Houston’s subtropical climate (zone 9b) means that autumn is the best time of year to plant a tree. The mild winters with few frosts permit root systems to grow while the rest of the plant remains semi-dormant.
When we moved into our new house, the front easement square was filled with an ugly fan palm. It was plopped in the very front of the square next to the street, and jutted out at an angle. Fan palms are not very endearing trees. Those big leaves are covered with vicious thorns that rip your flesh when you reach in to weed under the tree, or to groom it. Last year’s leaves hang down from the tree in a beard of thatch, which is unpleasant and messy to remove. Their open scales along the trunk can easily become apartment towers for mice. They grow very tall, so are unsuitable for urban spaces where electric wires are installed. Worst of all, this particular tree was a safety hazard as it completely blocked views of oncoming traffic when you exited the driveway.
So the Wrenaissance Man and I decided to replace this misfit with a better behaved and more attractive tree. Small trees that are popular in the Houston area include crepe myrtles, redbuds and savannah hollies. After some research, we chose a Mexican plum, prunus mexicana. It’s a native plant for this region, offers fragrant white flowers in the spring and wildlife food in late summer. In winter, the mature tree has peeling bark that reveals the colorful underbark and adds textural interest. It tops out at about 30 feet, so is perfect under powerlines. Its only downside is that it tends to be short-lived. The arborist’s crew showed up this morning and had the old tree out and the new one in place in about an hour.
Ahh, that’s better! And a lot safer—there are quite a few joggers and dog walkers in our neighborhood. Visibility is so important when entering and exiting a driveway. Now that’s sorted, I’m feeling very enthusiastic about getting some more gardening done. Six years of apartment living had definitely made the yardwork skills and habits rusty.
* Arbor Day is the national tree-planting day here in the US. The actual day of celebration is usually the last Friday in April, with some regional variations. And, as all good Nebraskans know, Arbor Day was invented in Nebraska by a Nebraskan—J. Sterling Morton!