I don't know why tree planting is so satisfying to me, but my dream would be to live in an arboretum. I'm on my way to creating a small tree museum here.
There is not much room left to expand my arboretum or extend my mini-forest. I have planted the back hill too thickly with native maples and pin oaks and swamp white oaks and black gums and persimmons and sweetgums and tuliptrees. The saplings are all gaining size and growing into each other the way a natural forest would.
My sassafras stand is taking hold out in the meadow, finally. In the yard specimen trees like a pagoda dogwood, a sourwood, a redbud, magnolias, stewartias, two cornelian cherries, some tree-form blackhaw viburnums are all getting taller than me, and the maples and spruces and birches are now quite big. But I want to plant more.
What's on my shopping list so far this year?
Ostrya virginiana. It's called hophornbeam. A native shade tree, with interesting hop-like seedpods that dangle and flutter. I saw one on a walk in our local reservoir a few years ago, and it was enchanting. I want to plant one for those pretty hop flowers. The habit is kind of coarse and large, so it will go in the meadow.
|Hophornbeam From New England Wildflower Society - Plant profile|
Carpinus caroliniana. This is called blue beech, or musclewood for its smooth gray sinewy looking bark. It's another native. I'm going to plant three in a small grove (I don't have much room; a grove can only be three trees big). It's another native, a smallish tree that grows in the shady understory.
|Blue beech, or Musclewood From Missouri Botanical - Plant profile|
Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'. This is a cultivar, and it is not a native, but it is a stunner. 'Vanessa' is narrow, although not really fastigate, and I think I can get it in next to another tree in the front part of my yard. It has beautiful form, clean leaves, and gorgeous fall color. A real specimen.
|Parrotia persica 'Vanessa' From Learn2Grow - Plant profile|
I don't plant trees to save the planet. It simply makes me happy in a way that flower gardening does not, so I keep doing it.
I will never enjoy the real reward. As a gardener in my mid 60s, I will be gone from this little arboretum when the trees I plant reach maturity. I will not sit under their shade or be able to hang a swing from their lowest branches. I will not see them at their best.
Someone else will live in this house and curse the fact that there is too much shade, that there are too many weird kinds of trees, and that the damn sweetgum drops its spiky fruits in the yard.
My reward instead is imagining how this will all look in the future. And I do get a more immediate pleasure from seeing spindly container plants grow into saplings.
Some of the original trees I started planting seven years ago are actually medium sized young trees now. Some screen the view beyond as intended, some are already flowering in their youth, and some are looking graceful in the way they will eventually at maturity.
That's good, and that's all I ask right now.
My sources for small container-grown trees that I can plant myself:
Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden, CT - a specialty nursery 40 minutes from my house. Interesting selections of woody plants, great propagation program, knowledgeable staff. They publish their retail inventory online, so I can shop for exactly what I want before I get there.
Silver Spring Nursery in Bloomfield, CT - a small, local nursery that is a hidden gem right here in town. Kevin Wilcox, the owner, is an expert in woody plants, propagates most of his inventory and can usually locate a specific plant even if his small nursery does not have it.
Forestfarm Online Nursery in Oregon - very comprehensive inventory of mail order plants, especially trees and shrubs. Shipping is costly, but the plants arrive in excellent shape and the selection is great. I have had some zone transplant difficulties (they are in the Pacific NW, and I am planting in New England), but most survive. Their catalog is no frills, no pictures, nothing glossy, just endless pages of plant descriptions!