Home Is Where Your Trees Are

The Naked Acre. Part 2

The larger species like oaks, maples, ash, sycamore, and the major evergreens will start adding beauty to your grounds about half way to their maturity. Until then you will depend on dwarf or medium varieties, especially those which flower gaily, to dress up the place without delay. Most of the fruits will do this, and yield other returns as well. Their planting and culture will be dealt with in a separate chapter. Here, only a few reliable flower-bearers need be mentioned. First to mind come dogwood, redbud, hawthorn, fringe tree, goldenrain, mimosa, magnolia. In this category, variety is wide, and by consulting guides and catalogs a progression of blooms can be planned. As a general rule fruits and flowering trees will do best when planted where other trees cannot steal their sunlight. Be sure you know your compass points, and lay out a plat before you dig any holes. Privacy is a desideratum of modern living not craved by all people. The last thing in the world that some ex-urbanites want is to be shut away from their neighbors. They want to see and be seen by their fellow beings.

Togetherness is denied by hedges or bowers, they feel, and people who put up fences are egocentrics. Still, the desire for some privacy in at least part of the grounds is justifiable, and can be achieved without ostentation. Low-growing evergreens, again, are an easy solution around a cook-out fireplace or - be it ever so humble - to screen a pool. If you decide on some hedging, make it hemlock or Taxus, which respond well to feeding and clipping, rather than juniper or arbor-vitae, which may go out of hand. Barberry is a durable alternative, and in winter its merry berries make up for its fallen leaves. Spirea gives a lacy display in its spring season and can be grown densely without much trouble. Collecting and planting one's own shrubs and trees are found by real converts to countrified life to be much more fun than calling up a nursery and ordering the whole job done at one masterful stroke, out of a catalog. Most fun of all is collecting over the years, like stamps or butterflies, either exotics from the nurseries or native wildlings scouted out afield. For wildlings you must first find good hunting grounds, then beg or buy permission, spot and prepare your prizes, and finally fetch them home. The process takes anywhere from a day to two years per specimen, but to the thrill of discovery is added a tang of the unpredictable, and often of instructive failure.

It is better not tried by beginners before they have bought a few standard, cultivated trees at a commercial establishment and watched the whole transplanting process done by the book. Before it is brought to your grounds, young stock should have been root-pruned at least once. At any good nursery you can be sure that this has been done. The effect is to condense the transplant's alimentary system and anchorage. After root-pruning, the feeder roots multiply in a bundle small enough to be lifted out whole, yet their filaments are long enough in totality to buffer the tree's vigor against the shock of uprooting. At the nursery, if you take the trouble to watch from start to finish, you will see how the tree is pruned topside (twenty per cent or more) and trussed up. Then it is trenched around at a radius of roughly five times the trunk diameter. The largest roots are lopped cleanly and the tree is gently tilted to be cut clear underneath, a yard down if there are taproots. The earth-ball is wrapped firmly in burlap and hoisted or skidded into a truck. (See Photo. 33.)

planes ready to move
A row of London planes ready to move.

If your nurserymen are what they should be, you will next discover that more pains go into replanting the tree than into getting it out. The new hole should be dug half again or even twice as wide as the earth-ball. Topsoil will be set aside, subsoil discarded and replaced by other top-soil, or thoroughly mixed with old manure or a mulch. All the earth that is to go back into the hole will be made ready before planting is begun. The hole will not be filled with water just before the earth-ball is lowered into it. The tree will be oriented as it grew (north side north) and its new depth will be matched carefully to its old one by setting the trunk's soil-line flush to the top of the hole. While one man steadies the tree vertically, another will start shoveling and packing earth in around it. When its position is precise and firm will be time enough to cut the bindings and lay back the burlap, which can be left in the hole to rot. As the filling-in is completed, water may be used to wash it down and settle it, but not to flood it. A raised rim of loose earth will be left around the tree for a water-catch through its first few months. (See Fig. 14.) If the transplanting is bare-root instead of B & B (balled and burlapped) the procedure will be different. When the specimen is trenched around, its longer roots will be cut off evenly as before; but now, as the trenching progresses, they will be "combed" free of earth, from the trunk outward, with a spading fork or by hand. Great care will be taken not to damage any tendril feeder roots. As the whole spidery system is exposed, each main member and its feeders will be wrapped in damp burlap (old feed bags will do). In bare-root transplanting, elapsed time from combing the roots to reburying them is kept to a minimum. Roots out of earth are like fish out of water: even though you keep them doused they quickly parch. When the bare-root tree is set up in its new stance, with wraps removed, it will be poised on a cone or mound of soil to receive its root-crown and let the roots run downward at their natural angles. If there is a taproot, a hole for it will be provided down through the mound, by punch-bar. (See Fig. 15.) If there is not room for all their ends, the roots must not be bent around or doubled back; they must be shortened, or the hole widened to fit. Great care will be taken, as before, to set the tree's depth correctly: better a mite too shallow than too deep.

Ball and burlap, hose, pole, bare root

When the soil fill-in is begun it will be done slowly, thoroughly, by finger-work if necessary, to eliminate all possible underground air pockets. As soil is added it may be sprinkled with a hose or watering can (not drenched) to settle it closely and shut crevices. But too much water will create clods, which pack unevenly. Tamping will be continuous to the top, where again a saucer of loose earth will be formed. Trees planted bare-root are more likely to need bracing than those with soil-balls to counterbalance them. Balance will be somewhat improved by pruning aloft, which should be more severe for B-R trees than for B & B. Guy wires running to stakes are impediments to mowing and snares for passers-by. A better bracing system is to drive tall lengths of old water pipe close to the young trunks and make them fast with figure eights of hose or (better) of clothesline, which will rot away soon enough if you forget to remove it. (See Fig. 15.)