Our Thoughts Turn To Trees

Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) on a cold, cloudy afternoon, the first tree in my garden to lose its leaves.

Thoughts turn to trees when it finally feels like fall.

Monday, we set an all-time October record with a high temperature of 91 degrees. Yesterday (Wednesday), the high temperature was 62 degrees.

Suddenly we need jackets and sweaters. Suddenly, it’s time to turn the compost and clear out the bins so they can be filled again. It’s time put away the delicate garden ornaments that won’t last long in an Indiana winter. It’s time to finish cleaning up the garden and it’s time to get out the leaf rakes.

It’s time to think about trees!

Fall is the best time to plant trees and look at trees.

I’ve been thinking of a couple of places where I might squeeze in another tree or trees. I just might head out to the nursery this weekend to see what’s available. I’d really like a smaller flowering tree, and have always admired from afar the Carolina Silverbell, Halesia carolina. Does anyone else have one? Do you like it?

I added a link to my sidebar, upper right, for the Leaf Cams that show fall foliage color around Indiana. May I recommend the Brown County leaf cam as probably the best one? We are still a few weeks from peak color, so check back later, too.

People alert me when trees are being abused.

I was minding my own business at work when a friend sent me an email asking if I had seen the workers “whacking back the trees by the back parking lot”. I get to work in the dark so I had not seen them. As soon as I read the email, I flew out of my chair and made haste to the nearest window, like a six year old who has just been told it’s snowing, and yep, there were the workers, hacking up a row of hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) trees. The trees look terrible now, and they aren’t done trimming. Tomorrow it looks like they will be in the front parking lot using their evil chain saws to disfigure more trees. There ought to be a law… and no, there really isn’t anything I can do about it.

I picked up two urgent tree-related messages yesterday.

One was from my mom, the other from my sister. They had an arborist trim a big sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and a big scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) in their front yard. They were pleased with the results, because he did it right. Then he checked out three pin oaks (Quercus palustris) in the new neighbors’ backyard and told them he though they had Oak Wilt and if they did, all of them needed to be cut down. Plus there was a chance if it was Oak Wilt, it could spread to the oak in my sister’s front yard.

Well, I hadn’t hear of Oak Wilt, so I looked up some information later in the evening and sent my sister an email recommending that they call their county extension agent and ask him to look at the trees to see if they really had Oak Wilt. I recommended this for two reasons. First, the county extension agent should be unbiased as he would have nothing to gain either way, and second if it was Oak Wilt, I assumed they would want to know and report it to the state.

I wrote a post about these pin oak trees last summer and noticed that a lot of people searching on “when is the best time to plant a tree” landed on that post. I’m sure they found it helpful that my first answer was “50 years ago”.

We would have all been heartsick if these trees did have Oak Wilt and had to be cut down.

But the news was good. My sister told me later today that they took leaf samples to the county extension agent who said it was not Oak Wilt. The symptoms were caused by drought. I suggested that they water the entire backyard thoroughly several times this fall, just to give these trees a little extra moisture for the winter. Then I think they’ll be okay. I think I’ll do the same for my trees. They all look pretty droopy.

I did wonder why I had never heard of Oak Wilt, having spent four years at Purdue University studying horticulture in another lifetime. Could I have forgotten that much? I know I’ve forgotten a lot, but it seems like I would have remembered Oak Wilt. Then I read on another web site that Oak Wilt was first discovered here in the Midwest in the mid 1980’s. That would be after, ummm, I graduated from college, so they wouldn’t have taught us about it.

Good! My memory is fine.

Now, what were talking about?

Oh, yeah, trees!


  1. We do have oak wilt in Austin, Carol, and it's one scary way for someone to get sun in the yard... we keep our fingers crossed for our live oaks.

    As to Silverbell, although I think it's gorgeous, I doubt it would grow here in Austin. Pam in South Carolina had some lovely photos last year.
    [right click to open in new link]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  2. Glad to hear the tree did not have oak wilt!We've been dealing with oak wilt down here in Central TX. In fact, there is an article in our paper today about it. Very ugly scene is you do have it since the tree really can't be saved. They just try to save those around it with fungicide injections (not cheap) and trenching to sever the roots from passing it along. And we never trim our trees except in the hottest past of summer and the coldest part of winter to avoid the beetles passing it along through fresh cuts.

  3. Narrow miss with the Oak wilt, but I like your 50 years ago answer about the best time to plant. ;)

    I love Halesia - we have them on campus and they are pretty even now. I'm recently smitten with Stewartia - that mottled bark...mmmm.

  4. i'm glad those north of us are getting their normal cooler weather finally. we were in the 90's still today but there is promise of milder weather coming to us through the night.

    it's different down here in florida. the leaves on our trees don't drop until around january... we don't have much of a fall per se. but i sure look forward to even a little relief from this heat.

  5. As the other Austin bloggers already noted, oak wilt is a huge problem here. The city has an extensive live oak and red oak canopy, and those are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

  6. We are getting milder temps that are normal in Oklahoma.

  7. I grinned when you mentioned that you get alerted when a tree is abused :-) One of the biggest abuses of trees around here comes from the power company. I don't know if you have overhead powerlines in your area, but I do, and every couple of years the power company comes through and "prunes" any nearby tree branches away from the wires. When they're done, the trees are lopsided, with ugly bare branches sticking out where the leaf canopy was before. Happily, none of my trees are in the way of power lines, so I won't have to go out and yell at some hapless power company employee anytime soon :-)

  8. Now how can you be warmer than me way way up north there in Indiana? The strange thing today is it was warmer, 45 degrees, when I woke up than when I went to bed.

    NC had a scare with SOD, Sudden Oak Death coming in on some Rhododendron from a nursery on the west coast, but studies indicate it did not get out of the nursery here.

    The Carolina Silverbell is on my list of trees to suppliment my forest with when I get to that point. I have it's preferred habitat.

  9. Yep. As Annie and Pam have said oak wilt is a big problem in Austin. When my tree trimmers come out they won't give me any mulch from the truck if there was oaks in the a previous job. I have to stick with pecan and cedar elm for mulch and firewood. We also have to be careful what time of year we prune the oaks and to spray any cuts.

  10. I didn't realise 'the might oak' could have such problems and I'm glad ours is ok, along with the neighbors oak. After the arborist finished, our trees are beautiful & you can't really tell it was thinned out (dead branches). Plus more light filters thru so maybe our grass will grow better under it. We are pleased with the job they did. No chopped tops for us.

  11. With the drought we've been having here in Maryland, it seems to me that the leaves are dropping earlier than usual this fall. Does a drought make for a more vibrant or less vibrant leaf changing season?

    I'll be out playing Mother Nature again this weekend with my hose, watering the trees in the yard. Watering trees! Who would have thought it would come to this?

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  12. Carol: I love the Carolina Silverbell and posted a picture on Bloom Day, May 15th. It is a lovely tree but I have seen some really big ones, in excess of forty feet. Dirr says it can grow to 80 feet! Not in our lifetime probably! I think you will love it! It has not only lovely flowers but beautiful seed pods also.

    I also LOL when I envisioned you jumping out of the chair to check out the abuse!

  13. Good for you Carol. Keep watching! I dearly love trees. I haven't heard mention of oak wilt here but we have had our share of Dutch Elm Disease and pine beetles. With so many areas of the country dealing with drought this year it stresses many trees and leaves them open to diseases. Watering those trees was a good idea. Love the leaf cam! Will check back often.

  14. Annie in Austin, I agree that having to cut down a fungus infected tree is no way to get more sun. It is one thing to choose to cut down a tree, quite another to have to cut it down. I do remember Pam's post about the silverbell, I will have to go check it out again.

    Bonnie, I had no idea and agree after reading about it that having a tree get Oak Wilt could be mighty expensive to treat or remove.

    Dharma, Stewartia! Yes, I remember that one, I'm going to add it to my list to consider.

    Meems, the relief from the heat is indeed quite welcome, but I wish it wasn't so cloudy.

    Pam/digging, I can see where the landscape of the city might change dramatially if the Oak Wilt isn't contained somewhat. Scary to think of having your own oaks get it!

    Curtis, I think we get your kind of weather usually a day later.

    Colleen, Oh, yes, the power companies can be brutal when it comes to trimming trees. I think the tree trimmers at work also do trimming for the local power company here. The job they did looked quite similar...

    Christopher C. NC, That does seem quite cold for fall in North Carolina. Topsy-turvy weather pattern, I guess.

    MSS @ Zanthan Gardens, I'd tell the tree trimmers to clean out their truck and grinder before they arrived so you could keep your mulch.

    Eleanor, I'll have to stop by and see the trees all trimmed up the right way.

    Robin(Bumblebee), I think drought causes less color. I'm going to be watering trees this weekend, too.

    Layanee, the silverbell sounds taller and bigger than I thought but I do think I'd love it.

    Bev, I watched them trim the trees for a few minutes but there wasn't anything I could do. The trimmed trees look terrible.

    Thanks all for the comments and additional info!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  15. I too love trees; my current main tree-lust is to acquire a Golden Rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) because the foliage and those seedheads just hypnotize me. I just got a blue nootka falsecypress which I plan to plant tomorrow; we have a lot of young trees around our place, because the second best time to plant a tree is today!
    I'm not surprised that you belong to the SPCT--the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Trees!

  16. We've got one tree that's bare and it's always that way before any others. The BUCKEYE! The oaks never do go bare. They lose leaves all winter long. I kind of don't like that about them. You just never ever get the leaves all cleaned up.

  17. Now you're talking my language - trees! That's my specialty at the garden center where I work part time.

    While I love the Halesia Carolina, I just adore Cercidiphyllum japonicum, or Katsura which has a long season of interest. It's leaves ememrge a beautiful reddish purple then turn dark bluish green. The Fall color ranges from yellow to orange and give off a spicy odor. The winter interst is it's beautiful bark with slight exfoliation and a pleasant gray color. It's also hardy to zone 4.

    While I love Oak trees in the country side I despise them in the city -my next door neighbor has one in his front yard and it's the messiest tree there is - dropping something 365 days a year.

  18. Heh, I like that planting advice, "50 years ago"...funny! My oak needed a trim last year, and I was told to wait until Nov.-March to be safe from oak wilt. Before that, I'd never heard of it, either.


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