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Guest Blog Post by: Carol Michel

Originally posted on May Dream Gardens Blog, September 7, 2007

Ten years ago I planted this crabapple (Malus ‘Guinivere’) in a bed bordered by the side of the garage, the front porch and the walkway that takes you from the driveway to the porch. I took this picture shortly after I planted it. (I scanned in the picture so it is not the best quality.)

I bought my crabapple tree from a nursery on the other side of town, where they grow a lot of their trees and actually have the trees planted until you buy them. Then when you buy a tree, they give you a little stake and tell you to put it by the hole where you want it. Then they dig the tree up and deliver it right to your house and even set it in the hole. For free! (The delivery part, not the tree part.)

At the same time that I bought the crabapple, I also bought an Oriental Spruce, Picea orientalis ‘Green Knight’.

 

 

 

 

This is a picture I took soon after I planted both them on August 28, 1997
This is a picture I took soon after I planted both them on August 28, 1997

I dug the holes myself, and made sure they were nice wide holes, ready to receive my new trees. I was confident in my hole digging having learned to dig a good tree hole in college (really!) After digging what I thought were good holes, I placed the stakes beside them and waited for the nursery to deliver my trees.

A few days later, I came home from work and saw that the nursery had delivered my trees. They placed the spruce right down in the hole I had dug for it, so in a matter of minutes I finished planting it.

Then I turned my attention to the crabapple, which they had left beside its hole. I hadn’t dug the hole deep enough, I decided, so dug down a bit more. Then I used my shovel to determine the depth of the hole and compared it to the height of the root ball. Like they do on TV. Hmmmm… looked about right, I decided.

So I pushed with all my strength and shoved the crabapple root ball down into the hole.

Guess what? The hole wasn’t deep enough.
And there was no way I was going to be able to lift the tree out of the hole. Because a cubic foot of dirt ways around 80 pounds, I think.

Guess what I did? No, I did not call the nursery and have them come back out and plant the tree for me, but good guess.

I dug some more. I extended the width of the hole enough so that I could drag the tree over to the side at the same level it was sitting in the hole, and then dug the original hole deeper and shoved the tree back over again.

That was a lot of digging, and for a moment, that moment when I didn’t know what I was going to do, I wished I had just paid the nurseryman to plant the trees.

But ten years later, all’s well that end’s well.
I can’t believe how small the trees started out and how much they’ve grown. They were the most expensive plants I had ever purchased for my garden, but I think they were well worth it. There is no one else in the neighborhood with a spruce like mine, nor anyone with as beautiful a crabapple as this one. (Ask any of my neighbors, if you don’t believe me!)

And now some useful information from the gardener here at May Dreams Gardens, for a change. My tips on buying trees and shrubs for the landscape…

If the nurseryman is going to deliver the trees anyway, let them plant them, too. I did a lot of digging to plant that crabapple, digging the equivalent of two holes. I always figure that a cubic foot of dirt is going to weigh about 80 pounds. I have no business trying to shove or lift something that heavy.

When you buy focal point plants, plan to spend some money. Buy good specimen trees and shrubs from a reputable nursery. You’ll find something different, like I did, and get a chance to talk to someone who really knows about the plants before you decide to buy them. They should help you pick out a good tree or shrub that will grow where you want to plant it.

Plant in the fall. It really is the best time to plant from the tree and shrubs’ perspective. And it will force you to go to real garden centers or nurseries to get the plants because the big box stores won’t have much left. They are all shutting down their garden centers; most of them just have a bunch of left over plants on clearance, which might be tempting to buy. Indeed, I’ll admit to having tried a few clearance plants in the past. But be careful and inspect them closely before you buy them. Don’t be afraid to pull them out of the containers to check the roots. And if you can’t get them to easily come out of their containers, it likely means they are very pot bound. Don’t count on your green thumb to bring back a plant that has been sitting there all summer, most likely not getting the kind of care that a good garden center or nursery would give it. Even if it makes it, it may be years before it “snaps out of it”.

Keep a garden journal. That’s how I know I planted these trees on August 28, 1997. The specific date isn’t important, but it’s nice to know the year (isn’t it?) Plant for the future. Trees and shrubs should you bring you years of enjoyment so buy good ones!

Blog post courtesy of Carol Michel, May Dreams Gardens blog

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