Tag Archives: yard

So What Three Should I Plant Now?


Bird that lives  in a birdhouse next door was watching me work today.

Bird that lives in a birdhouse next door was watching me work today.

It did not seem happy to see me.

It did not seem happy to see me.

I got all hot and bothered in my backyard today. I was hot because it was humid and hot white I was working pretty yard, and I was bothered because dirt and sweat and hungry blood-sucking insects are bothersome things.

But I did get the first project of summer well underway. We have swing sets in our backyard for grandchildren use, and, naturally, that’s not great for grass in that area. Plus, part of that areas in in deep shade, which does not promote grass either.

So, we decided to edge off part of the lawn and put wood chips where the grass won’t grow because the sun doesn’t shine. Today I dug a long, curving, shallow trench in my yard, put some plastic edging in it, and then filled it back in.

I dug a hole. It did not fill with water.

I dug a hole. It did not fill with water.

That was almost an all-day project, which is unfortunate because I didn’t get many bike miles in, and I need to really start focusing on biking. But is fortunate, too, because now it is over halfway done. We had 10 bags of wood chips, but those were laughably short of what we need, so this evening we purchased 20 more, and the rest of the project is to cart the bags and open and then spread the wood chips.

Trust me. It will be a bit of work, but not as much work as digging even a shallow trench and installing the edging.

Anyway, that’s pretty minor in comparison with the Big Garden News Headline: The Tree Is Dead.

Dead, dead, dead.

OK, I’ll give it another week or so, but it’s getting ridiculous. The Sweetgum tree, only 6 inches tall, will never get taller. It has expired. It is a small twig of rotting wood. It has ceased to be.

Given the number of lives trees in my yard (not counting the big ashes in front that the city owns, it is around 35), I don’t plant a new tree unless an old one expires.

Well, the Sweetgum has expired. So what shall go in the hole? I rule out Oak or Maple, because I have several varieties of each elsewhere in the yard (Oak is the second-most common tree in my yard—Crab Apple is the most common). I have a Gingko now, and I do not need two. No Hawthorn—this tree is in the backyard, the play zone. Hawthorns are cute trees, but have nasty spikes.

The Sweetgum spot is one where a medium or large tree can go. Here are my ideas:

A Sweetgum tree. That would not be very imaginative, I know, but one reason I planted the Sweetgum tree there in the first place is colors in my yard in fall are a bit dull. Sweetgums have a reputation of nice fall colors. They also have a reputation of numerous slightly obnoxious seed balls, but no tree is perfect.

Some other tree. Preferably one that would bloom early summer or late spring after the Crab Apples and Redbuds have faded. In Iowa, there is some large tree with fern-like leaves that puts out large clusters of small, sweet smelling flowers in late May. Any idea what it is? There is also a similar looking tree with big pink flowers. And there is yet a third kind of tree with kind of snowy clusters of white that is blooming now. (And I do not mean Catalpa, which are just starting to bloom—the flowers on Catalpa, while white, aren’t really “snowy.” Not that I dislike Catalpa trees—in fact, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular since I admire them a lot—but I have one already). Help, blog fans. I have consulted my “Trees of North America” book and am drawing a blank. Any idea what any of these trees might be?

Please let me know what you think should replace the Sweetgum. Feel free to make your own suggestions for a tree I should plant.

Planting a tree will seem an easy task after that garden project!

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The Final Rake of the Season


Snow falls at MMU, Nov. 25, 2013.

Snow falls at MMU, Nov. 25, 2013.

Winter is upon us in Iowa. We had almost an inch of snow overnight, and more fell this morning.

Then, this afternoon, a cool, low, winter sun poked through the clouds—it wasn’t much, but it was enough, with the ground still a bit warm to strip away some of the snow cover.

Still, it should be cold tonight—typical of an Iowa winter. The night after a snowfall, if there is no blanket of clouds to hold the heat, is often when we get bitterly cold. Well, it will be cold, very cold, but not precisely arctic cold that we will see in January.

The snow and cold makes me grateful I stole several precious hours Sunday to rake my back yard.

Yardy cart Sunday in back yard. The yard would look much whiter today. It was a cool afternoon for raking, but it was still nice to be out in the sun.

Yardy cart Sunday in back yard. The yard would look much whiter today. It was a cool afternoon for raking, but it was still nice to be out in the sun.

The tulip tree, the first one to start turning colors and almost the last one to lose it leaves, has gone fully to sleep and is stripped of its big, attractive foliage. The big oaks are very barren—which feels a bit odd, because they usually cling to a few leaves throughout most of the winter. They were quick to drop and thorough about it, this year.

A few trees are stubborn. The pears clasp at last season’s leaves like a pair of misers. The leaves are clearly and thoroughly dead, but just have not been severed from the trees yet. The snow and wind today may have had an effect, but on Sunday when I raked, the pears were the most notable exceptions to the bare-leaf look of most of my trees. The bur oak also retains its now brown and dead leaves. One other exception—which is hardly surprising, because it is this particular tree’s normal behavior, is the perennially sickly dogwood at the bottom of the yard, with its shroud of withered leaves that will last well into winter. Why do certain trees cling to their leaves? Are they like a cold old lady, shivering in her shawl?

No, they’re not, but it’s what they look like.

Bur oak. One of the few stingy trees left with its now dead leaves still clinging.

Bur oak. One of the few stingy trees left with its now dead leaves still clinging.

Anyway, my left arm is sore today. I spent two days this weekend carrying around grandchildren, which is a very pleasurable way to earn a sore arm, and totally worth it. And I lifted weights Sunday at the gym. And then I spent two hours raking.

The raking was a bit tough because there was still some snow stuck between the matted leaves. Water always equals weight, whether frozen or wet.

I got the job done, however. I raked some leaves onto the roses, and the rest were piled into the yardy card, or they were either tossed over or raked through the gate of the back fence.

Then, more vigorously than last week, it snowed overnight. The yard is ready for winter. I don’t think I am, but the yard is.

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