Buying A Tree is Like Getting a Puppy

I've begun my quest to complete task number 5 on my Saturday To Do list, the one I started last weekend.

Task number 5 is "Go buy a tree. Plant a tree". Easier written down than done.

There is much to consider in buying a tree. Where do you want to plant it? Are there utilities overhead that it might interfere with? How about underground? Are there other trees nearby that it could interfere with?

Are you planting for shade? For spring flowering? Do you want brilliant fall foliage? What about seed pods or other fruit? Should the tree be decidious or evergreen? Is it to be a focal point or part of a mixed border?

Is it one that local nurseries actually sell?

For whatever reason, the tree I want to add to my garden, a Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina), doesn't seem to be all that common around here.

I called a garden center near where I work. The person who answered the phone had never heard of a Silverbell, and did not recognize the genus.

I called a nursery way on the other side of town. They checked and lo and behold, they have two of them, in 15 gallon pots, about eight tall. Sounded perfect, but they are clear on the other side of the city. I asked if I they were in good shape, and could I just buy one over the phone and have it delivered.

"Sorry", the very helpful person said, "you have to come and see it first." At this time of year, the best time of year to actually buy and plant trees, trees don't look their best and therefore, the nursery won't sell a tree to a customer unless they go there and actually see the tree first. I suppose they've sold trees over the phone before and the person refused it when they tried to deliver it, so they don't do that any more. I agreed, I really should see the tree first.

Did I mention that nursery is way on the other side of town. Even if I go there, I'll still have them deliver it.

Then after work I stopped in at a garden center that I pass on my way home. They were quite helpful, quite willing to get me a Carolina Silverbell, once I told them what it was. They pulled out their reference book to determine that it was commercially available, and then checked the catalogs from all three of their supplies. Three strikes, no Carolina Silverbell.

So way on the other side of town are two Carolina Silverbells, and one of them could be mine. I just have to figure out when I can get there to see them, and buy one, if I like it.

In some ways, buying a tree reminds me of buying a new puppy.

You do want to see the tree first, just like you would want to see the puppy before you got it.

With both the tree and the puppy, you want to see if it is healthy, understand what kind of care it will need, and read up on how big it will eventually get.

You have to decide if it would it be happy in a little garden or does it like a lot of space, to spread its limbs if it is a tree or to run if it is a puppy.

You want to know if the tree is likely to be messy and drop leaves or seeds or nuts all over the yard or if it is neat and tidy. You want to know if the puppy is likely to shed fur all over the place or is one of those breeds that doesn't.

With a tree, you have to decide if you want a named variety, like the red maple, Acer rubrum 'Autumn Blaze' whose leaves are pictured above, or would just a plain red maple be suitable. With a puppy, you have to decide between a purebred or a mutt.

And with both a tree and a puppy, you have to remember that you are forging a long-term relationship. You will have the dog for whatever years its natural lifespan is and you will have the tree for as long as you have your garden.

Yes, buying a tree is like buying a puppy.

Did I mention that I don't have a dog?

But I am looking to get a new tree!


  1. Okay, I was with you for a while. But frankly, buying a tree is not at all like getting a puppy.

    A dog is a 24-hour-a-day commitment. A dog requires constant attention and love. A dog requires training, broundaries, toys, play.

    When my own dogs were small (smaller-er), it required alarms at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. to take them outside potty.

    I have never had a tree require as much.

    My dogs require that my house be vacuuumed at least every other day or it is not inhabitable by humans. My little dogs require a bath at least every couple of weeks or you need a gas mask. My dogs require treats, time-outs, rewards, combings and brushings, running around.

    (And let it be said that I have also had a HUMAN child, so I am not just a dog mom.)

    I am a gal that loves an analogy. But as a dog mom, this one doesn't work!!!!

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  2. Robin(Bumblebee)... I agree, big difference there between caring for trees and caring for dogs... I'm just referring to the process of selecting and buying/getting! Your list of what it takes to care for your dogs leaves me exhausted.

  3. Although trees aren't as much trouble as puppies they do take much consideration before you purchase one. As you mentioned you have to consider size at maturity, how it behaves in that does it shed, limbs, seed pods etc. Does it require lots of water, or a dry soil, lots of sun or shade... Much to consider

  4. Hee hee! I've always said that raising a puppy was just like raising a child. Since you can't buy children (at least in this country), the analogy to buying a tree is terrific. Great job! I hope your post inspires someone who is planning on buying a tree to consider all of the things you mentioned and not just that they want the same tree that the neighbors have. Or even the same dog.

  5. Carol: Take the ride! You will love a Carolina Silverbell! How far is across town? I know, time could be better spent in the garden but you need that tree! Can't wait to see it!

  6. Good grief, Carol, take a deep breath !

    Buying a tree should be a pleasant experience as I always tell my customers in the Tree and Shrub department where I work part time. Consider all the different aspects of the tree you have in mind-is it hardy, does it provide a lot of seasonal interest, do I love it ? , etc. , etc.

    If that's too much pressure this season, then wait'll next year !

  7. I had never heard of the Carolina Silverbell before, Carol, but I looked it up. It is so unusual and very lovely. I hope you do get it so you can share it with us through your blog. I cant wait to see those beautiful blooms.

    I can see the comparison with buying a tree and buying a puppy. Both can be costly mistakes if you choose the wrong one. Not all trees fit in every yard and not all puppies fit with every family, both must be carefully chosen to make sure the fit is right. I've certainly made mistakes with both puppies and trees.

  8. I say forget the tree - go puppy shopping instead - it will give you a new outlook on life!

    If you are out there buying Silverbells, have one sent to my house. I need one in that space between us and the new neighbors. What do you think? You could save me a trip.

    BTW - have you seen the beautiful job the tree arborist (not a common tree butcher) did on the scarlett oak and the sugar maple? You can't even tell he's been there and if I hadn't seen all the chopped off parts I would have sworn he'd never come. It was fascinating the way he did it all from within the tree itself, no cherry pickers for this tree arborist!

  9. Thank you for a chuckle to start off my day. At first I didn't believe the title, but I realized your analogy (as far as it went) was apt. "Did I mention that I don't have a dog?" is what made me chuckle.

  10. I agree with sister. Get a dog!

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  11. Carol, you would need to get two dogs so they would keep each other company (but I know you're not about to buy a dog). If you need a dog to love, you can come over & pet ours.

  12. Carol, you would need to get two dogs so they would keep each other company (but I know you're not about to buy a dog). If you need a dog to love, you can come over & pet ours.

  13. I hope you finally do get you Carolina Silverbell. They are very handsome trees. I saw a pink flowered variety some years back Halesia tetraptera (Halesia carolina) but I opted to buy the Japanese Snowbell instead which is a relative because the C. Sliverbells were too large and expensive.

  14. Clean up tree leaves and make compost? Or clean up with a plastic bag after a dog?

    Some work is involved with either choice, but a tree won't pee on your shoes!

    Good luck with acquiring that Halesia - it looks like a lovely little tree.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. I had never heard of this tree before. Looking it up I see it grows best in cool, deep, humus rich soil, which means it would do well in the upcountry under the forest canopy. I have yet to see it in any availability for our region. It is as rare to find in California as the Sassafras tree.

  16. And Carol,

    I hope I didn't sound grumpy with my post about your tree/puppy analogy. I meant it in fun, but in looking back at it, it doesn't sound fun at all!

    Guess I'm a little wound tight these days. Another reason to slow down.

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  17. I so get this! I am in the middle of this exact process (the figuring out part, soon to be followed by the deliver part) with my currently (sadly) tree-free yard. Sigh! Can't wait to see what happens next! ~A :-)

  18. Lisa at Greenbow... I definitely agree and am still considering the Carolina Silverbell but have one concern I need to resolve before I get it.

    OldRoses... I agree. I like to have different trees from the neighbors. Thus no bradford pears in my garden!

    Layanee... the nursery is maybe 30 minutes away, I might take that ride...

    Carolyn Gail... Once I actually get to the nursery, I'll be like a kid in a toy store and will probably look around at all their trees.

    Robin's Nesting Place... thanks I'm glad you like it. Did you see the one thing that concerns me about it? Acidic soil. Not much of that around here!

    Sister with the Homestead... you are always trying to get my to get a puppy! I don't think this is the tree for YOU, but I'll look around for other trees.

    Kathy... Well, I don't have a dog, but I do have several trees!

    Robin (Bumblebee)... are you siding with my sister over me??

    Eleanor... you are right, I'm not getting a dog!

    Ki... If I get the tree, of course I'll post about it.

    Annie in Austin... True enough that a tree won't pee on your shoe, but I have gotten soaked watering a tree.

    Trey... I don't have forest canopy, but I do have a partly shaded spot where I want to plant this.

    Robin (Bumblebee)... I didn't mind your comment at all. It reminded me why I don't have a dog!

    Angela (cottage magpie)... I'll keep everyone posted!

    Thanks all for the comments,
    Carol at May Dreams Gardens


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