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Zelkova Serrata or Japanese Zelkova, at Borough Hall
in Metuchen, New Jersey. (USDA Growing Zone 6)

A Tree Grower's Diary
Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Redbud Reprise and No Mulch Volcanoes

The redbud has been transplanted again, put into its new virtual planting hole within the Tree Grower's Diary, with absolutely NO mulch volcano. And, it has been split into six separate parts! I made a separate page for the Forest Pansy redbud and gave those trees their own growth chart and fact boxes. Meanwhile, the parent tree page (Heidi's Eastern Redbud) was also split into parts, with a growth chart and a separate fact box. Both areas have new content, updated comments, as well as the old so that we can watch these trees as they grow. As for me, I like watching them grow in the context of experiencing life's changes with my children and neighbors. See the comments area of the Forest Pansy fact page for an especially embarrassing picture of Bradley and Kathryn. Better look quick. As soon as they find out it's there, they'll make me take it down. Fifth graders. They were waiting for me to get my flower shots while we were on the way downtown to What's the Scoop, our favorite after school ice cream parlor. Then I made them wait even longer while I pulled away the mulch volcanoes from the zelkova trees at Borough Hall.

(Mulch volcanoes, for those of you who are new to planting trees, are bad for trees in part because they allow fungus to grow on the trunk, they suffocate the tree, and they make a nice home for bugs of all kinds, especially the kind you'll spend hundreds of dollars on trying to eliminate.)
Photograph of the day.
8:55 pm | link 

Friday, April 28, 2006

Tough Love: A Birthday Gift for Miss Plum

Here in the Northeast United States, today is Arbor Day, and so we tree huggers, some of us anyway, find a way to celebrate. Most of us go outside and plant a tree, or go clean up arboretums (what is the plural of arboretum anyway?). Not me. I make Web pages.

But I haven't done this every year. On Arbor Day five years ago, I planted 'Gregory's Tree,' the purple leaf plum. Gregory napped most of the time while his brother, Bradley, and I did the planting. Gregory was six months old then, and when he awoke from his nap, I was covered in mud. Not only was it raining while Bradley and I were planting, but I was in such a hurry to finish before the baby woke that I didn't bother with trying to avoid getting dirty. I got REALLY dirty. Then Gregory had to wait for me to get cleaned up before I could feed him. This did not please said child.

This year for Arbor Day, I did not get muddy. I got RSI! I've been working to build new Web pages for the plum tree, moving her over from Coffeedrome, giving her a new design, and some new features in an attempt to make it easier for surfers to find the information they are looking for, and hopefully, making it easier for me to categorize and place new developments. Eventually, I'll do this with all my tree pages. My favorite new feature is the addition of a growth chart page for each tree that will show in a quick glance the yearly and seasonal pictures.

Why did I choose to redesign the plum page first? It actually wasn't because Arbor Day is her birthday. (I'm not actually nutty enough to give a tree a birthday present.) It's because any change to the plum page, no matter how small, delights Gregory, who is now 5 years old. His face brightens, he pokes around the pages, reading the captions and offering design and writing advice. Then when he's outside, he'll inspect his tree for changes and report back to me. And that's the whole point of Arbor Day: to foster a respect and appreciation for trees.

One more reason I chose the plum page: it gets the most page views by far of any of my tree pages. It would seem that a lot of people are interested in finding out objective information about this tree from people who have planted one. And by the way, not everyone agrees with me that the tree is a pain in the neck! Gregory, for example, absolutely LOVES his tree. And because of that, so do I. I think they call that tough love.

NatureGirl, in Ontario, Canada, writes: Living, growing, active and bearing fruit. A few reasons why we and "Gregory" love our fruit trees!!
Photograph of the day.
1:16 am | link 

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Just in Time for Arbor Day, Tree Blogger Bought the Beech

Your faithful tree blogger has gone officially nuts. My yard is overplanted as it is; the grass is practically gone; the kitchen floor is covered with dirt; and here I am ORDERING A TREE! It's all Todd's fault. Todd is a serious tree hugger friend of mine (serious tree hugger, serious friend), and after his online campaign to get me to plant a new tree to follow on my diary site, I finally gave in and ordered the columnar purple beech today -- Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Purple.' Hillier says it's "a splendid narrowly columnar tree with deep-purple foliage" that can reach 60 feet in height but only 10 feet in width. Its purple beech parent accounts for its eye-catching foliage color, which is "bronzy" in summer. (Todd, I'm sure, is jumping for joy at reading this post.) I ordered it from Forest Farm, in Oregon, just now. It will supposedly arrive in a tube, depending on whether the tree I want is actually in stock. (The order form says they'll notify me within 72 hours if the tree is not available.) My plan is to plant this tree in a container for now, watch it for a while, then decide if I want to plant it in the ground. That's the problem: Even though this is a narrow tree, I have nowhere to plant it! What was I thinking? *Note: If my husband sees this post, it may be my last as I don't suppose there's an internet in tree heaven.

Todd, in northern Georgia, writes: YAY! That's a great choice. I know you'll find a spot for it and yes I'm jumping for joy. Had it not been for the PB that was murdered by the McMansion people, I would have never thought about you getting a PB. and you know I love columnars.

I just read another fact sheet that says 30 foot spread. Hmm. Now can somebody tell me how to pronounce "Dawyck"? (Dawk?)

Lisa, in Burlington, Canada, writes: Hi Julie, this seems like an all to familiar dilemma (lol). Perhaps we all need to move up north to a farm with acres and acres. Wow, now there's a fun thought. I would be in tree heaven.

Lisa wrote to me a week or so ago asking if she'd planted her trees too close together. Like me, she wants a shade canopy! And like me, she'll find herself needing to take some trees down in a few years because she over planted. Lisa, I'm with you! Let's move to farm country where we can plant at will!

Todd adds: That UF site often has conflicting information about the trees. Not to say that they are wrong but they are in Florida where many of the trees they have data sheets on aren't sold or grown which makes me wonder. For example, this beech is hardy zones 4-7. Most of Florida is 9 & 10 with a small part being 8. You might find this site interesting about the origin of the Dawyck Beech.
They have one that is 100' tall and judging by the pic, it looks like about 20-30' wide at the widest point. I think more commonly in landscapes it won't reach that size. At least not in our lifetimes.

You're scaring me.
Photograph of the day.
2:37 pm | link 

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

An Anvil Will Do

I am fascinated by things that grow and change. (Did you see my "Year in the Life" movie yet?) Why, just the other day the sleeves of my 11-year-old son's dress shirt had suddenly grown too short! While Bradley and I searched high and low in the closet for a shirt that might fit, he stared at me, hands on hips (I wish those were my hips), and said, "Why don't you just tie a brick to my head?" (Uh, in case you don't get that 1860's reference -- we love all things Laura Ingalls Wilder -- he means: "Why don't you put something heavy on my head so I won't grow anymore?")
Photograph of the day.
2:11 pm | link 

Monday, April 24, 2006

'Fred' Can't Scare Me!

As thunderstorms raged early this morning, Gregory, my 5-year-old, crawled into bed with me, and we wondered about the tree down by the playground. It's so close to the big electrical wires of the train into New York, that we worry about it whenever there's lightening. We love that tree. It shades the playground!

LARGE THUNDER CRASH: "Are you scared?" I asked Gregory.

"No," he said. "Fred is not here."

"Who is Fred?"

"The imaginary thunderstorm monster. But he only scares me when I'm alone. He's red hot! But as long as I'm with you, I'm not scared."

As I held my son in my arms, I told him that I was even more scared of thunderstorms when I was his age. There was a big gold-colored chair in our living room, and I would dash into it, head first, covering my eyes and ears. Since I grew up in South Carolina, this was a regular spring-summer-fall activity for me. Sometimes my brother, Joe, who was two years older, would join me in that chair, and we would scream to drown out the noise after counting the seconds between the lightening and the thunder. Five seconds was a decent number. To us, that meant the worst of the storm was at least five miles away. Any number under two and Joe and I thought for sure our house would explode.

Gregory sat in front of me, my arms embraced around his middle, as he listened intently, stopping me whenever the lightening flashed so we could count: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand -- Then, suddenly, a large flash was immediately followed by loud crash of thunder.


"Oh mom, you're not really scared!"

"How can you be so brave?"

"I'm not alone!"

Later, when I picked Gregory up from school, the storms had stopped, leaving in their wake a drenched parking lot being baked by the hot sunshine, creating a shroud of fog along the ground. The zelkova tree, we observed, had weathered the storm, as usual, though Gregory wondered why we were suddenly living in a swamp.
Lisa, from Burlington, Canada, writes: What a lovely story of you and your son. So tender--lovely imagery. Those days of sweet snuggles seem to end, sadly, too soon.
Photograph of the day.
1:30 pm | link 

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Year in the Life of One Bud: The Poem

In my yard are many buds,
just one so famed as you!
I love to watch your palette change
your brilliant spring debut,
your summer rains, your autumn hue,
I dream of every cell,
and even when the winter comes,
I never bid farewell.
It gives me such a deep reward
to know you through and through,
because I see in you the Earth
recycled and renewed.

HAPPY EARTH DAY! A Year in the Life: See the movie here.

NatureGirl, from Ontario, Canada, writes: Lovely poem lovely words.Have you planted a tree today..I did!!
Thanks, NatureGirl, and no, I didn't plant anything, but it would be a perfect day to do it -- it's pouring rain! Yay!
Photograph of the day.
3:22 am | link 

Friday, April 21, 2006

Is the Rain in Norway Green?

I parked underneath a large Norway maple tree today and left my windows open just a tad. When I returned after two hours, my car was filled with little green flowers blown off the tree and through the cracks in my windows. Norway maple flowers are everywhere! And then I started to sneeze.
Photograph of the day.
4:54 pm | link 

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Rain or Shine, Pick Up a Rake

Unless there's lightening with the rain that's supposed to arrive on Saturday, the Metuchen Recreation Commission will celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up The Greenway. Rakes, gloves and bags will be provided. Meet at the Senior Center at 9 a.m. for breakfast. Participants will receive free t-shirts and trees to take home!
NatureGirl, from Ontario, Canada, writes: My husband and I are participating in an organized "tree planting" programme in our community! The goal that day is to plant 2000 trees! The aim of the organizers is to plant 500,000 trees over five years to increase forest cover in our area surrounding watershed. My friend "Lisa" I believe will also particiapte with her family! I know you love folks who plant trees!!
Photograph of the day.
12:29 pm | link 

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One Bud Made Into One Relaxing Movie

Click the link, let the movie download, go get a cup of tea, put on your headphones, slide off your shoes, relax.
Photograph of the day.
1:27 am | link 

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sugar Maple Ain't Dead Yet

Not long after I first planted my sugar maple tree, I thought it was dead. In fact, I was so sure it was dead, I called the nursery. The owner came to my house to look at my tree. (A very generous thing for him to do, by the way.) He said the tree was fine, albeit it had some damaged branches high up, which he pruned. A few weeks later, in midsummer when the leaves should have been plentiful, I called again because the leaves that were there were tiny and sparse. He came over AGAIN. What a guy! "It's fine. Relax," he said. I did. Sort of. Seven years later, the tree seems perfectly healthy. It even has sugar maple flowers for the first time ever today! That nursery owner knew what he was doing!
Photograph of the day.
1:41 pm | link 

Monday, April 17, 2006

NEW to the Blog: Photograph of the Day

Each day (or so), I'll put a new picture on the "Julie's Trees" page. Enjoy! Today's featured photograph is of our cat, Kaptain Karl, watching squirrels out by the Bradford pears. Of course, since I was out there with my camera, Karl was probably wondering where all the squirrels had gone! Karl, by the way, is a new addition to our family, adopted from the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter in October, 2005. We haven't gotten around to planting a tree for him yet, though I'm considering a dwarf ginkgo or a narrow purple beech. I don't have much room in my yard for new trees -- boo hoo.
NatureGirl, from Ontario, Canada, writes: Julie, a friend encouraged me to visit your site and what a pleasant visit it is!! You have inspired me to look at my trees differently. Loved the "bud" capture! I have grown catnip for my cats but never a tree!! I invite you to visit my blog site seeing that you are a "cat lover."
Photograph of the day.
2:36 pm | link 

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Made It! (Almost)

My Dogwood didn't quite make it to full bloom by Easter Sunday. For this white flowering dogwood tree to be considered in full bloom would be for the blossom petals to be fully extended and white in color. Most of the blossoms on the tree are not fully open, and they still have a tinge of green. But it's close enough for me! Be sure to check out the Easter poem I wrote for Sid.
2:54 pm | link 

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Believe!

The picture shows my Dogwood on Thursday, three days before Easter. I believe the blossoms will be fully out by Easter morning! Why do people look for Dogwood trees to blossom around Easter time? It's not just because the blossoming tree signals full-fledged spring, but because there's a legend that ties the blossoms to the story of Easter: The delicate four-point blossom represents Jesus' suffering on the cross. Four white petals form a cross shape and surround the crown of thorns in the middle, tinged red to symbolize the blood of Christ. At the petal tips are red points, symbolizing blood from the nails that held Jesus' hands and feet. Blossoming at Easter, the flowers remind the faithful of Jesus' death and resurrected life.

See also the poem I wrote for Easter this year. It is dedicated to my dear friend, Sid Riddlestorffer, who asked me for a very long time to try my hand at an Easter poem. I finally did!
Cathy, from Metuchen, NJ, writes: Your poem gave me the chills. It is REALLY good.
Thanks Cathy! Inspiration: the Bible.
1:38 am | link 

Friday, April 14, 2006

Pinch the Suckers

Gregory is learning at a very young age that branch shoots growing below a certain point on his tree (we call this plum 'Gregory's Tree') must be rubbed out. He even rubs away suckers from the nieghbors' purple leaf plums. Don't know how the neighbors feel about this; they never seem to notice. Why is it a bad idea to let the shoots be? They rob the "good" part of the tree of nutrients on the way up. Comment.
1:18 am | link 

Thursday, April 13, 2006

'Judas Tree' May Still Be Weak

According to legend, Judas Iscariot used an old world relative of the redbud tree to hang himself after he betrayed Jesus -- this is why the offspring of the tree developed weak wood; it refuses to grow strong enough to hang another. Given the news lately about the recently discovered Gospel of Judas, a twist on the story in which Judas is not the betrayer, but Jesus' best friend who did exaclty what Jesus told him to do, the tree legend still makes sense. Even if Judas was only following orders, he still might have felt deep sorrow thinking it was he who brought about Jesus' death. And the tree might have lamented having any part in punishing a so-called innocent man. Comment.
2:29 am | link 

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thinking Ahead to Fall?

Caren, in Ocean Grove, NJ, writes: "Do you know of a nice flowering tree that gets good color in the fall? Pink flowers would be best. Like does your plum tree do anything interesting in the fall? And is it really as annoying a tree as you imply on your web site? (bees, etc.)." Hi Caren: The redbud page will show you a pretty pink flowering tree that has good fall color. Purple leaf plum is a nice pink flowering tree when planted in the right place (nowhere near a child's treehouse)! It's a focal point in the landscape in summer with it's stunning purple leaves, but there's absolutely no fall color, unless you count dark brown. It's also a short-lived tree with tight branches, which translates into potential maintenance problems or costs. Keep in mind that redbud trees are also short-lived and require pruning maintenance in order to develop strong branching. You might also consider Yoshino cherry (ahh, the flowers are gorgeous!) with yellow fall color, or a serviceberry -- some cultivars have pink flowers and yellow fall color. If only I had space in my yard! Comment.
11:26 am | link 

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What a Show!

This spring is just so spectacular. I can't believe it! The Aristocrat pear only bloomed for about two days last year. So far this year: a week and a half. The purple leaf plum: last year, a few days. This year: week and a half! The dogwood has been trying to come out, but hasn't quite made it yet. Should be right on time for Easter! I love that because of the significance of the dogwood blossoms and the Easter story. Check back on Sunday to see if the blossoms made it out by then.
DJ from Georgia, zone 7a, writes: Nana nana boohoo, my dogwood bloomed... Just kidding. But it did, beautifully, and I was so happy. Last year it didn't bloom, and I've been worried that I planted it in just a bit too much sun. It is the only tree I have planted yet, though I hope to plant more this season, budget allowing, and assuming I can find something right for any of the 4 spots I'm looking to plant them in. Anyway, no point to this really, I've just been so excited over having my dogwood bloom. I've been telling everyone and making everybody come look at it, so I just couldn't resist telling you too! By the way, I also wanted to say thanks for the heads up regarding the bradford pears, I've considered them before, but as they wouldn't quite fit the needs of either of the 4 sites I'm looking for, still...neither did the dogwood and I bought it anyway. I'll be sure to avoid the bradford pears. Well good day to you, and Happy Easter!
2:47 pm | link 

Monday, April 10, 2006

Spring Colors -- As Pretty as Fall

My backyard is alive with color right now! The red maple flowers have never been so numerous and large. The purple leaf plum's flowers are gorgeous. Even the Bradford pears are kinda pretty. (It's no secret I'm not a big fan of Bradford pears.) I promised I wouldn't write about Bradford pears again. Oops. Comment.
2:22 pm | link 

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Spring REALLY stinks!

My family walked downtown this afternoon, or rather, we rode bikes. The streets of downtown Metuchen are lined with Bradford pears. YUCK! It smells so bad, people probably think the store owners just forgot to take out the trash. I mean, it's not like you smell the smell and say, wow, that tree stinks. It's more like you smell the smell and think to yourself, What is that awful smell? It's just that it seems so unlikely that a TREE would produce such a smell, that you don't realize where it's coming from, until you get up close to a blossom and sniff, and then you're like, OH MAN, cut that thing DOWN. (In my next post, I promise I won't write about Bradford pears.) Comment.
6:44 pm | link 

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Spring Stinks!
Bradford pears. Why oh why did I buy Bradford pears? THEY STINK! Just when I want to open the windows and let some fresh air in the house after the long winter, I can't because the Bradford pear blossoms smell so bad! Yuck! I wish I had never planted these trees. Somebody give me strength to cut them down and plant something that isn't such a problem! Comment.
2:54 pm | link 

Thursday, April 6, 2006

A Sole With Soul

The truth comes out. I like trees. I even bought shoes that have an imprint of an evergreen tree on the bottom. But today I was at a meeting where participants had to write a letter on the bottoms of their shoes and then as a team, spell out words, like a word jumble. I refused to let anybody mess up my tree soles! They said I'm obsessed. I said yeah. Comment.
8:57 pm | link 

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

This Bud's for Me

This may sound nuts, but I think the little bud on my Aristocrat Pear Tree is putting on a show for me! She knows I'll be coming out to photograph her. It snowed this morning and I could hear the little bud beckoning me. I, however, was not about to go outside in that mess! Comment.

3:48 pm | link 

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

My First Real Blog is About Dead Trees
Isn't it ironic that my first official blog after 7 years of Tree Growers Diary on the web is all about the fact that my Emerald Green Arborvitae seem to be dying? Ok, they don't SEEM to be dying, they ARE dying. I always knew this would happen. I planted them too close to my red maple. The maple sucks water and nutrients from the ground, killing everything underneath it; the grass was the first to go. Now it's my cherished arbs. Next item on my plant purchase list: privacy evergreens that can withstand being planted under a maple. Wish me luck, or better yet, write to me and tell me what to get! Comment.
11:12 pm | link 

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"The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today." -- African proverb

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While the Tree Grower's Diary has been in existence since 1996 (as a notebook) and since 1999 (at Coffeedrome), this new, independent site was launched on April 4, 2006. The blog posts here go from April 2006 through 2007. After that, all Tree Growers Diary blog posts appear in my main blog, the City of Nouns. Click here to go straight to the tree category.