those were sickly, and in no way represented what a nice, mature, flowering fringe tree could look like.

This past week I saw one in Cheryl's garden that stunned me. I don't have a picture of hers, but it was as elegant and flowery and lovely as the pictures above, and it smelled divine.  It's a native, its berries attract birds, it stays smallish, and I am convinced it is the one tree that I must now plant.

They are available in nurseries around here. I think I am going to have to take down the blackhaw viburnum (V. prunifolium) in the center of the yard that seems to be declining, so that will leave an open spot for a small, structured, elegant tree, and I think a fringe tree would fulfill every tree fantasy I have ever had.


  1. Wow, love those blue spruce. They will not grow here due to heat and humidity. But the fringe tree will. It is native here and many call it Grancy Graybeard. What will you do with that topknot on the oak?

    1. Sallysmom, blue spruces grow but don't do great here either. We don't have your heat, but we do have humidity. I have three left of the original 5 I planted -- they struggle. The funny oak will outgrow (or grow into) its topknot -- it's just youthful goofiness!

  2. Good luck on the fringe tree. I planted a tiny one several years ago and sort of shrugged off the "it's a slow grower" descriptions. Well, it's a slow grower. Mine was about 9" tall at planting in autumn 2012, and now it's 2' or so. It puts on a single growth spurt in spring and then that's it for the rest of the year. And it's yet to flower. The leaves are gigantic on mine - so out of proportion to the rest of the plant at the moment. It's getting better as it grows though.

    I can't wait for mine to finally bloom so I can justify the long wait.

    1. I have been shrugging off the "slow grower" description too -- how slow could it be? Your experience has me concerned! You are certainly being very patient waiting for your little tree to mature and flower -- not sure I could be so patient. . .

    2. I just went out and measured the fringe tree, and it's not quite as bad as I suggested. It's right on 36". So still not all that dramatic in growth, but at least it's more than 6" each growth season. Maybe you can get one that's a little bigger than mine and have a head start.