Do a lot of homework before planting a tree
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
By JIMMY WILLIAMS
Special to The Messenger
Dog days are out. The annual timing of dog days has traditionally been July 3-Aug. 11. This doesn’t necessarily denote the time when summer heat forces dogs to seek shade under the porch, but the days when the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, rises and sets with the sun.
Since Egyptian times, those days have been noted and studied. In reality, the dates of the sun-star coincidence have moved later into the year since Egypt was a pup, due to procession of the equinoxes, but those traditional dates are still observed. Late July and early August statistically are the hottest times of summer in most of the northern hemisphere.
On the cusp of autumn, then, is the time any gardener worth his compost should be planning for what seasonal requirements there may be beginning a month hence. There are plenty of them, the fall season second only to spring in garden demands.
Trees, in most instances, are ideally planted in autumn. They will then have the whole, wet winter to get roots ensconced well into the soil and will even put forth some new ones when soil temperatures are above 45 degrees or so. Spring planted trees (or other plants, for that matter) are faced almost immediately with the heat and drought stress of our stinking summer.
With some half a century of gardening experience, I can say that one of the principles I have found to be of utmost importance is that of spending more time in studying the attributes (and ills!) of a potential garden addition. This is of particular importance with trees, the most permanent (least temporary, rather) plants you will put into the soil.
It is easy to become enamored of some seasonal feature of a tree without consideration of its faults, which might vastly outnumber the often brief show of flower or leaf.
Autumn foliage color, which will begin to exhibit itself anon, is a case in point. There, come October, will be that brilliant cerise maple or buttery yellow poplar in a neighbor’s yard or in the woods that smites you to the point that you rush out to the garden center and buy up one or more.
You haven’t stopped to study the downside of either tree. The maple will eventually form ravenous roots that will inveigle themselves outward from where you planted the wretched thing near the patio right on under the sitting area to the point they are fully capable of forcing up and shattering even six inches of concrete.
Or that poplar. For some years all is hunky dory. At about age 15 or so, the first of those tulip-shaped flowers (hence the popular moniker tulip poplar) appear. Shortly (very shortly) they begin to shed and fall all over the place. Not only that, but following them comes the production of seeds ensconced in capsules which shatter and launch little helicopters awing by the thousands into every nook and cranny of your property, including your ornamental pool below.
Then, sooner or later, the storm comes and blows brittle branches here and there or, heaven forbid, cracks the whole ball of wax to the ground or onto your house. Yellow poplars are brittle trees and subject to wind damage. And then there are Bradford pears.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Don’t be taken by a pretty face.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 8.23.11
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path