Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tree Tour

After last weekend's inch of rain, things look refreshed, and there have been some lovely cool mornings with bright sunshine. Perfect weather for walking around inspecting trees.

I'm a little concerned about the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) tree by the gravel garden. I moved it in April. It was crowding the entrance and needed to be moved over about three feet, so I did. It tolerated the move nicely, and I even got a good show of red firecracker flowers in May.

But now all the leaves appear curled and quite small. In other years, even as a small sapling, the palmate leaves were big and crisply pleated and were open flat.
Red buckeye leaves are small and curled this year
Red buckeye leaves in a prior spring

Verdict: I'm going to assume this little tree is still adjusting to its move. It is conserving energy to re-establish roots, and will keep its leaves smaller and curled until fully settled in. That's my hope. It looks healthy enough, and green, and it did flower, so I'm not going to panic.

The American holly (Ilex opaca) on the east side has yellow leaves all over, and they have fallen at its base.
American holly is flowering, but yellow leaves litter the ground
It's looking fuller and greener than ever. The gangly red oak to its left is growing like a weed.

Verdict: Yellow leaves are simply the holly's annual shedding of last year's foliage, so there is no concern. Because it is an evergreen, at some point the old leaves have to go, and they drop in yellow piles. Fresh new leaves are unfurling, and inconspicuous little flowers are blooming, and this tree is doing well.

By the way, if you have a real desire to know whether a holly is male or female, check out this excellent explanation of the flower differences. My tree is a female.
Male holly flowers have stamens that stick out.
Female flowers have knobby swellings in the center.
Now you know.

My 'Forest Pansy' redbud always gives me fits. This winter it did better -- no branch dieback, so that was a relief, and it even put out some tiny pink flowers in May, but not much. But it just doesn't look full this year. The color is muddy maroon, not beautiful red. The canopy looks diminished and the leaves are smaller than in previous years. I think this tree is shrinking; it gets smaller every year.
The leaves of 'Forest Pansy' redbud look flat purple-brown this year, and the tree looks skimpy.
Usually in early summer 'Forest Pansy' leaves have a shimmery garnet hue and they are big, fluttery, and  heart shaped.

Verdict: Eh. I'm tired of worrying about this fussy tree. It's a keeper -- it does have nice qualities as a focal point in the middle of the yard, but it never makes me feel good about it.

The 'Orange Dream' Japanese maple has remained bright and fresh, easily seen at the back of the Birch Garden, even from afar. I pruned it rather heavily this spring to get rid of the bunchy branch growth that plagues the form of this tree. It still needs some work.
I pruned off much of the top of this tree to get rid of congested branches.
This was 'Orange Dream' last year, with a strange heart shaped dip in
the center from odd branching at the top.

Verdict: Japanese maples grow funny. They all do, and they all need pretty severe pruning. My big weeper in front of the house (a purple leaved 'Crimson Queen') needs constant chopping, but even this upright little 'Orange Dream' needs help. I just don't quite know how to do it. No matter what I do, it wants to be a lollipop shape with congestion at the top.

Other trees on my cool morning walk are looking good.
A brand new Stewartia from Broken Arrow. It's 'Skyrocket' and will stay narrow

'Gold Cone' juniper is looking kind of stately anchoring the front walk.

This unknown oak was a tiny volunteer seedling that I ripped up
from the back hill and planted in the meadow 10 years ago. Wow.

Another oak -- this time a swamp white oak that I bought as a
skinny sapling at Bosco's and planted 7 years ago.

There were so many more trees to inspect on my morning tour. The persimmons leaf out so late -- they are the last -- but they are coming in now. A rangy little hophornbeam in the meadow finally looks like something this year.

A tiny blue beech sapling, Carpinus caroliniana, that I transplanted this spring and then transplanted again a few weeks later, looks nice and leafy.

My Persian ironwood, Parrotia 'Vanessa" looks tall and full -- it's going to remain much narrower and more upright than I had thought it would.  Very vertical.

The 'Silver King' sweetgum by the driveway always worries me. Its variegated leaves tend to scorch and it doesn't like dry and the size of the leaves seems to be variable in different seasons. The leaves are curled like the red buckeye's leaves this spring.
Sweetgum 'Silver King' foliage is small this year.
'Silver King' is full and getting larger, and managing to stave off a
threatening 'Summer Wine' ninebark that wants to swallow it.

Verdict: With so much cream edging on this variegated tree's leaves, they are overly sensitive to conditions, I think. It was dry for so long this spring, just as the sweetgum was leafing out, and the leaves emerged small and somewhat curled. But the tree is putting on size and seems to be okay.

The viburnums are not looking good. One of the blackhaws is definitely declining, I think it has a root problem. And 'Dawn' viburnum has dying branches, but is still managing to overtake the side of the house in a grand bid for domestic dominance.

My brand new green dissected-leaf Japanese maple, 'Seiryu', came back from winter and is growing well. It refuses to be photographed -- the finely cut leaves and its small stature are impossible to capture.

All the black gums look good, the sassafras grove is going strong, and the dogwoods, including a graceful little gray dogwood shrub-tree and my prized pagoda dogwood hidden in the shady woods, are all doing fine.

All in all, a lovely morning for a tree tour.


  1. How many total trees have you planted? How many years have you lived in the house?

    1. Sallysmom, I currently have about 30 trees (many still saplings) in my half acre yard, but if you count what I lost or took out, that's another 10-12 trees. On a hillside and wild meadow behind our house I have planted about 50 trees, but again, if you count the losses, that adds about 20-25 more to the total. It's a lotta trees! We've been in the house 12 years, but I didn't start planting trees until 10 years ago, and my garden borders mostly took shape about 8 years ago.

      Half of the trees in my yard were larger trees that were installed by a professional landscaper. All the rest, and all of the trees on the hill and meadow were 5 gallon whips or less -- some just seedling trees, and some little volunteers from other spots in the woods. It's been rewarding to see them all grow -- even with all the losses I experienced!