Tag Archives: dogwood

Feeling Rakish This Saturday

Pear tree

Pear tree leaves in my backyard today.

Yesterday, Ben and I completed a chore that had been done several times, but never completely.

Raking leaves.

I’ve cleared off the front several times, but had never finished the back yard. Which is OK, because there is a giant maple back there that holds, by itself, about as many leaves as the over 25 trees—including 4 mature oaks and 2 mature ashes—hold all together. So doing a full rake until that tree was done dumping didn’t rank high on my to-do gardening list.

Faded petunia

Faded petunia in deck planter.

But, we’ve had our first snow, which quickly melted, and our first night where the temperature dipped below 20 degrees. Our long, slow, pleasant fall is inevitably reaching the bare stage where the earth and trees are one in brown, and you can look into normally dense woods and see the shapes of the hills.

It was a big job, but we bought a second big rake and made short work of it.

Bird tea

Fallen leaves make tea out of birdbath.

A few more leaves are yet to fall, as you can see from these photos of the pears, young oak and dogwood that still cling to this year’s foliage. Fundamentally, though, the trees are barren.

Last green.

Dogwood leaves still have a little green.

Gardening is pretty much over for the year. Fall bulbs are planted, a few key plants covered in mulch and the yard as raked as its going to be until spring.

I was holding a grandson today who likes walks outside, so we went to the back yard to inspect the late fall scenery. Here are a few images from today that show that even in this bare time of year, there is a quiet kind of beauty to see in the gardens. Still, I’ll look forward to seeing how many of the multitude of bulbs planted this fall turn into spring flowers.

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Winter Feeding & Tree Breeding, Thoughts of Spring Crimes


Squirrel! Enjoys a winter snack Dec. 5, early morning.

It was single-digit cold this fine sunny morning, and birds instantly appeared after I filled the feeders in back, including a cardinal couple, she being fairly quiet and polite to other birds, he being flamboyant, loud, and a bully.

Winter is definitely here in Iowa. No bulbs planted this fall, but that’s OK, I still need to acquire some irises my sister told me I could have sometime in the new year, and I think it’s time to let the gardens “rest” for once and see what comes up.

So, of course, my attention turns to trees. A squirrel reminds us how much pleasure in life can depend on the trees, as it snags a snack of some crabapples.

I had written in this blog some months ago about how, several years ago, I planted a package of trees from the Arbor Day Foundation, and what was supposed to be Goldenraintree were instead pears.

I really endorse the tree deals from the Arbor Day Foundation—10 trees for $10 is a heck of a deal. If you have some space and an inkling to plant very young trees, see their web site (link in previous paragraph), send them a modest payment, and you’ll get a cornucopia of woodsy plants.

And, years afterward, when the Foundation read of my pear impairment, they contacted me to tell me they would replace those trees. The Foundation mailed me replacement trees this week. However, what they sent me wasn’t just two Goldenraintrees, but the full package of trees that those two trees are part of—so now I have:

• 2 Sargent Crabapple
• 2 Eastern Redbud
• 2 Washington Hawthorn
• 2 Flowering Dogwood
• 2 Goldenraintree
• 1 Rose of Sharon

Even I, a self confessed tree nut, can’t possibly find homes for all those trees in my over-planted ¼ acre suburban lot. There is a creek bed behind the house, and, in a pinch, I can plant overflow trees back there, but that’s not my first choice, since to plant back there is pretty much to provide snacks to deer.

Anyway, I will for sure plant at least one of the Goldenraintrees. I should cut out the pears and plant both of the Goldenraintreees to replace them, but Audrey has balked about removing 12-foot trees and replacing them with 6-inch ones, even if the 12-foot trees might stink in the spring, so I’m not sure my original intentions will come to pass.

Well, a plum tree died last year in the lower yard, and its spot will be taken by one of these Goldenraintrees.

I’ll also put a Dogwood by the rock wall in the lower garden—just because Dogwoods of yesteryear are either store-bought and alive but not blooming, or long gone to tree Valhalla.

I’ll also find a home for the Rose of Sharon, maybe out front somewhere.

Assuming no rabbit attacks and that the trees all make in through winter, that leaves me with many orphans to find homes for. And, besides this set of Arbor Day trees, I’m going to be trying to germinate Ironwood over the winter, for no particular good reason I can think of other than I don’t have an Ironwood tree yet, they aren’t huge trees, and I like the name and seeds were readily available from a tree right next to the Warde Hall back door.

Cate, Katy, anybody? Want some trees? Right now, they are in planters in back, dormant in the cold, and it remains to be seen which will be alive in the spring. But, if history is any guide—I’ve planted several packs of Arbor Day trees—most, even possibly all, will awaken in the spring. And then they will need homes I can’t give them, unless it’s in the belly of a deer.

Besides the Crabapples, Redbuds, Hawthorns, a Dogwood and possibly a spare Ironwood or so (depends on germination), I may have a spare Catalpa tree, too. I planted one in my yard and one in a garden as a replacement if the yard one dies, and if both awaken in the spring, one will have to go. Most of the Arbor Day trees are small flowering, decorative types, and some are partly shade tolerant, so you don’t need to have a huge spot for them—the Catalpa is the outlier. It wants sun and space and can grow to be a very large, full-sized monster of a tree.

I’ll update in spring with what still lives, but as soon as school is out in May, I’m willing to visit your house and plant a tree for you.

Perhaps at midnight. Maybe without telling you …

Slideshow of trees for adoption, most images from Arbor Day Foundation, one (Ironwood) from Tennessee DNR, one (Catalpa) from Ohio DNR:

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New Summer, New Garden

The new garden, from the landing next to the front stoop. Lily of the valley and hostas on the left, bushes and redbud tree straight ahead.

Last year, it was the wall built by the neighbor that caused us to put in a new garden.

This year, I don’t have such an excuse, the garden was mostly our idea. To be fair, Wally did have an indirect influence on it—we had both cut out some overgrown evergreen bushes last year, and he noted that every 20 years or so you have to replace evergreen bushes by a house because they become overgrown.

Anyway, we had large evergreen bushes on the north side of our house. I liked them, but they were becoming ungainly huge, and seemed to be a type that did not respond well to trimming—just had dead stumps where I cut them back, did not form attractive new foliage the way a regular-leaved bush often does.

I am always a bit troubled by removing a mature plant (in fact, despite her hatred of the smell, Audrey is dithering right now about the pear trees—doesn’t want me to cut them down). If a plant is not causing problems, I would rather just let it go—particularly trees and bushes. But, our house came with several problematic patches of evergreen—one a gnarly short tree in back that we cut out when we added gardens back there (by “we” I mean the royal we, I cut it out, I guess I can say “we” because the boss approved).

The redbud, mainly, part of the new garden seem from the lawn.

And, this year, the evergreens in front went away. They put up a magnificent two-day epic battle, but a small electric chainsaw, limb saw and hedge clippers finally had their way.

When we (“we”—ha!) removed the bushes, I (or we) was (or were) amazed at the space that was left. The old bushes were over 5-feet in width, although they were shorter than that. There was a lot of garden room!

Although it’s on the north side of the house and thus shaded for parts of the year, during mid-summer there is a fair amount of sunlight on much of the patch. We (the real we, nothing funny about it) picked out some shady plants and some sun/shade plants for the spot. Audrey and I chose them on a whim at Menards for no particular reason other than we happened to be there to buy paint for other projects.

So, what did I put in the new garden?

The main feature is a redbud tree in the “far corner,” the part farthest from the house. It was the only redbud we saw at the store, but looks pretty good, and is more than 6-feet tall. As you can see, it’s much smaller than that height might suggest since it hasn’t spread out at all. We have two redbuds in back, but none in front, and redbuds stay small enough that there should be room for this tree in this spot.

Foilage of the new dogwood bush. The bush itself will also provide a bit of interest in winter, particuarly when it snows--it's called "red twig" becuase it has smooth red bark, a nice contrast to white snow.

I like dogwood bushes, and Cate noted that a variegated one had done well in a previous house she and Paulette had near Mount Mercy, so (despite arguments from Audrey who didn’t think it looked vigorous enough) one of the bushes is a “variegated red-twig dogwood.” We also agreed on a Black Knight Butterfly Bush, just because it looked and smelled nice (and it was Audrey’s favorite, a deal that helped me get the dogwood). Both of those bushes require some light, so I put them on the far north end of the garden—the more south one moves in the garden, the closer to the house and shadier it gets. In an area nearer the house, I planted two “ruby spice summersweet” bushes, which are labeled as shade friendly. I also moved two volunteer dwarf burning bushes which were further west in front, but really had no room to grow there.

Finally, right next to our front stoop, on the north side and around the corner on the west side, I planted some less original plants—an “autumn fern” in the shadiest spot, followed by three hostas (all three slightly different from each other, as you can see) and then some “donated” lily of the valley from our back gardens.

Black Knight Butterfly Bush. Pretty blue flowers that smell nice to humans, too. Note foot--promised in earlier blog post not to feature my feet, could crop it out but it snuck in ...

Since these photos were taken, I’ve added some more river rock (and probably will get another couple of bags). In addition, we will probably plant either one or two more rhododendron bushes—have two beside the front steps now and want to complete the line now that the evergreens have made way.

It occurs to me that rhododendrons are about the only evergreen we have left. When we first moved into the house, I cut out some overgrown evergreens on the east side and planted hostas there—primarily because the evergreen bushes were so large it was hard to get our back yard gate. After Wally’s construction of his wall made access even more difficult, I moved the hostas and made the area a walkway.

And, as noted earlier, the one evergreen tree in our back yard was eliminated several years ago.

The thing about evergreens is that they are space eaters. I like them, but have slowly been driven to eliminate the ones I have. Odd, how a gardener like me who enjoys crowdin

g plants comes to that conclusion. But I do.

Anyway, I love redbuds and hope this one on the north side manages to do OK. I have some hopes it will—there is a redbud on the north side of the Stello Hall wing of Warde Hall that is quite old and tall. Redbuds seem to do OK in semi-shady areas, the only question is what will the north winds do to this tree?

Nothing too bad, I hope. We’ll see.

Ruby Spice Summersweet bush, one of two I planted. Not sure what they will do, with the exception of the two volunteer dwarf burning bushes, the bushes are new to my gardens.

Sorry for cutting you out, evergreens. But, after several days of getting used to

it (today is Tuesday, I cut out the bushes Saturday and Sunday and planted Monday) I am liking the look of this new garden.

By the way, when we finish it off with a rhododendron or two, a volunteer maple will have to go.

It’s a bit more than a foot tall. It looks just like the one that I moved four years ago from the side of the house to the back yard—the one in back is about 12 feet tall now, so if this little tree isn’t eaten by deer or bunnies, it probably will grown quickly.

It’s a family tradition to move and plant volunteer maples, but I don’t want to moved it to our woods behind the fence because I’m trying to get cottonwood, oak and walnut going there, and maples manage to invade all on their own.  And I really have no spot at all for this maple.

If you want it, let me know soon.

Up for grabs-volunteer maple that had been hidden by evergreen bushes. Act fast, it will be coming up before week's end.

West side of front stoop, autumn fern and a new hosta.

Other two new hostas on the north, or front side, of front stoop, with lily of the valley in background.

Detail of redbud. Despite being gnarly, dwarfish trees, I like redbuds for leaves and pretty early spring pink flowers. Why red bud and not pink bud? No idea.

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