Our Tree Babies

A year ago this month we started renovating this home! The majority of our free time so far here has truly been spent cleaning, painting, and learning how to do stuff…or should I say how not to do stuff. Ronny is blown away by how much we have accomplished, and I’m amazed at how much we haven’t finished (some might say optimist vs. pessimist, I think romantic vs. realist is more fitting). One year later, my opinion on transplanting is that we found an awesome place to raise our family and we love so many things about it here, but…transplanting anything is tricky. Everything is new which demands adaptation and results in some stress. Tearing up roots sucks and turns out, having established roots brings a lot of security and strength. But, despite all that, sometimes it’s what has to happen. We definitely feel this is where we are supposed to be and have optimistic (yes, both of us have optimistic) outlooks for the year ahead.

One of our hesitations about Tennessee was the hot summers (for Ronny) and the cold winters (for me). Honestly, we love the four seasons! We had an insane amount of snow this past winter and I really enjoyed it. Ronny has found that some humid heat, along with well functioning AC and a pool, is definitely tolerable. But spring is maybe the most interesting season here; it literally begins overnight. All of a sudden, everything buds and blooms and turns green in the blink of an eye. I looked out one morning and the large tree in front by the road was suddenly covered in white blossoms. Next, all the west coast transplants start getting their flowers in and wearing flip flops just before the annual “second freeze” hits, which of course they were ignorant to. Temperatures suddenly plummet and us newbies hastily cover our potted porch plants and wonder what’s going on with the weather.

The only con to this season is that spring allergies are absolutely horrible here. I really believe it’s the price we pay for such a gorgeous 2 months. Between sneezing and trying not to cough, since that’s just socially not cool these days, we have been enjoying getting outside in the sun and working on the yard. I admittedly have quite a plant problem. I’m starting to think that since I don’t do pets, that void is filled by flora as I get older. After driving with me 30 minutes out of the way to pick up a young trumpet flower I found on the next door app, Ronny looked at me and asked where this obsession was coming from. I really don’t know and I don’t even claim to have a green thumb which makes it semi problematic.

Soon after moving in here, I was eager to get some trees in the ground. According to the ancient Greeks, “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in”. So I suppose I could claim I’m helping society in the most literal sense of this ancient wisdom. But really my motivations were selfish and knowing trees take a really long time to grow, I’m hoping to see them in a bit of their mature glory while I’m still alive. I guess you could say my internal tree-planting clock began ticking this past year. Part of the rush was also that we needed to pull out two trees in the front yard, and seeing the bare spots in the front yard broke my heart. For you normal pet people out there, it’s like when you lose a dog and then go to the pet shop a month later for a puppy. I couldn’t get to the nursery fast enough.

The two trees were actually more like one bush and one tree. The “bush” we took out was a rose of Sharon. These shrubs are beautiful, bursting into bright tropical looking flowers which stick around for the whole summer and into the fall. We have a purple one in the backyard which I love and it helps make our property a hummingbird and butterfly sanctuary.

Rose of Sharon “shrub”- don’t worry, this backyard beauty is still there!

But the other in the front yard was being choked out by a wild something that was growing in the middle of it, and what was left of it was very much a bush struggling for life and I knew we should get a proper tree in that spot. Ronny was initially quite pumped to do the removal. Chainsawing it down to a stump last summer took about 15 minutes. Loosening the stump with a pick axe…not quite so enjoyable or so speedy.

Next, the stump was hooked up to our 4Runner and the girls came out before bed to watch the big pull. That was literally the most anticlimactic thing they had ever witnessed. 47 attempts later and the tree had barely budged, I was concerned about the resulting alignment on the 4Runner, and the girls were now up way to late and had to head for bed sans stump removal victory. In the end Ronny did get it out- the next day after many more hours spent with the pick axe. Several weeks ago, the saucer magnolia we had planted in the Rose of Sharon’s spot exploded into pink glory. I LOVE magnolias and find them iconic in a way. They make gorgeous shade trees, they do well here in the south, and the blossoms are simply stunning.

baby saucer magnolia

The other tree we pulled out was emotionally tough for me. It was a dogwood which I simply adore and has the most perfect delicate flowers, arguably even more beautiful than a magnolia. Problem was that this tree had been overtaken by some sort of beetle and over half the tree was dead now, to the point that most the tree was not even producing leaves, and the trunk was over halfway eaten through. I was beginning to be concerned about it toppling in a storm. I had a lengthy convo with a tree expert at the nursery I go to and he said it was absolutely a goner from the pics and while he would sell me a new one if I really wanted a dogwood, he doesn’t recommend them here because of that darn beetle.

We could watch it continue to die or we could get going on growing something else in it’s place. I settled on two white crepe myrtles which we planted about 10 feet apart so they can grow into an arbor of sorts as they get bigger.

our chosen crepe myrtles on this very hot day!

Another plus for crepe myrtles is that they grow fast! I might even live to see these babies full grown. They have a decently long flowering season and they do fantastic in this state.

In the backyard, we are blessed to have neighbors with huge old growth trees on all sides but we actually didn’t have any trees back there of our own (that is, apart from the awful frog towers we pulled from around the pool). We planted another magnolia between the fire pit and the pool, spacing it just a bit from the pool and poolhouse so that we can extend both in the future and not bother the tree. This magnolia is a sweetbay. They have beautiful white blossoms, provide great shade, and are a more tropical looking magnolia when full grown, making it a great poolside choice in my opinion.

baby sweetbay magnolia

In front of the pool we planted a Rising Sun redbud. This is a really unique tree with hot pink blossoms in spring giving way to bright green and yellow leaves. These are hardy (yay I might not kill this one!) and grow vigorously, adding to the landscape in just a few years. They also smell like orange blossoms and attract butterflies.

baby rising sun redbud

One bummer about tree planting in Tennessee is that fruit trees actually don’t do well here. And after one year, I’m still yet to see anyone with one in their yard, so apparently it’s true. Fig trees supposedly do ok so I’m going to give that a shot and I plan on getting a lemon tree which will need to be a “snowbird tree” and live inside the house for half the year…Ronny is simply ecstatic about that.

I highly recommend getting a tree or two in the ground this Spring! Think through what thrives in your area, how fast it grows if you are impatient like me, and don’t forget to take note of it’s root systems so that you place it well without disrupting foundations or pavement over time. As the Lorax says, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become”. So get started cause they take a while!

One thought on “Our Tree Babies

  1. I just loved this post- trees speak to me and I love all your choices- so beautiful. I also like how the girls get into helping you pick them out and then “help” water them. It’s just as much responsibility as a pet without hair on the furniture and poop in the yard!🤣

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