Sunday, April 08, 2018

Pink and White Trees

Weather: We got a little rain in the night. Earlier in the week, I think on Monday, a brief, very strong wind shook the house and completely dispersed my burn pile. Luckily it was primarily dead grass. However, the wind was strong enough to also move the partially burned sticks. Friday, when the weather felt a bit oppressive, I burned the grasses and dead wood that had accumulated since in the evening, instead of waiting for the next morning. Last rain: 4/8. Week’s low: 32 degrees F. Week’s high: 78 degrees F.

What’s blooming in the area: Sweet cherries, sand cherries, peaches, Bradford pear, purple leaf plum, flowering quince, forsythia, daffodils, alfilerillo, purple and tansy mustards, western stickseed, common and native dandelions

What’s reviving: Jackmanii potentilla, spirea, choke cherry, privet, Johnson’s Blue geranium, chamisa, Mönch aster, yellow yarrow, goat’s beard

Tasks: A couple weeks ago I bought some pansies and violas that were grown by a nursery in Alabama. Since then, they’ve been sitting on the back porch hardening off. I’m waiting because I still expect a morning too cold for them to handle. Contradictorily, I’m also waiting for plants to break dormancy in the beds where I’m planting them. It’s both too warm and not warm enough.

In the meantime, the seedlings are going though the usual bedding plant phase of no longer blooming. They’re a bit like drug addicts: they were raised in warm, moist conditions where they were sprayed with nutrients to compensate for the poor diet in their potting soil. On my porch, they’re undergoing detoxification: getting used to normal water and erratic temperature cycles. Some may never bloom again.

Animal sightings: Robin, flock of quail, small brown birds, sidewalk ants, bees heard in afternoons

Weekly update: ’Tis the season of pink and white flowering trees, or more precisely pink flowered trees and white flowered ones. I’ve only seen one at a closed Honstein gas station in Arroyo Seco that looked like it had both kinds of flowers on one plant.

When I first moved here in 1991 it was fairly easy to use color to determine the type of tree blooming in a yard. Apricots appeared before apples. In the past few years with our warm Aprils, the cherries have come between. In addition to the different flowering times, apricots and cherries tended to be much larger trees and only one or two were planted. Apples often appeared in rows.

It was always difficult to decide if the pink trees were peaches or flowering crab apples, but the redbuds were easier to identify by their more columnar shape and deeper colored flowers. I usually decided the species based on what I could tell about the owner: if there were other fruit trees in the yard, I assumed the pink was a peach, but if it was the only tree I assumed a crab.

This schema has become useless since the big box opened north of town, and propagated national taste: it carried more ornamentals than fruit trees. The variety was greater: there were several varieties of flowering crab and flowering cherries as well. Some crabs were white and some cherries were pink. This year, the local hardware has Oklahoma white redbuds as well as the usual purple Texas ones.

The distinction between utilitarian neighbors and decorative ones has been blurred by the introduction of small fruit trees for suburban yards. This year I bought a cherry marketed as ideal for growing in a container. It came in a cardboard sleeve about three inches wide. At least the grower was honest that it had few roots; I’ve bought too many that had recently been moved into gallon or larger containers to make it seem like they were more mature than they were.

Those people who wouldn’t grow an apricot or cherry because of the size, now could plant them. More important, the association of the small fruit trees with trendy decks made them acceptable to people who associated productive trees with their agrarian ancestors. They came with the hint they required little effort, and the fruit was easily available.

Even more important, the new varieties were labeled self-fruitful, so one didn’t need to have two, or depend on one’s neighbors to have a complimentary tree. I’m not sure though what they meant by a self-fruitful Bing. The tree I bought was the only one I’ve been able to find in the past few years that would pollinate a Bing.

Notes on photographs:
1. White Bradford pear with pink peach behind it at the left and an unknown neighbor’s white tree at the right, 6 April 2018.

2. Full sized Elberta peach planted in 1997, 6 April 2018.

3. My uphill neighbor planted this patio peach about the time I planted mine. The next neighbor moved it away from the porch to the 5' fence, where it remains fence high. This picture was taken 28 March 2012.

4. The root ball of the Coral Champaign cherry, 29 March 2018. Most of the roots were in an inner sleeve, so the actual roots ball was about 1.5" in diameter.

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