He who plants trees upon his paternal estate repays a debt to his posterity which he owes to his ancestors.
Newcastle Weekly Courant, England, 1837.
Years ago, while teaching at SFA and helping with what is now SFA Gardens, one of our supporters was quoted as saying “All Greg Grant does is cut down trees.” Oh, how wrong they were. Yes, I had just cut down the wrong tree planted in the wrong place, but that’s usually inevitable. If you don’t believe me, just plant a short-lived, weak wooded species anywhere, or anything beneath a power line, next to a concrete slab, or on top of a septic system. In my opinion, tree planting is one of the noblest and worthiest of causes, but like giving life to any being, should be well thought out and studied carefully.
I literally love planting trees and look forward to tree planting season every year. When I’m not planting trees, I’m thinking about planting trees! When it comes to containerized plants, our four tree planting seasons in Texas are ranked in this order from best to worst: 1. Fall (yes). 2. Winter (ok). 3. Spring (maybe). 4. Summer (no). Fall is best because it gives us three seasons with moisture and mild temperatures to get a root system established before have to face our typically hellish summers. In my lifetime of experience, most fall-planted trees survive the first summer in Texas without irrigation while most spring-planted trees do not. Yes, there are exceptional years. Bare root trees (generally fruits, nuts, or transplants) need to be planted in mid to late winter when they are completely dormant.
I’m not exactly sure how many trees I’ve planted in my life, but in addition to about 8,000 loblolly pines behind my house and around 15,000 longleaf pines just up the road, I’ve planted a plethora of assorted trees at my house, my parent’s house, and other houses and gardens. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon either. I didn’t set any tree-planting records in 2022 but here are the details on some that I planted.
Hybrid Buckeye (Aesculus pavia x glabra): I had to dig and move this volunteer hybrid seedling to make room for my big garden patch at Big Momma’s where I grow corn, greens, and peas. Buckeyes have big fat taproots so it will be interesting to see if it survives the move. I planted it on high ground along my Maple Walk. There are a number of these hybrids in the wild here where the populations of red buckeye and Texas buckeye overlap. I think we are the most eastern county in the distribution of Aesculus glabra arguta.
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum): I planted a 7-gallon coral bark maple (‘Sango Kaku’) in the Tyler Botanical Garden in honor of Cousin Liz Wiley’s late husband. Liz was an outstanding Smith County Master Gardener until she had to move away.
Chalk Maple (Acer leucoderme): I added five 1-gallon chalk maples along the path/drive/fire lane that goes around my eight acres of loblolly pines. I planted them on the edge of my hardwood forest, so they’ll provide a red-orange contrast to my woods full of butter-yellow southern sugar maples.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum): I planted three 5-gallon red maples in the Aceretum at our Tyler Botanical Garden including ‘Brandywine,’ ‘October Glory,’ and ‘Summer Red.’ What a spectacle this garden is going to be each fall!
Sweetgum (Liquidamber styraciflua): I planted one 3-gallon sweetgum along my property line in a moist place where a eastern red cedar wouldn’t survive. I’ll graft it to the fastigiate ‘Slender Silhouette’ in the spring so it will mimic the young Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’ that I planted on the opposite end last year. Between them is a row of spruce pines (Pinus glabra) that will help block the less-than-attractive brick Masonic Lodge out front and mimic my eight acres of pines out back.
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris): I planted six 3-gallon longleaf pines in open gaps in my loblolly pine forest as I’d like to gradually transition all my pines to longleaf since East Texas and the Southeast have plenty of loblolly but only a fraction of our historic longleaf forests. I’ll need to live to be 150 to accomplish this by the way!
Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata): I dug and transplanted a single shortleaf pine to go along the same front fence where I have the spruce pines. I would have planted another spruce pine, but they are virtually impossible to find.
Pear (Pyrus communis x pyrifolia): I planted a 1-gallon pear that will match another pear on the opposite side of my potato bed. This one is supposed to be ‘Garber’ and was provided by my Extension Horticulture colleagues. I planted the one on the opposite side last year. It’s currently an ‘Orient’ but I will graft it with a local heirloom pear in the spring that I call “Ezra Wheeler.” Dr. Jerry Parsons identified as ‘Garber’ many years ago. I also dug and moved a ‘Shinko’ Asian pear to my parent’s place to make room for the expansion of my potato bed. After visiting King’s Nursery soon, I will add another pair to the collection (two that I don’t already have) at my parents’, giving me a total of five different ones there, two at Big Momma’s, and five at my place. Since we can’t grow apples here, we make do with blight-resistant pears.
White Oak (Quercus alba): I set out three 1-gallon white oaks since they are one of my favorite species on the planet. I put one next to my giant old post oak that died after the combination 2021 freeze and the 2022 drought. The other two I placed in my hardwood forest to expand on the native ones that I already have.
Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum): I replaced a victim of the summer drought with a 5-gallon baldcypress at the swampy back edge of my picnic pocket prairie. This gives me a total of three that will line the edge of the beginning of my Trillium Woods forest.
As always, now that tree planting season is winding down, I feel that I didn’t plant enough! But there’s always next year, and the next, and the next…