Thursday, December 2, 2010

My love hate relationship with Liquidambars & Maples…

I do adore trees. I have countless varieties in my gardens. But the Sweet Gums were there when I arrived….Eight of them in all.
Now granted, I do indeed love their festive fall foliage. The gold, yellow, red and orange make masterpieces’ every fall. And their dense dark green foliage from spring till fall casts much needed shade. I also think the leaf shape is beautiful and the bark on the trees as they get older is quite delightful…but that is where my love for them ends. And rather abruptly!
They tend to be, in this region, rather weak trees. Snow, ice, even wind will snap the limbs easily. I solved this concern by cutting them back into a type of hedge, much like you see in France or Mexico.
But they still drop copious amounts of round seed balls covered in prickly, thorny spins. And yes…step on one barefoot and they hurt!
And then they are so late in dropping their leaves. All the deciduous trees in my gardens finished their leaf drop weeks ago…not these grand dames. Only a smattering of leaves have fallen thus far. It will take another two-three weeks for them to complete their yearly defoliation…and by that time it is always cold, wet, windy and rainy…or worse yet…snowy!
I did not choose these trees myself, but they are beautiful and so large now, I just can’t justify taking them down. But boy are they work, and at times painful if you enjoy going without shoes in the summer, which I most certainly do.
Just like my maple trees which were also here when I bought the property. There are seven of these 40 year old beauties. And they are beautiful… but so much work. First they drop their ‘blooms’ in the spring. Then just when I think all that mess is cleaned up, out come the dropping of their ‘helicopter’ seeds. Not only are these trees prolific producers of seed but the little buggers are very difficult to blow or sweep up! Their small stems get caught on the tiniest part of the concrete and blacktop and send me into a fury of frustration. Then the real fun begins in fall. For 5-6 weeks I am continually cleaning up their leaves.
All of this complaining was actually to relate something. Before you buy any tree you must really find out the seasonal changes to that specific plant. We often sell trees because of shape, size, leaf color or bloom. We need to also be sure about the seed pods and/or fruit of the tree. When does leaf drop usually happen? Is it a long drawn out affair or does it happen quickly? Is the tree a strong hard wood tree or a more tropical soft wooded tree.
In our efforts to streamline our lives, the hours spent having to do multiple clean ups in a year can become a negative to the best examples of trees.
So be aware as you shop, that like us humans, many changes occur each year in our gardens. Make sure to collect as much information as you can before you go to a Garden Center to purchase a tree. If you are informed about what that tree does throughout the year it will take away any surprise you might run into before it’s to late to do something about it. None of us really want to cut down big trees from our gardens just because they perform in ways we were unaware of.
Happy Gardening.
William

1 comment:

Debbie T said...

I feel your pain, and raise you a headache! Don't get me started on my rant about Colorado Blue and Alberta Spruces or Flowering cherry and plum trees. At least up here in the Puget Sound region none of the above are suitable for this region.

You are so right about finding out everything you can about your trees you plan to purchase. Unfortunately, many go to the big box stores looking for a bargain and many of the box stores carry trees that may be suitable for other climates, they are horrible for ours.

Since trees are a long term investment, research and paying a bit more for these living beauties will mean years of enjoyment for the homeowners and those that live with their choices decades from now.

Thanks for the food for thought!