I’ve written a lot about trees over the last couple of years, but I’ve never concentrated on the ones that I own right here on the property surrounding my house. Since I’ve been in that house for nearly 60 years, I might as well tell something about what we found growing here when we moved in.
When we moved to Grovers Mill in 1957, we thought our house was just right for us. Outside on our three-eighths of an acre — recently a cornfield. We had very nice shrubs around most of the place.
They were referred to as “foundation plantings” then. We had several nice trees, although we didn’t really know which of the plants on our property could be considered trees. We thought some might be shrubs.
The largest of our trees was what was referred to by the previous owner as a honey locust. Being a city boy I had heard about oaks, maples, and several other varieties of trees, but never a honey locust. It was about 6 feet high with a narrow trunk.
The original owner of the house had had the honey locust planted by the same people who planted what they called the foundation plantings along the front of the house. These included several varieties of evergreen shrub, including ilex, many of which are still there. They were all planted by Obal Garden Service on Alexander Road, a business that closed just a few years ago.
Not long after we moved in, it was obvious that we needed to learn something about the plantings around the house, since neither my wife nor I had had any experience with growing stuff around the outside of a house in the “country.”
So we got ourselves a copy of America’s Garden Book, by James and Louise Bush-Brown. This was the 1957 edition. Over the many years we spent in the garden surrounding our house, we found the answers to most of our garden questions in our copy of Bush-Brown.
We soon became attached to certain bushes and trees on the property. One of the things we noticed quite soon was when the different bushes bloomed. There were a couple that came into bloom at about June 20 each year.
Since that was my wife’s birthday, we began calling it the “birthday bush.” We cut new shoots each year to keep in a vase for several weeks to celebrate her birthday.
Today, I can’t remember what it’s scientific name is, but it is still where it was 60 years ago, and it still blooms about June 20 every year.
In addition to all the original plants and trees, we have acquired a number of new ones over the years. Mainly that has been to provide additional variety and, in a few cases, to replace ones that have failed during the passing years. One year, a house was going to be built on the lot next door.
‘We have found great satisfaction in adding to the appearance and value of our property by letting nature contribute in the best way it can.’
Right in the middle of the lot, right at the center of the excavation, there was a beautiful young pin oak tree, probably about 6 feet high.
About 20 feet away, there was another almost identical one. But this one was near the border between the lots, and I decided to transplant it onto my property since it would probably have been knocked over by a bull-dozer while the lot was being cleared.
Bush-Brown told me everything I needed to know about transplanting a pin-oak. Today, it’s doing very well near the back edge of my lot and is around 60 feet high and has a diameter of nearly 3 feet. The one that remained on the neighbor’s property is still doing well, too, and is huge.
Growing trees and shrubs is something anyone can do. It just takes attention and an appreciation for the resulting beauty. And homeowners can do it themselves.
If you start with a plan that involves planting large trees, realize, of course, that the equipment needed to move and plant one may be beyond your capability, but if you can figure out a way to do it, the accomplishment is very rewarding.
When we started to add new trees to our property, we wondered how much it was sensible to spend on new trees and shrubs. We found out that you can never be sure where you might find the best deal.
Do you call a tree service and ask them to take care of everything, or do you spend a little more time by doing it yourself? On one occasion we were fortunate to discover a friend who knew a man in Princeton who had many trees in a wooded area near his house who wanted to give some of them away.
All I had to do was come and get them. Of course, that meant that I had to dig them up and wrap the earth ball in burlap before I could put them in my car to move them. He had trees of many sizes, and he was serious about giving them away for nothing.
There were evergreens and oaks. I took several of each, and today the biggest ones I got from him are still doing well next to my driveway.
We have found great satisfaction in adding to the appearance and value of our property by letting nature contribute in the best way it can.
Sometimes, of course, nature contributes negatively as with Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The main cost to us was the 30-foot high red oak that we shared with our neighbors on one side, who helped plant it.
A sister tree nearby, however, survived the storm and is impressively healthy. And our original honey locust? It’s now about 60 feet high and has a diameter near the base of more than 3 feet.