Our own Arbor Day

by Chuck April 5, 2009

We have a nursery just down the hill from us, Wood's Creek Nursery. The couple that run the nursery know their stuff and are willing to take the time to walk around the nursery and show the plants that they have that'll meet your needs. I enjoy purchasing plants there, but it seems like every time I go in there I come out with a tree.

Today we headed down to the nursery to buy some plants to replace the lavender in our front garden. The cold weather this last winter was just too much for it -- first the lavender died and then one of our dogs used it for a bed. It was looking really ratty. We pulled the lavender, but that left the front garden looking bare, so we decided to replace it right away.

Down at the nursery one of the owners took us through about half the greenhouses on the place looking at possible plants. The cold weather over the winter had her spooked too, she would point at a plant and say "That's nice, but mine died this year so you won't be able to grow it" and move on to the next.

Eventually we decided on two varieties of Euonymous -- one Burning Bush and two Emerald and Gold.  

Then Dana said "And a tree. I'd like a flowering cherry." Flowering cherry is getting a disease, our horticulturist replied. "How about a flowering plum?" says Dana, since our flowering plum had come out of the ground a couple of years earlier in a wind storm. "Oh, I have some great trees on sale" came the reply, and off we went.

We did not buy the biggest. We bought the smallest. And it's still pretty darn big, about 12 to 15 feet tall. And then we headed home where I needed to get our new tree into the ground.

I dug a tree-size planting hole -- 6 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep. Not a bad day's work, most days, but I started a 4:30 in the afternoon. No sense waiting until the last minute, after all. The soil under our gardens is horrible, we have about 8 inches of topsoil on top of thick, gooey clay. I shoveled the topsoil off and set it aside, then put the clay in the bucket of the tractor and hauled if off. When the hole was big enough I started mixing the clay soil with our compost to make something that a tree might be happy in, then back-filled the hole.

Once the hole was refilled and tamped down, I dug out a space for the tree's rootball and dropped the tree in. Then I shoveled the topsoil I'd saved back over the new planting, mounding it up in the middle and making a well to water the tree. Then I looked at the tree and realized that not only had I not cut the strings that wrapped it together, I also left the red plastic flag the nursery man had tied on the top for the drive home.

Fortunately it's a young tree, and quite flexible. I pulled it over 'til I could reach the flag, then cut the bindings while it was down. A small tug was all it took to bring it back upright.

I watered it in and cleaned up to tools. And it was only 8:00 when I finished. Just in time to make dinner...

There's still a lot of bare earth in the front garden, but now the anchor plants are in. We can put more understory plants in over the next few months; later this summer the garden should be looking pretty darn good.



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