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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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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

First Sign of Fall

I'm on vacation this week. Ha. Some vacation. So far it's rained the entire time. So much for that trip to Hershey Park we'd planned. (I'll do almost anything for chocolate, except pay a small fortune to spend a rainy day at an amusement park.) So today it occurred to me that I hadn't posted anything new in a while, so I took my camera out to see if anything looked different. Voila! The Greenspire Linden is already turning yellow on the inside! I wonder how long it will be before all the leaves have fallen? Usually, she's bare just after Halloween. Does that mean this tree sports fall color for two entire months? I never noticed that before! Guess we'll wait and see. Stay tuned . . .

Lisa, in Burlington, Canada, writes: I was on vacation this week too and well it tanked, big time. One of the coldest and rainy August that I can remember for a long time. And guess what my Linden is also turning which I thought was kind of early and yesterday I noticed that my clump atumn blaze maple was turning red as well as my serviceberry. Make the madness stop. Love fall but I'm just not ready yet. Is this early??? I know last year they changed quickly on me because we had just planted them but I was surprised to see the same thing this year. Is it because they are still in shock? Or is this the norm? Also, 2 of my ivory silk lilacs look pathetic. They actually look like they are dying. Few leaves, wilting, yellow. When I scratch the branch it is green. Checked the water level in the soil, said moist to wet (this is a very wet area in the yard but was told they like wet feet). What do you think? Lisa

Hmm, I think lilacs don't mind a moist spot, but it still has to be well-drained. If it stays wet all the time, pests will move in. See any pests? Oh, and yes, your trees could still be experiencing abnormal fall shut-down. It often takes a couple of years for trees to become established. Be patient! Is your linden yellow all over? Or just in a few spots? Mine is spotty yellow, and I remember that in the first couple of years, it lost its leaves much earlier than the other lindens around here. I'd say it took at least three or four years before it seemed like an established tree.
Photograph of the week.
9:01 pm | link 

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Gregory's Tree Gets a Visitor

Cicadas have been flying around the yard for a few weeks now, but every time I ran to get my camera, they'd fly away. Not today! This one, hanging in the purple leaf plum, let me get REALLY close!

Notice there's NO SCALES! (For the scale soap opera, click here.)
Photograph of the week.
2:06 pm | link 

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Royal 'Bronze' Maple Tests My Patience

The Royal Red Maple tree is red, for sure, in April and May. But by July, my tree turns distinctly bronze and stays that way until the leaves fall off in November. When I'm under the tree taking pictures through the bronze leaves against a clear blue sky, I am awestruck by the beautiful colors. But honestly, from a distance, this tree is not the most attractive tree in the backyard forest through summer.

She's pokey, too. After planting this tree bare root in 1999, she's now only 14' feet tall. And, hold on a minute, Bradley has just gone out to measure the circumference of her trunk . . . Here he comes now . . . And the report is in! 5.75", which is admittedly quite a bit larger than her planting circumference of 1 inch, and her 5-year growth measurement of 3.5".

Let's see then. In 1999, she was 5 feet tall. in 2006 she's 14 feet. That's a growth rate of about 1 foot a year.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. I LOVE watching trees grow. Good thing I have a patient soul.
Photograph of the week.
11:29 am | link 

Friday, August 11, 2006

And the Winner Is . . .

The triple trunk of our black cherry tree is ginormous. So, to make the task of measuring our trees more fun, we had a tree circumference guessing contest. Bradley guessed that the cherry trunk was 4 feet around. I guessed 7 feet. At first, Gregory guessed 2 feet, but I pointed out the nearby Sugar maple, which we had just measured at nearly 2 feet. "Clearly," I whispered to Gregory, "the cherry tree is a lot bigger than the sugar maple." On the tip, he upped his cherry guess to 13 feet.

The actual measurement was 11 feet, 4 inches. The G-rex WON! He was SO happy! His prize was one dollar, which I was later chasing through the yard on a breeze since he failed to put it away in his pocket.

I lead a most exciting life.
Photograph of the week.
12:53 am | link 

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

NEW! Measuring the Height of Trees: The Bradleymeter

Bradley, Gregory and I finally began our official tree growth database updates today. We started by gathering our tools: a measuring tape, a string, a pen, a notebook and my camera. Using the string, we measured around the trunks at waist height (about 3 feet from the ground) to get the updated trunk circumference. Then we measured how tall Bradley is in his shoes. Then I took pictures of Bradley next to each tree. In Photoshop, I measured how many Bradleys I could fit in the tree if I stood a Bradley on top of a Bradley's head. This would be the super-official tree-height-measuring technique known in our forest as "The Bradleymeter." For example, since I could fit six Bradleys on the October Glory Red Maple, I calculated that the tree is now 33 feet tall. When planted in 1999, it was 9 feet tall. That, by the way, is a growth rate of almost 3-and-a-half feet a year. Scary.

We also measured the Purple Leaf Plum today. Almost 3-and-a-half Bradleys on the Bradleymeter, for a 5-year height of 18 feet. Since she was 8 feet tall on planting day 5 years ago, that puts her growth rate at 2 feet a year. Keep in mind I've had to prune this puppy quite a bit because of drooping and drooling issues. Bleah. But she's still beautiful, as evidenced by the picture atop this post. Wow. What a gorgeous tree. That is, when she's not drooling sap on you or some such malady.

Tomorrow or so I hope to post the measurements of the rest of the backyard trees, which I'm sure I'll get around to as soon as my Bradleymeter stops trying to poke fun at me by going to stand by the Royal Red Maple with a huge grin on his face when I say "Sugar Maple." That kid can pick out a sugar maple from 50 feet away. (9 on the Bradleymeter.) Why does he torture me so? (Well, okay, perhaps the whole Bradleymeter concept has something to do with it.)

Lisa, in Burlington, Canada, writes: Hurray Julie. I've been waiting for this update. I was just looking at your growth charts the other night, wondering where your trees are now. I think this gardening/tree loving thing may become a topic for Doctor Phil or the beginning of a new kind of addiction. I'm already getting the shakes at the prospect of winter. How sad....
Photograph of the week.
12:59 am | link 

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Out with Star Wars, in With Pirates!

Well, some tree grower I am. Way back in May, there was this whole drama about Star Wars Lego people invading my sugar maple. Bradley had tied plastic tie thingies and made an elaborate set-up in the tree that brought many a neighborhood kid to our backyard to see the invasion of the Lego people. Well, as with most games of 11-year-olds, this one came to an end, especially now that Pirates (as in Pirates of the Caribbean) have taken over the house. I asked Bradley to remove the ties, but he never did. Lo and behold (maties), I checked today to make sure the ties weren't choking the tree yet, and they WERE! I TOLD you that sugar maple is a fast grower! Say yer prayers landlubber! I raise my sword to tree ties! Off with you! Whack! Slash! Bang!
Photograph of the week.
3:47 pm | link 

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Reaching for the Sky in My Unkempt Yard

The arborvitae, the red sunset red maple, the plum, the rose, reaching for the sun in the morning. I thought at one time that the fake wreath made the chain link fence just a little less unsightly. Okay, so maybe that idea has run its course. (The crowning touch is, of course, the huge chain lock on the gate, put there to keep our dog from escaping. The dog, by the way, escaped anyway one morning when the gate had been left open by a worker who had come in the backyard to inspect the water pipes. Having never been allowed to chase the cars and trucks before, the dog finally saw his dreams come true, only to discover in an instant that trucks easily crush chasing dogs. Moral of THAT story is always check to make sure workers put things back the way they're supposed to be. The dog did not die, and that's another story for another day.)

So, back to the original topic: who cares about the silly wreath and the ugly chain? It's the sideyard. And that would be a reasonable rationale, if only the rest of the yard looked truly worthy of world wide exposure. Alas, instead of being out there raking and hoeing and putting up a nice fence, my fingers remain pristine, keeping my pure white keyboard beautiful enough for a magazine shoot.
Photograph of the week.
8:09 am | link 

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Go aWAY, You Bug You!

The little dawyck purple beech has changed much and often since she first arrived at our house in the mail. She was green, then purple, now she's green again. She was in a tube, then a pot. She seemed to be growing, but then I wasn't sure if she really was. Today I went to check on her because it's been extremely hot and I was thinking I could move her inside the garage and out of the sun for a few days, and I see that she's being munched upon. Hmmm. I'm not one to worry though, so I'm walking away. For now. (Notice the winter buds already prominent!)
Photograph of the week.
7:52 am | 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.