I liked the idea, suggested by a commenter on my earlier blog post, of replanting a Sweetgum tree where one had expired in my yard—but in the end, I went a different route.
A route of less diversity, I admit, but of another benefit.
I puttered around the yard a bit Friday. It was overdue for a mow anyway—we had four grandchildren staying with us for eight days and I hadn’t gotten the yard mowed in that time. Too busy having fun. So Friday was makeup day—weeding and mowing—in a way.
One part of that chore was relocating a few volunteer trees. If I like a tree species, and it’s native to Iowa, I sometimes move a few volunteers that I find in my gardens to the woods behind my fence in the false theory that I’m adding a bit of diversity to the stand of native ash trees back there. It’s a false theory because what I’m actually doing is adding a few new flavors to a deer salad bar.
Anyway, on Friday my wife and I were also babysitting a 2-year-old granddaughter while her siblings went to Adventureland in Des Moines (technically, Altoona) with their parents. And, as said granddaughter wandered around and supervised (she is a boss personality), Audrey chatted with me about my yardwork.
“Are you going to replace that tree?” she asked, in reference to the dead Sweetgum. “Maybe you should plant a Redbud,” she added.
It was a good idea, as Redbuds are smaller trees and our yard is not exactly shy on trees and we both like Redbuds—but I pointed out we already have three Redbud trees.
“You can never have too many Redbuds,” she retorted.
I can’t disagree. Redbuds are very nice. But, although I have a few tiny volunteer ones, I didn’t have a Redbud that I considered ideal for this site.
However, in moving my volunteer trees to the deer salad bar, I noticed a young tree growing in an old planter that I have by the back gate on the woods side of the fence.
It’s only 6-inches tall, but I know that tree. I’m the one who planted it there, because I took the seeds from its parent and put them in that planter last year, and I know a few sprouted in 2014. The tree in questions is therefore an itty bitty 2-year-old Catalpa twig.
I have a Catalpa in the yard already, courtesy of my sister Mimi who allowed me to dig a volunteer out of her garden in Davenport a couple of years ago.
But, if your yard can have three Redbuds, why not two Catalpa? I do have a fondness for planting tiny trees and watching them grow from infancy. I know it’s nice to plant an 8-foot-tall 5-year-old tree from a nursery, too, but you have to work on that container-bound root ball a lot, not mention spending cash to purchase the tree. And I just like the idea of planting a tree from a seed or seeing a tree grown from a very young age.
That’s one reason, besides being cheap, that over the years I’ve planted a number of trees from the Arbor Day Foundation—you can get a lot of tiny trees inexpensively that way. That was the source of the expired Sweetgum.
Anyway, I had shopped a bit locally, seeking a Sweetgum, and had not found one yet. Here was a free tree planted from seed by my own hand.
So the Catalpa won. As part of my yard puttering Friday, I moved it and planted it right were the dead Sweetgum had been.
The choice did not displease my wife. Catalpa actually resemble Redbud, a bit. They both feature heart-shaped leaves. They are also both pretty flowering trees.
There are some differences, of course. Catalpa leaves are huge compared to Redbuds. Catalpa trees are also huge compared to Redbud trees—a mature Redbud is a small to medium tree, maybe 12 feet tall. A mature Catalpa is a very big tree, like a big Maple or mighty Oak. Redbuds flower in early spring with small, pretty pink flowers. Catalpa flower in early June (or late May in this weird year) with larger pretty flowers that are mostly white, although they have touches of yellow and blue, too.
Still, Audrey was happy with the choice of Catalpa, as was I. I would have liked a Sweetgum, but if this tiny tree, grown by me from a seed, can make it, well, that won’t be a bad thing.