Guess Who Came Early For Dinner?

You know when you’re expecting guests, and you are trying desperately to clean the house and get the food ready, and somebody shows up 30 minutes early while you are still shoving piles of papers and books into random drawers? Well, I had the horticultural equivalent to this experience today. I had taken the day off to spend some quality time with the garden, and my plan was to devote the day to spring clean up, of which there is a lot to do.

However, when I opened the door this is what I saw.

Forest Farm Nursery
Why, hello!

The two Fringe Trees (Chionanthus virginicus) had arrived from Forestfarm in balmy Oregon! These were 5′ specimens, still dormant, with nice root systems sitting in 5 gallon containers. Basically they look like 5′ sticks right now. (Note: today’s photos are Jason photos, not Judy photos, which means they aren’t very good.)

fringe trees in containers

But eventually they will look like this.

Fringe Tree, Chionanthus virginicus
Fringe Tree. Photo: Missouri Botanic Garden

This North American native is a small flowering tree that does well in part shade. It also has unusual fragrant flowers. It comes highly recommended by author and garden designer Tracy DeSabato-Aust, who uses it frequently in her designs.

The Fringe Trees are going in the northeast corner of the house, where I have just removed three hoary old bridalwreath spirea shrubs. These were nice when their white mini-bouquet flowers bloom briefly in spring, but otherwise were just blah. Plus they took up an awful lot of space without really contributing much to the garden.

It was chilly today, in the 40s F (or about 7 degrees C),  but the sun was shining. I decided I would get my new arrivals planted. Once extricated from their boxes, I placed them about 7′ from the house and from each other, creating a triangle with the corner of the house making the third point. Following current recommended practice, I didn’t put any compost in the planting hole.

Instead, I gave my new trees a good soaking. Then I headed off to Anton’s, my favorite Evanston independent nursery, to buy a bag of mushroom compost for top dressing around (but not touching) the base of the trees.

While I was at Anton’s, some kind of plant-buying chemical was triggered in my brain, which is why I ended up buying a flat of white pansies, plus a couple of four packs of blue pansies. (White and blue are my preferred colors in the woodsy back garden.)

Pansies in planter
Our wheelbarrow planter. Not sure how much longer it is going to last.

This was enough to fill my old wheelbarrow planter, plus the planter I built on top of a tree stump. The pansies will hang around until the beginning of June when I’ll switch to more heat-loving annuals.

Pansies in planter
Tree stump planter.

Bottom line, at the end of the day I had not accomplished nearly as much spring garden clean up as I had planned. But I was happy.

How is the spring clean up going in your garden?

59 Comments on “Guess Who Came Early For Dinner?

  1. That darn plant-buying chemical in the brain! It always makes me spend more money than I planned to 🙂 My clematis’ and buddleia also arrived when I least expected it. In fact, I was in Disneyland with my kids. I did track it though so I asked a neighbor to open the box and care for them. I still have Spring clean up to do though..Can’t wait to see your fringe trees in bloom!

  2. Last spring I had two rose bushes I had ordered in the fall arrive with no warning, and I was in no way prepared for them! Good for you for gettting your trees in the ground so promptly! I don’t know trees well at all–those look like they’ll be beauties, though!
    I’m well familiar with that plant-buying chemical in the brain. How can one possibly pass up pansies at this time of year?

  3. Very tiring with lots and lots of things to do. How big will the fringe tree grow? If they are native to NJ, I might buy some then. Seems like you were ready for your guest with good places to rest, drink and later on eat on some mushroom soup :-).

  4. It’s always a risk going anywhere near a nursery this time of year. Actually, any time of year. I’ve been wanting a fringe tree, but I don’t actually know where I would put one. I’d have to build a new bed. I bet yours will be spectacular once they get going. I’m glad you’re happy with what you accomplished, even though you got sidetracked. I’ve had days in the garden like that too.

  5. Yeah, I’ll get right on that when the last 3-4″ of snow melts…oh wait! More snow scheduled tonight, and dang the ground is still FROZEN, duh! Yeah, can you tell I’m A BIT BUMMED! that spring has been a non-starter here!

    • OK, please put the knife down … Maybe you need to invest in some sun lamps while you’re waiting for spring to arrive. It WILL arrive … eventually.

  6. I love being distracted from the jobs I had in mind! It’s still too cold to do much outside here – everything is growing in very slow motion, so no rush with the spring clean yet. Like the idea of a tree stump planter!

  7. I never heard of this tree, but it looks wonderful. How nice to be able to plant something in the garden… It is always dangerous to visit the nursery. Somehow plants just jump into your cart without you doing anything 🙂 I´m beginning to pull out weed, thats about it at the moment, but the snow is receeding fast.

    • At least things are heading in the right direction, weather-wise. Do you think it is telekinesis that makes the plants jump into our carts?

  8. I liked so much the shoving piles of junk into random drawers part, how much I know that feeling!
    Those fringe trees look very intriguing, I remember you planning to plant them a few months ago.
    My garden is covered in weeds that did not stop growing during winter and it doesn’t stop raining either, so I just have to watch the garden from the window…

    • Ugh, I hope things dry out enough for you to go out and work the garden. As to shoving piles of papers into drawers, this is one of the few ways in which I have not changed since college.

  9. Love your tree stump planter – lemonade from lemons. I haven’t done one thing outside yet because we still have quite a bit of snow on the ground. Next week it is suppose to be in the 50’s and I think the rake and leaf bags will need to come out from the barn. 🙂

  10. Those fringe trees are going to be gorgeous. I have wanted one but have dithered over where to put it and never could decide. I’ll come here to watch yours grow and flower and fill in — tell Judy we want lots of pictures of them.

    Love Forestfarm — I have ordered from them for years. I found out recently that specialty nurseries in our area source the plants that they don’t propagate themselves from Forestfarm and then resell them in their retail operations.

    • Wow, that’s interesting that they supply nurseries so far away. They are really nice people and have an incredibly wide selection. Only thing is I sometimes am concerned about plants that have been raised in a much milder climate.

  11. I have the same plant buying chemical so I stay away from garden centers at this time of year. I have a lot of cleanup ahead of me as well, but I can get a good chunk of it done in a day so I don’t fret too much about it.

  12. Great tree! Spring Clean up is going very slowly this year. It has either been too cold or rainy to work in the garden. This weekend I am plant shopping and volunteering at our Master Gardener plant sale so I will be getting out to dig in the dirt soon!

  13. Fringe trees are tough customers. A few years ago my shrub form was run over by a skid loader during the removal of a large tree from the back garden. The main trunk was split down the middle. It just grew more branches from the base and never skipped a beat.

    I received an order from Plant Delights this week-the perennials were in full foliage. No perennials have emerged here yet so I’ll be moving the newbies in and out of the garage for the next week or so. This morning wind chills are in the upper 20s. Time to go visit a few nurseries and sharpen those plant buying skills.

  14. How fun to get new plants delivered! Those look like some nice trees, too. And of course, plant shopping and plant planting is kinda like clean up. At least, it makes everything look better!

  15. I am thinking that is one of my new favorite trees! The blooms coupled with its size makes for an outstanding specimen! You had me cracking up when you mentioned your chemical reaction! Ha! That wheelbarrow planter is just super fantastic and your garden is looking so wonderful with your spring blooms!

  16. I’m a bit like you in the spring cleaning department, in that I never seem to get what I wanted done in a day. I really enjoyed your opening analogy!

  17. I had no idea they shipped young trees like this. I would definitely love to come home and find them in my driveway boxed up and ready to be planted. Had you ordered them from far away? I don’t know if you have mentioned your tree stump garden in an older post, but – how brilliant is that! I have two stumps that this will work beautifully on, thanks!

    • I ordered from a nursery called Forestfarm in Oregon. The climate there is much milder than here. Though I think the nursery folks did tell me way back when they were going to ship the trees.

  18. Oh, so they come dormant…I’ve just gotten my very first mail order tree, and after looking at the roots, and the trunk, decided that it might not be as hardy as I thought it would be…but maybe it’s just dormant. Fingers crossed.

    I love that tree that you’s so pretty.


  19. Best laid plans and all that Jason, eh! Always the same – it seems you are as easily distracted, like me 🙂
    Never heard of these trees before – they look lovely and will certainly brighten up a shady area when they flower.
    I like what you have created in your tree stump area – good idea.

  20. Hi Jason, that’s quite funny as it’s exactly what we do, every time. I bet it was a lovely surprise to see your two new trees sitting on the doorstep. They do look beautiful in flower I hope they grow well for you. Will you need to stake these in?

    • I actually have a small peony growing in there. I didn’t mention that while planting the pansies I saw the peony coming up.

  21. I laughed to hear your story; it sounds exactly how each day in the garden seems to go for me. They are all enjoyable and I try to make sure that at the end of each of these days I spend some time in the porch swing enjoying it all…contemplating how perfect it is.

  22. Lots of garden cleanup at my house today, since it was a little warmer than yesterday. How fun to get some new trees–and such lovely ones! I can’t wait to see how they adapt to your garden in the months ahead. (Those planters are great!)

  23. I googled your tree: beautiful! All the best to your trees, hope they like it in your garden:)
    Your flowerbeds are lovely.
    Have a great week!

  24. At least you were glad to see your early guest. What is the reasoning behind not putting compost in the planting hole? And is that only for trees, or all plants? I do this all the time so I am curious.

    • I always did it as well. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, however, I was taught that the best current practice is not to amend the planting hole, but to top dress around the plant with compost etc. The reason is apparently if the soil in the planting hole is richer or otherwise very different from the surrounding soil, the roots are inhibited from spreading into the surrounding soil.

  25. Ah, story of my life! Except now that Garden Tour Day is not far away, I’m suddenly cleaning up like you wouldn’t believe — and buying a few more plants.

  26. Fun new guests! My spring clean-up is going fairly slowly as I’ve just now finished with the intended-for-winter removal of several trees. Now there are plant sales or garden events every Saturday of the week and I’ve a Sunday job so….Sunday afternoons and Weekdays after work will have to work. On the other hand, if everything just gets left, the greenery will be tall enough to cover it all very soon.

  27. OOh! something I had not heard of, so looked it up and, over here (UK) it flowers in June and July and only grows to 10 feet. I rather like the look of that one! (found you via Sunil’s Garden)

  28. The clean up is never ending!!!! What an awesome tree!! Great find, great choice, can’t wait to see how it looks later in the year. Good luck with it! (new to me!)

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