Thursday, May 26, 2016

Baby Tree in the Mail

I've been wanting to replace our old Chinese elm tree with something more attractive and less of a nuisance (The confetti seeds in spring that get into every pot, garden boxes, and random open soil, and germinate are such a deal breaker...).  The tree came with the house when we bought it.  The legal address bears the name Elm Plaza for crying out loud!  When the Grand Valley was first irrigated and houses were built, Chinese elms were popular shade tree choice.  Now that the neighborhood is old and trees are mature, the number of seeds must be in the millions per tree, and the damage from fallen branches from high winds is no laughing matter.

I've looked online, doing my "research", and thought the "Empress Tree", Paulownia, was at the top of my list of candidates.  Said to be the world's fastest growing tree with large leaves that gives a nice shade and lovely purple flowers in spring.  That sounded so much more attractive than my scraggly old Chinese elm.  I originally wanted to try growing it from seeds as I garden a lot and I have had success with most anything I've tried to grow in the past.  Ordered seeds of paulownia tomentosa from an eBay seller (I couldn't believe the number of listings for paulownia seeds!  Mind boggling...).  In hind sight, I should have paid more and got the seeds from someone who paid a little closer attention to detail (or showed a pride of his goods...).  I tried to germinate the seeds first on the soil (kept moist, with light, very closely monitored) and later when that didn't do anything after 5 weeks, tried  the 'in the water' method, which, after 4 weeks, failed to do anything.  I had to come to the conclusion that the seeds were bad.

Disappointed from the failure of both methods and from wasted time waiting for the seeds to germinate, I looked for listings of seedlings online.  When I first looked for them, they were sold out, or rather pricey.  But I was able to find a listing on Etsy shortly after I dumped the water from the jar of my second germination attempt.  The seller had wonderful reviews, so I felt pretty good about ordering a live tree.  It's been a hit or miss in my past experience - you just never know with so many variables involved.  It's a bit of a gamble, but the stakes are low.

The package took four days from shipping notification to get to my house via USPS Priority Mail.  The triangle tube box was left on my front porch in full sun when I found it.   I carefully and eagerly opened the cardboard box and found this little guy taped to one of the walls.  I have to say, this is pretty clever packaging.  The seedling with root ball wrapped first in wet paper towel, then a plastic grocery bag, and then newspaper, was thus suspended with plenty of room under the root ball and above the top.

A piece of info with planting suggestion was included.  The lowest leaf had something stuck on it, which washed off just fine in water - my son insisted it had to be a bird dropping.  Anyhow, no wilting, no yellowing, no dropped leaves.  This is better than expected!

The seller's recommendation for this tree (paulownia elongata) on the little piece of paper said I should plant it right into the ground, but I haven't had a chance to call the local utility company's help line to have someone come over and locate and mark any important spots like natural gas lines and water pipes.  So I planted this little guy in a mix of local compost and commercial potting soil mix.    This is a temporary arrangement until I can figure out where exactly in the backyard his permanent home will be.  Although the root ball was rather small, like a 2-inch diameter plug, and a bit root bound, the plant looks healthy.  The leaves might look droopy, but it's from conforming to the inner dimension of the shipping box.  The leaves feel nice and strong, not wilting at all.  Things should straighten up in a few days.  I'm really looking forward to recording how this guy grows for me in the desert west of the Rockies.