There’s no disguising that I’m a sucker for any distinctive tree, common or rare, and regardless if there’s space to plant it, or not. Last year I purchased tiny saplings of Dove tree (Davidia involucrata, below) and Korean Sweetheart tree (Euscaphis japonica) since there was no space in the garden to plant full sized trees. I just had to have them, so the two foot tall trees are planted in decorative containers, where they’ll grow sitting on one of the patios until I figure out where they’ll fit in. These will eventually grow only to be small trees, so it will be relatively easy to find a spot for them (I suppose). If this summer is a repeat of last, thunderstorms will make room without any effort on my part.
There are more dogwoods, redbuds, and lots of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum ‘Scolopendrifolium’, below) that I lust after, but at some point there is just no space and the most idiotic gardener must call it quits. While it might not be too big a challenge to shoehorn the Dove and Sweetheart trees in, planting five or six others in pots would cross the line, even for me. I might be stupid, but I’m not crazy, or is it the other way around?
So, there is no room for more trees. And then, a summer storm pops up with extraordinary winds for only ten minutes, and the fifteen feet tall and wide Seven Son Tree (Heptacodium miconiodes, below) is snapped off below the soil line. After weeks of waiting, to my surprise, there is not a a single sucker that grows back from the roots, so here is an open space, a wide open space.
I argue back and forth for weeks, what to plant? A wide spreading purple Catawba crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’) will best fill the space, but do I lust after it? No. Years ago I planted ‘Catawba’ just off the back corner of the house, when that spot was still in nearly full sun. This crapemyrtle spreads gracefully, and the dark purple blooms are nothing short of magnificent. But, it suffered annually with aphids.
It sounds so easy when it’s recommended to blast aphids off foliage with a concentrated spray of water, but the reality is far more difficult, and I could not be rid of these tiny, leaf sucking beasts. And, one spring, ‘Catawba’ didn’t leaf out. Oh well, sooner than later it would have been too close to the house and the low branches would have obstructed the flagstone walk to the back deck.
So, if not the crapemyrtle, what? Finally, the argument was decided in favor of the Red Horsechestnut (Aesculus x carnea, flowering above), a medium growing tree that is not quite a small flowering tree and not nearly a tall and wide growing shade tree. It’s somewhere between, eventually a bit too large for this spot, but that will be long after I’m dead and gone in all likelihood.
Red horsechestnut is a hybrid of the tall growing, common horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and the shrubby Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia, above), and for the next twenty years it will work quite well in this spot. After that, maybe not so much, but lots can change in that time, so I’ll worry about it later, much later. Today, both the red buckeye and red horsechestnut are flowering, and the question is, how could I have waited so long to plant this delightful tree? The answer is obvious to anyone who has seen the garden, but not so clear to me, it seems.
The next question is for you, dear reader. Someone out there has space enough to plant a medium sized tree with agreeable, dark green corrugated foliage and beautiful, red spring blooms. What better tree could you select than red horsechestnut?
Perhaps you have no space for a thirty foot tall tree. How about the red buckeye or the slightly less beautiful, native Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora, above)? Both require the space that a large viburnum will require, or even a forsythia, and buckeye will grow in sun or shade, dry soil or nearly standing water. I suggest skipping the difficult decisions to choose between these wonderful shrubs, and plant one of each (at least, though I’ll have no argument if you skip the forsythia).