Friday, September 23, 2011

Sharon and Craig Plant a Tree

I had begun this with a lead about how we have a custom of planting at least one tree at each house where we have lived since we bought our first house together in 1987, but it got to be too long, so I am saving that story for future zine. I like to draw trees, anyway, so I will look forward to crafting that one.

For this, I will just tell you about the tree we planted on Tuesday (which turns out to be kind of long anyway). We wanted a small tree to shade the patio but not the flower gardens in the backyard, and to avoid interfering with the power lines that reach diagonally across the yard, as well. After considering the various small trees that would be suitable for this site, I settled upon the ornamental crabapple Prairie Fire for its many fine qualities, especially disease resistance, since many of the crabapple trees around here were losing their leaves prematurely this summer due to something or other. My neighbor kindly pointed this out to me when I mentioned that we wanted to plant an ornamental crab, and since I really didn't know what was afflicting the other trees, I looked for one with resistance to as many diseases as possible.

But I also wanted a tree with a spreading, rounded form (the traditional apple-tree shape), that got to be about 20-25 feet high and wide, and had small persistent fruit that the birds could enjoy but that wouldn't drop in the yard and on the patio. I found a handy chart in an article offered by the University of Colorado Extension Service, and from that selected Prairie Fire.
The view from the home office window, where I'm writing this blog post

Our venerable local institution, Bachman's garden center, has always had a place in my heart because my grandmother loved Bachman's and was a loyal customer. For most things, I will go to our local independent garden center, Mother Earth Gardens; but for trees and sometimes shrubs, I like to go to Bachman's. And wouldn't you know they had a tree sale going on, which included free delivery. So, after calling to make sure they had the tree I wanted in stock, off I went to select a handsomely formed specimen and arrange delivery.

I think I mentioned that one of the reasons I like the flowering crab is because birds enjoy the fruit, especially in winter when other foods are scarce. Well, a similarly named crab (prairie something-or-other), is noted for its sterile flowers; it doesn't form fruit. I remarked, while my salesperson was writing up my order, that I thought a crabapple tree with no crabapples seemed kind of pointless to me, and another employee said it was to avoid the mess, especially from all the birds that eat the fruit and leave their droppings behind. So, apparently some people dislike the very bird-attracting qualities that's always one of the factors I consider when selecting a tree or shrub. Who cares if the birds poop on the patio? I have a hose and I'm not afraid to use it!

Future patio shade

The tree came on Tuesday, which was an especially blustery day. Craig was working at home, nursing a cold, and I headed off to an appointment and some errands shortly after the tree was placed in our backyard by a nice man driving Bachman's iconic purple delivery van. As I was heading out to the garage, the tree in its large pot was knocked over by the wind and I figured I may as well leave it lying on the ground, rather than set it up to be knocked over again.

When I got home in the afternoon, it was propped up at an angle, leaning against a bench. Craig reported that he had set it back up several times and was just trying to keep it from lying on the ground, possibly breaking some of the branches. We agreed that we really should plant the tree soon, so it wouldn't get knocked over anymore.

We proceeded to do so right after supper, but this time of year it gets dark quickly, which is why I don't have any photos of the tree planting in progress. The ground was so dry and hard from the long stretch of dry weather we've had since the middle of summer (after a summer that started out with much flooding!), that it took extra effort and lots of water to soften the ground enough to dig a decent hole. Then we discovered we had dug a little too deep and had to backfill a bit (planting a tree too deep dooms it to failure).

When we finally got it planted it was quite dark out. I set the sprinkler on low for a couple of hours to soak the ground all around the root zone.

The wind howled that night, but our newly planted tree just swayed and shook its branches, proving itself a tough little tree and seeming to be happy to have its roots underground at last. We'll get a load of woodchips soon to spread around the base, as well.

I turned on the sprinkler today again, since our recent rains have been rather scant, and soon after I sat down to write this, I heard a bit of commotion coming from the backyard. I looked out the window, and there, frolicking in the sprinkler and perched in the branches of our newly planted tree, were about a dozen sparrows, a couple of house finches, a goldfinch, and a cardinal!

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