The Planting of Princess E

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Where we left off: Elizabeth of Milarch Nursery tagging the Princess Emily
Princess E and traveling companion, a London Plane tree, on flatbed trailer with Kevin, who is about to cover them both for the ride to Royal Oak
. . . which was no small feat. Princess E may look small, but she was very heavy!
Straightening her out
Nick and Dean mulch Princess E with Ailanthus (“Tree of Heaven”) woodchips. Notice the honey locust watching over the scene in the background, just on the other side of out carport. February 2019, the month the Arbor Day Plot was conceived, Singing Tree visited me for the first time, to trim this honey locust. See that adventure here: https://arbordayplot.com/2019/02/26/singing-tree-the-honey-locust/
3 minutes of water and she’s good to go.
Princess Emily planted in her “forever-home,” Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Now for ferns for her backdrop and hostas, perhaps, in the foreground (and, of course, more river rocks)
Princess Emily tonight, her third evening here, enjoying a light drizzle with the American beech, who is the canopy to her understory

The Dogwood Chase

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Okay, so I’m a tree nerd. I know at least two others. (And, you know who you are.)

I woke up this morning at 5:00, and I was too excited to go back to sleep even though the alarm wasn’t set to go off until 7:00.

So, I got up and went out in my bathrobe and bare feet to listen to the birds singing up the sun and to contemplate my work of yesterday:

The cool morning air smelled especially sweet. It was a good time and place for plotting.

The plan was to be at English Gardens by the start of their “At-Risk Hour,” 8:00, so I could take some photos of the little dogwood and maybe of Kevin D., who had helped me pick it out Thursday. I needed to get there during the At-Risk Hour and before Dean and Nick from Singing Tree picked it up and brought it to my house to plant. Satisfied with the plan, I went back inside and made a special breakfast of French toast to kick off the special day.

Off to English Gardens

Because I can count the times I’ve left my house in the last 10 weeks to go somewhere in my car without resorting to having to use my toes, it seems to take me an even longer to leave with everything I need to navigate with less risk through the world. We almost made it out of the door by 7:50 for the 9-minute drive to English Gardens.

When we arrived at the English Gardens’ tree department, the overhead jets of water were up and running . No surprise. Craig wandered off to find some morning glories, and I went to find the Cherokee Princess that had been tagged for me on Thursday. But, she wasn’t where I had last seen her.

Tree guy Kevin D wasn’t coming in until 11:00, so another tree guy helped me. He said she would be in the backlot if she was sold and being picked up. When he walked around the fence, I sauntered around into the employees-only area with him. He went through the trees one by one with no success.

We went back around to the trees for sale, and both got wet looking for the Cherokee Princess. I did notice that someone had bought her sister, and taken her home with them; there were no more Cherokee Princess dogwoods available on site.

Yesterday’s weather: breezy and hot

We returned to the backlot. I had noticed it the first time and performed a silent tsk-tsk disapproval when The Other Tree Guy walked by it. When he went by it again without doing anything–in his defense, he was intent on finding my tree–I bent down and picked it up.

Apparently, the wind had blown this stick of a tree over. Had it been frying in the sun and 90-degree Memorial Day yesterday, the hottest day of the year thus far? Where was the rest of its rootball?

And, more importantly, when I picked the tree up, besides the sold tag, why was it decorated with a polka-dot ribbon that had my name on it?

The Cherokee Princess had been found. But even The Other Tree Guy didn’t give her good odds for surviving and sent me to the Customer Service counter for a refund, being that there were no other white flowering dogwoods of any variety for sale; the season was over here.

Plan B takes shape

On my way to Customer Service, I sent Emily Brent of Singing Tree the text: “Stop the presses.” Fortunately, she understood what I was trying to communicate.

It was clear that when manager Sean was paged from the Customer Service Desk, he didn’t believe my story. When he saw the tree for himself, however, he took a picture of the rootball to send to the nursery from whence it had come.

While I was waiting for him to refund the cost of the dogwood from my charge, I text Emily we were going to “brave going to Telly’s.” This was going to get done. Today.

She texted back that Kevin Bingham, her partner, was heading to Ray Wiegand’s Nursery on Romeo Plank Road in Macomb and would she like me to call and see if they had any Cherokee Princesses available.

As he was handing me my receipt, Sean mentioned there were Cherokee Princesses at two other English Garden locations. Nope. An underlying current of possibility was surfacing on this beautiful day.

We had just loaded the morning glories (Heavenly Blue) and two big pots of geraniums (one pot at $10 got you another one free) when Emily texted me back: “They have Cherokee Princess!”

East to Ray Wiegand’s Nursery!

I asked Siri to navigate to Weigand’s, a 32-minute drive, and we were off. The morning reminded me of leaving to go on vacation as kid. That kind of sky, that kind of freedom, that kind of anticipation.

Just for the record, I did raise the question of whether this was an “essential” trip. WWWS? (What Would Whitmer Say?) If the greenhouses and nurseries are open, are we only supposed to be purchasing their plants and trees via delivery? (Probably.)

I’d met Kevin when Singing Tree trimmed the Honey Locust that had me awake worrying at night (my first posting on this blog in February of 2019), and I trust him 100% to pick out a good tree.

And yet my car kept heading east.

Until we got here:

Sterling Places Plaza on Van Dyke (M-53), just north of Metropolitan Parkway (16 Mile Rd.) had a completely empty parking lot when I pulled in to read Emily’s latest text.

Emily texted “We have a change of plans.”

Although on Friday, Wiegand’s had had 20 London plane trees–the reason Kevin was heading there (for one)–today, they had zero.

West to Milarch Nursery!

So now, instead, Kevin was headed to Milarch Nursery on Haas Rd. in Lyon Township, where they had both London plane trees and Cherokee Princesses.

Siri got on it and west we went, about 45 minutes worth. (Taking the Wixom exit off I-696 and then a couple of miles on Grand River Ave. gets you in the vicinity).

What an amazing nursery! (Check out the aerial view of the nursery on the homepage of their website.)

To the Dogwoods!

The directions we received were to walk to a green dumpster–maybe a quarter of a mile–turn left and “walk two long city blocks” to the dogwoods.

The entrance road to the 27.5 acres that is Milarch Nursery, a four-generation family business (The green dumpster did not come into view right away.)

But before she gave the directions, one of the nursery staff, when I asked, said they had two types of white flowering dogwood: Cherokee Princess and Princess Emily.

I’d forgotten about Princess Emily, a variety I’d come across online before Arbor Day 2020. A newer variety of Cornus florida. This is all I’d been able to find out about the variety:

“‘Princess Emily’ Dogwood . . . is a selection of Cornus florida that has (unusual in a dogwood) a strong central leader. The spring flowers have rounded, white overlapping bracts.The leaves are very similar to Cornus kousa but have a glossy appearance and turn to a brilliant red color come fall. It also has a high resistance to powdery mildew and will show continual growth even in the drier parts of summer.”

— David Dermyer of Christensen’s Plant and Hardscape Centers in “Some New Trees for 2016”

I had taken Princess Emily out of consideration because of the “strong central leader.” Remember, I wanted the classic layered look. But this morning, I found myself excited to be actually able to compare two different varieties of white flowering dogwood.

Just as we got to “Dogwood Row(s)”, we ran into Kevin and together, the three of us first passed a number pink dogwoods to arrive at quite a number of 9.5-feet-tall white dogwoods in bloom.

Dualing Princesses

Had I ended up planting the Cherokee Princess from English Gardens, or had Kevin picked a Cherokee Princess out for me from Wiegand’s or Milarch’s, I would have been very surprised come spring, with the respect to the former, or if Kevin pulled up in my driveway with a Cherokee Princess in bloom from either other nursery.

I would have been sure the nursery had made a mistake. One look at the blooms, and I would have been positve I had a specimen of the “Appalachian Spring’ variety of dogwood. This was the variety about which I wrote in a posting a few days ago:

I don’t care for the space between and slight curl of the bracts.

But here at Milarch Nursery, for the first time, I was seeing dogwood bearing both their nametags and blossoms. And, I got a big surprise.

The Cherokee Princess: notice the narrowness of the “curly” bracts; notice the spaces between them.

But Princess Emily, on the other hand, had the squarish flower bracts I liked and some very shapely trees.

Of course, the first Princess Emily I picked out had been tagged by someone else. But, with Kevin’s helpful suggestions regarding branching, I picked out a second-best and had it tagged.

Meanwhile, Kevin went to look for London Plane trees. He received some inaccurate directions, and while he didn’t find the London Plane trees (the only one that the nursery had left was actually at the end of the rows of dogwood trees). But, while he was looking, he found a section of smaller dogwood trees, maybe 7 feet tall. He suggested I have a look as smaller trees have a better chance of surviving the planting.

I walked to the other section of dogwoods, and there she was. The fiirst tree since I started looking to whom I had an emotional reaction.

Elizabeth of Milarch Nursery tagging a ‘Princess Emily’ flowering dogwood for me

And just that easy, and with that much lead-up to it, the search was over.

Princess Emily, my chosen one among many

Yep, tree nerd.

A Perfect Day for Making the Bed

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Last year, in preparation for the brickwork across the back of our carport storage area, I spent a very long day removing a very full bed of very old euonymus. That mass of entangled vine stretched the width of this new bed and came out about four feet from where the brick is now. That particular portion of the new bed provided the easy digging today. The Wisconsin river rocks were repurposed from the ginkgo bed in the front yard. The Cherokee Princess dogwood will be planted where the sun-catcher is stuck (it looks like a stick here), at the halfway point in the width of the brick wall.
My husband, Craig, caught this shot when I thought I was nearing the end. Nope. The longer I dug, the more I kept imagining what else I could plant in the bed if only it were a little bit bigger . . . and then a little bit bigger. Fortunately, the photographer returned with another shovel to lend a hand at the end!
The other measurement I used to determine where the dogwood would be planted is from the point between the French doors in our 2019 bedroom addition (in the background above). The dogwood should provide a nice focal point in the view from the doors all year ’round.
Post-clean-up, post-shower, and post-G&Ts . . . here’s the bed ready for the Princess’s arrival from English Gardens via Singing Tree. After the tree is planted tomorrow–at some (safe) point–I’ll need to return to Haley Stone Patio and Landscape Supply for enough river rocks to complete this larger-than-planned semi-circular bed.

A great Memorial Day project for keeping busy all day at home!

“Cherokee Princess”

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Coming to her forever-home, she finally is. Just met her–while masked, of course–Thursday morning during the “At-Risk Hour” at the English Gardens in Royal Oak.

One of her kind–an Eastern flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)–was supposed to have been planted on our 40th wedding anniversary (May 12, 2019). That was after I developed pre-planting Arbor Day 2019 jitters. And those came about even after having thoroughly researched my way through a list of 14 possible tree choices suggested by friends. And. believing I’d hit upon the winner: an American Basswood (aka “The Bee-Tree”). What could be more perfect in these challenging times for our pollinators?

An American Basswood

But botanist Bronwen Gates, who had been in my yard before, made a late contribution to my search, pointing out that there was already a canopy stretching over this spot on Earth.

Our yard before we moved in 14 years ago; the canopy is much fuller and denser now.

Bronwen suggested I consider:

“what the space was calling for . . .”

Like, perhaps, a native-to-Michigan understory tree. And, then she suggested three possibilities.

More research led to a new decision: the Eastern flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).

10  Cornus florida Seeds Flowering dogwood Seeds image 0
Photo from singingdaffodil https://www.etsy.com/listing/525730708/10-cornus-florida-seeds-flowering

However, by the time that decision was made, the nursery of the landscaper I’d been working with (to help with a grading issue) no longer had any pink Eastern flowering dogwoods left in stock. And I had been thinking pink.

Dogwood Trees For Sale: Wholesale Plants Online Today
Photo: https://www.tennesseewholesalenursery.com/wholesale-dogwood-trees-for-sale/

But, no worries, the season was warming up fast anyway, and he would have one for me on the next Arbor Day: April 24, 2020.

COVID Complications

Of course, then COVID-19 planted itself in our midst. Michigan’s Stay-at-Home order was loosened to allow landscapers to work on Arbor Day, of all days, so it wasn’t going to be an Arbor Day planting this year either. But, with excitement, I called the landscaper to confirm we were all set. In response to my inquiry, he responded that he’d not be able to get to me “’til mid-July.” At which point, of course, it would be too late plant a tree.

Obviously, if I wanted to plant a flowering dogwood this spring, I was going to have to expose myself (along with my at-risk husband and both of my parents in their 90s) to some risk.

Royal Oak
English Gardens in Royal Oak, MI (Note: Clock does not reflect the time at which I visited.)

An “under-water” introduction

Thursday, Kevin D–who had, coincidentally, helped us pick out our last Christmas tree–ushered us through the delivery entrance of Royal Oak’s English Gardens into the outdoor area of the store and directed us to the ornamental trees. A good thing the dogwoods happen to be located in the first two rows of the collection because this time of morning–between 8:00 and 9:00–the overhead rotating sprinklers were forcefully watering this half of the outdoor department. My husband, along for this relatively safe outdoor outing, wandered off to check out the shade perennials, which had already been watered.

Photo of English Gardens - West Bloomfield, MI, United States. Part of outdoor garden stock area
The dry part of English Gardens’ outdoor plant, shrubs and tree area.

I tiptoed through puddles, dodging the rotating streams of water, as Kevin braved direct hits to move in close enough to read the labels on the trees.

I should mention that over the winter my preference had turned from pink to white. He could only find two white dogwoods, both of the variety “Cherokee Princess”.

He said I might be able to find other white varieties at another English Gardens’ location. Aargh! I wasn’t prepared for a variety decision. (Only after I got home did I discover the reason I had no service–and so could not look up “Cherokee Princess” on my phone–was because somehow my “cellular data” setting had turned itself off. Just a weird coincidence or confirmation of a “meant-to-be”?)

Regardless, the At-Risk Hour was coming to a close. Given the Michigan’s COVID-19 lockdown under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 and my scary experience last Friday at Telly’s in Troy (the lack of any mention of COVID-19 on their website should have been my first clue) . . . was I really going to visit another English Garden location? Probably not.

Both trees looked healthy. I paid for the one of the two little dogwoods I thought looked strongest in terms of how it branched and made arrangements for Singing Tree to pick it up Tuesday.

Buyer’s remorse?

But would the other one with the branch splitting off low on the trunk grow up to be a more classically-shaped dogwood tree? And, had I picked the right variety of white dogwood?

This is the species of dogwood I purchased:

Plant Photo
Bracts of Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Princess’
Cherokee Princess Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida 'Cherokee Princess') at English Gardens
Shape of Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Princess’

[Note: These and all photos of dogwood trees available from English Gardens below are credited in their plant database: “Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder“.]

The Lichfield Dogwood

What I really had imagined was a dogwood tree with: 1) creamy white “flowers” (i.e., bracts) . . . and 2) the classic “dogwoody”, bonsai-like layering of branches (aka “a low-branching, broadly-pyramidal but somewhat flat-topped habit”).

To my mind, these qualities represent the “old-fashioned” variety of dogwood, like the mature dogwood that grew on Lichfield Rd. in Detroit, the block on which we owned our first house.

Although looking at it now, close up, the bracts look green, right?

Options I didn’t know about

A search of English Gardens’ database, which contains a total of 25 (!) different dogwood varieties, yielded two other varieties of white Cornus florida:

Plant Photo
Cloud 9 Above: Bracts of “Cloud 9 Flowering Dogwood”; Below: Specimen of Cloud 9 Flowering Dogwood” (Cornus florida ‘Cloud 9’)
Cloud 9 Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida 'Cloud 9') at English Gardens
Plant Photo
Appalachian Spring
Above: Bracts of “Appalachian Spring Flowering Dogwood” ;
Below: Specimen of “Appalachian Spring Flowering Dogwood” (Cornus florida ‘Appalachian Spring’)

Appalachian Spring Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida 'Appalachian Spring') at English Gardens

. . . And two hybrids (notice these varieties lack the “florida” in their name, the species part of the tree’s name. Cornus is the genus part of the name).

Plant Photo
Eddie’s White Wonder Flowering Dogwood Above: Bracts; Below: Specimen (Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’)

Eddie's White Wonder Flowering Dogwood (Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder') at English Gardens

Venus Flowering Dogwood (Cornus 'Venus') at English Gardens
— Venus Flowering Dogwood Flowers
(Cornus ‘Venus’)

Two additional white dogwood hybrids were available by special order only. The calendar and the forecast high temperature of 89 for Tuesday–the tree’s scheduled planting day–were certainly not going to allow time for any special ordering!

Now what?

Research, of course.

After looking closely at all of the other photos I could find online and doing a little reading, I discovered that all of these white flowering dogwood species are good for bees, butterflies, and birds. All flower in the spring, produce bright red berries, and add color to the landscape in autumn.

My notes and decisions along the way include:

Cherokee Princess

  • 15 to 30 feet high and a 15 to 30-foot spread
  • “‘Cherokee Princess’ is a cultivar that is noted for its consistently early and heavy bloom of flowers with large white bracts. Originally introduced in 1959-60 as C. florida ‘Sno-White’.”
  • I like the bracts; they may even turn out to be creamier white than some of the other varieties.
  • Good rust-red fall color.
  • “May be inadvisable at this time to plant this tree in areas where dogwood anthracnose infestations are present.”

Wait, what? Dogwood anthracnose infestation? Is that a problem in my zip code???

Cloud 9

  • Maybe this look is closer to what I was imagining?
  • 15 to 30 feet high and a 15 to 30-foot spread
  • “May be inadvisable at this time to plant this tree in areas where dogwood anthracnose infestations are present.” Oh-no! 

Appalachian Spring

  • I don’t care for the space between and slight curl of the bracts.
  • 15 to 20 feet high and a 15 to 20-foot spread
  • However: Has 100% resistance to anthracnose . . . Of course, it does.

Eddie’s White Wonder

  • A cross between the Cornus nuttallii, the native Western dogwood and the Cornus florida, the Eastern North American species
  • A “particularly attractive hybrid variety with profuse white blossoms, a distinctive growth pattern [I wonder what is?] and enhanced disease resistance.”
  • Named after its creator: British Columbia nurseryman Henry Matheson Eddie (1881-1953) in 1945.

Venus Flowering Dogwood

  • A 1973 cross between the Cornus nuttallii var. “Goldspot”, the native Western/Pacific dogwood, and Cornus kousa var. Chinensis, which then was pollinated with pollen from C. kousa “Rosea,” a pink-flowered Japanese dogwood in 1983. The resulting variety was patented as Venus in 2003.  
  • Cornus kousa is not a native tree . . . so, this one is out.

The bottomline, my brain, and privilege

I want a native flowering dogwood with white flowers, preferably creamy and with the classic layering branches.

Given the dogwood anthracnose threat, maybe ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ would have been my best choice. (They did have some of that variety left over from last year–albeit frost-damaged–at Telly’s.)

More to the point:

  • What exactly has the lockdown done to my brain with respect to my decision-making aptitude?
  • Or with respect to the length at which I will write about . . . or anticipate how long readers might care to read about, well . . . indecision. (Even if one is a tree nerd.)

And, yes, I do realize how very fortunate I am to be so privileged–especially at this time in our world’s history–to be healthy and have the leisure to worry about what variety of native white flowering dogwood tree I will choose to have planted in my yard.

I could call around to English Gardens this weekend. I could visit any one of the other 5 locations of English Gardens between 8:00 and 9:00 Tuesday morning.

Or I could stop obsessing and que sera sera. . .

Tuesday approaches. Stay tuned.

A Second for a Serviceberry

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On June 28th (I know, I know, over a month ago now; this summer has proven to be as fast and furious as the rest of the last year ), I received an e-mail from my brother Gregg of Sudbury, MA. I was thrilled to learn he’d been following my blog! (We see each other once a year, tops.) And delighted that he had considered and contributed a suggestion for my tree-to-be-planted:

I recommend Serviceberry, a small understory tree (shrub) of the Rosaceae family, with some species native to Michigan (native species always preferred). Needs moist but well drained acidic soil. Does not like 
clay, alkaline, sandy, or salty soil. Medium growth rate, one or two 
feet per year. A “two-generation” tree unlikely to live much past fifty. 
Blooms early spring, great for bees offering early season foraging! 
Berries feed birds and squirrels, and berries make good jam or pie. Deer 
resistant. Full sun to partial shade, berry production commensurate with sun. If planted over parking area dropped berries may be a concern if birds, squirrels, and humans do not harvest. Can be pruned as single-stem tree or multiple-stem large shrub, somewhat dependent on species. 
Beautiful fall color! Plant out front in sunniest spot for easiest bird 
and squirrel access? But not too close to roadway.

A Serviceberry in bloom

Another name for Shadbush

Those others of you who have been following this decision-making blog may recall that Bronwen Gates, who, like my brother, is also familiar with my well-canopied yard, recommended two understory trees: the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) or the Shadbush, which turns out is another name for a Serviceberry, writing:

What about some of the wonderful native understory trees like Shadbush (Amelanchier), so welcome as the earliest of all the rose family trees in bloom and with “delish” fruits in June . . .

Deliberations recommence . . .

I am tempted to switch my choice (yet again!) just in gratitude for my brother reaching out and in thanksgiving for a successful resolution to a sudden and serious health challenge he faced in June–and I do love how many names the Serviceberry/Shadbush is known by. Wikipedia has a lovely list:

Amelanchier is also known as: shadbushshadwood or shadblowserviceberry or sarvisberry, or just sarvisjuneberrysaskatoonsugarplum or wild-plum, and chuckley pear . . .

. . . And dreams win

But, I realize as I type these considerings, that since the last day of April, I’ve been dreaming of a white flowering dogwood framed by our new bedroom French doors and becoming an understory tree to my American beech ally, which straddles our backyard property line. In fact, I’ve already had Filipe, the brick mason from A-D Masonry, and Tim Lekander, the concrete guy from LMT Contracting, back for estimates on adding another brick skirt, this one across the back of the carport, to provide a striking backdrop for the dogwood.

The Final Plan

Mike Wasserman from Old Village Landscaper in Plymouth, MI, and his great crew just completed two and a half days of spectacular landscaping Monday, restoring the aftermath of the construction in our side and back yards. Not only does it look better than it has in the 13 years we’ve lived here, it looks better than I have imagined it could!

Mike took a look at my proposed planting site and approved of it, suggesting we make a semi-circle bed for the dogwood coming out from the brick-skirting-to-be. He’ll be picking out a flowering dogwood for me and planting it come spring, the best time to plant the species. He liked the idea of planting it on the next Arbor Day: April 24, 2020. Me, too. Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, Bro!

But, before I sign off and before the stroke of midnight, let me take this opportunity to wish my dear brother, Gregg Kevin Dunphy, a very happy 60th birthday today!

Happy Arbor Day …

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. . . Belatedly!

Sometimes a delay happens for very good reasons.

Of course, I may just be trying to reassure the OCD facet of my personality, the part who has a very hard time missing a deadline–even a self-determined tree-planting deadline.

My “New Plan A” Choice

On Friday–Arbor Day 2019–when one of my daughters asked me what tree I had decided to plant, I told her an American Basswood (aka the Bee-Tree). Of the three trees in running: Swamp White Oak, the Tulip-Tree, and the Basswood, I felt this one had the best chance to survive in my yard and the most to offer, given:

  • There is not enough room in my already full-canopied yard for the Swamp White Oak.
  • Tim Travis, owner of Goldner-Walsh Nursery warned that Tulip-Trees tend to be weak-wooded and could split in an ice storm.
  • Although Tim Travis had also said he wasn’t a big fan of the Basswood because of how dense it was–and I had read an interesting description of how the thick heavy canopy looked from a bird’s view–I figured it was the best of the three and its benefit to the bees would make up for any downside that came with its dense crown.
American Basswood Tree
Photo credit: Minnesota Seasons
http://minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/American_basswood.html
h

Unsettled

Having finally made my decision, I was surprised to feel unsettled whenever I thought about it that evening while singing in the Troy Community Chorus’s spring concert “Sweet Dreams.” Nor did I open either of the books I’d lugged to our cottage to read more about the American Basswood while on Pelee Island Saturday and Sunday, where we’d fled attempting to get away from construction challenges that have cropped up in what was to be the end of our addition-building project.

Perhaps I should have recognized what this “unsettled” feeling meant about my decision at the time I was feeling it.

Post-Decision Messages Arrive

Saturday morning, Jason, my son-in-law, in Durham, NC texted me this photo accompanying the text below it:

“Look what was sitting on our back porch this morning. I knew the tulip tree on your blog looked familiar. There’s one in our yard!”

At our concert’s afterglow Friday evening, Fred G. had asked me if I’d made my decision. A fair question. He’d read my Thursday evening post and Arbor Day was approaching midnight. I told him my decision was the Basswood to benefit the bees.

Saturday evening, Fred shot me an e-mail, which I was able to access on my phone on Pelee during a reprieve from my typical no-service status on the island. In his e-mail, Fred tried to convince me I should plant a Tulip-Tree to replace his dying one, which is planted just one street north of us. In support of this idea, he quoted some information about Tulip-Trees, from Owlcation: “The amount of nectar produced can be around a tablespoon per flower and it is why the tree is popular with beekeepers. The nectar is also popular because it also contributes to the rich and strong flavor of poplar honey.”

Should I be reconsidering the Tulip-tree? There had also been that dried Tulip-tree leaf–the only dried leaf–stuck in the tree guide my mom gave me a few weeks ago. Maybe that was why I felt unsettled with my decision; I’d picked the wrong one of the three native trees.

What Is the Space Calling For?

My delay also allowed some additional information to reach me in the form of an e-mail message with the subject line “Trees . . .” from Bronwen Gates, scientist, herbalist, poet and intuitive of Ann Arbor. When I got back on-the-grid yesterday, I read the message she’d sent Sunday afternoon:

“Forgive this late contribution …

My first question, if you’re planting in your yard (I liked the Ginkgo idea  at the Senior Center), would be “What is the space calling for?” Do you have plenty of mature trees with almost complete canopy cover?  Is there room for another Big Tree?

What about some of the wonderful native understory trees like Shadbush (Amelanchier), so welcome as the earliest of all the rose family trees in bloom and with “delish” fruits in June. Or our native Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), that also delights as it blooms while the big trees are just beginning to leaf. Such a symphony of color, texture, and spatial delight.

You mention Swamp White Oak as a possibility. Is your area seasonally inundated? The range of many trees that grow in swamps get their competitive advantage from tolerating /requiring that they are seasonally inundated.  We don’t always realize this if we don’t visit a place at all seasons…

Hope you are thrilled with your choice…

Spring blessings,
Bronwen

With respect to the Swamp White Oak: Despite reports of flooded basements in the neighborhood every spring, sometimes including ours, with the Red Run underground, my front yard, a part of its former floodplain, does not get inundated with water or with anything else every year. Except more English ivy.

Three Factors to Consider

  1. Thrilled with my choice? Well, no. Unsettled isn’t thrilled.
  2. My yard was already under a pretty full canopy before moved in over a dozen years ago as you can see below. Maybe I shouldn’t be adding to the overstory, but thinking in terms of the understory instead.
  3. After three decades of friendship with this Wise Woman, I do know to consider her suggestions and heed her advice.

A Morning of Understory Research

I began this morning by moving a bookshelf of 15 tree guidebooks from our new bedroom back to my study. (One of our construction challenges had caused them to be removed from my study last week. Speaking of inundation …)

Then I spent a Pomodoro’s worth of time on each of Bronwen’s suggestions.

The “Shadbush”

This native tree, Amelanchier arborea, is a member of the Rose family, also known commonly as the:

  • Shadberry, Shadblow, or Shadwood–So called because the tree’s flowering signals when shad–a herring-like fish that spends much of its life in the sea–typically runs upstream in rivers to spawn.
  • Common Serviceberry, Sarvisberry, or Sarvis–Perhaps most commonly known by one of this trio of names. “Service” (or “sarvis,” the Appalachian pronunciation of “service”) because during the time of the United States’ northern settlement, flowers on this earliest-blooming tree signaled the time of the year when funerals, marriages, and baptisms could once again occur after winter because roads were once again passable for ministers/priests who provided these services. Another source suggested the blossoms more specifically signaled the time when the ground was thawed enough for digging graves and subsequently, the funeral services.
  • Juneberry–Because the edible and delicious red to purple small berries appear in June. Humans have to compete with birds to consume these sweet treats, which, while more closely related to apples, reportedly, taste most like blueberries and are successfully used in baked goods, especially pies. They can also be dried like raisins.
  • Other names for the species include: sugarplum, wild-plum, saskatoon, chuckley pear (although some of these may relate to some of the 15 other varieties of serviceberry trees or bushes, not the Common Serviceberry.)
Serviceberry/Shadblow (aka Juneberry tree)
Photo credit: https://readytogrowtrees.com/products/serviceberry-shadblow

I have mentioned how much I appreciate things called by more than one name. I had already decided that if it were a Shadbush I planted, it would from ever henceforth be referred to as “The Juneberry.”

The Downsides of the Juneberry

However, as I read more, I did notice two downsides to the native understory choice of the Juneberry tree:

  • Deer browse on twigs of this tree. Since the disruptive development of three of the four lots in the middle of our block, I’ve not seen members of our “Vinsetta Herd” much, but I suspect they’re just biding their time ’til the commotion quiets down. I provide them candy by way of my hostas, but I’d feel much differently about them nibbling on a tree.
  • In one reference, I noticed the trees commonly live only 10 – 20 years (in which case, I may well outlive it, given my family genes) while other sources agreed that this 20-to-50-foot tree is relatively short-lived, rarely living longer than 50 years. I suspect my daughters and grandchildren might all outlive a specimen of this species.

Redbud Misread

For no reason I can imagine, when I first had read Bronwen’s e-mail, I misread her two suggestions as being: a Shadbush and a Redbud.

I do love redbud trees–Lisa E. and Susan H-B had both suggested that species. But, I already have one. It’s the Forest Pansy Redbud that I had planted in our front yard in 2012. This is the tree that split in half last August while it was heavily-leafed and we were experiencing a gusty day shortly after the large evergreen trees and shrubs–serving the purpose of a natural windbreak, I suspect–were removed from the lots being developed west of my house.

Visceral Delight

When I reread Bronwen’s e-mail and realized she had, in fact, recommended an Eastern flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), I felt zapped by a zing of joy. A dogwood!

Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Photo credit: https://www.amazon.com/1-White-Flowering-Dogwood-cornus-florida/dp/B01D12HHFO

A Brief History of Dogwood and Me

While I’ve never been intimately connected with land on which a dogwood grew at any time in my life, I remember asking my mom to identify a flowering tree I’d fallen in love with in the spring of 1979. This was the spring we closed on and moved into our first house, a small two-bedroom Tudor, which had a tiny foyer with a floor of Pewabic tile, located on Lichfield Road in Detroit’s Green Acres neighborhood. Five weeks later, we were married.

The dogwood was maybe half a block north of our house, on the same side of the street. It bloomed ecstatically that year despite an ice storm that began on April 8th, the last day of the weekend we moved in, one of the 10 worst storms in Detroit history that left us without power for 6 days. I wonder if that beautiful tree still grows there.

For the past four decades, every time I see a dogwood in flower, I’m taken back to the spring walks we took after the ice melted, imagining our future together during those deliriously-happy early weeks of home ownership and marriage. The dogwood’s blossoms had faded by the end of June.

Dogwood flowers
Photo credit: Liz West
https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/34612579626

My Post-Arbor Day 2019 Decision

Our 40th wedding anniversary is this year in the month of May. Perhaps, this would be a good time to plant a dogwood to bloom every year in our yard from this time forth. Yes?

Pink dogwood flowers
Photo credit: Lacey Smith from Pixabay