Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Twisted Twigs

Winter is definitely here in Chicagoland.  It's already been in the single digits and a light snow is on the ground.  It's the perfect time to appreciate the architecture of trees and how elegant they are without their summer clothes. 

We have a redbud, specifically a Cercis canadensis 'MN Strain.'  It was a sapling purchased at the Morton Arboretum plant sale a handful of years ago and it has very much its own weird little personality.  I find redbuds to be almost Asian in their elegant and sometimes gnarled shapes.  It's a common ornamental tree here, but many find it doesn't live to see its 30th or 40th birthday.  I have high hopes for mine.  The MN Strain was developed in 1992 to be a more cold hardy redbud.  We planted ours in the front yard and one for my grandmother at her patio home in Naperville.  Mine is a pampered princess compared to granny's.  Granny's was planted in post-construction soil, in the wind, in full sun, with rabbits, tended by a contract landscaper who has killed innumerable trees, on a busy street that's abundantly salted in winter.  It's in some of the worst planting conditions for a tree.  Yet, the darn thing grows about six inches a year and flowers beautifully.  That is one tough tree.  Mine lives in lovely rich garden soil mulched and watered.  It grows three feet per year, sometimes more.

My redbud also seems to think it wants to be a weeping tree.  It has a wild and wooly branching pattern that swoops down and out.  I'm doing minimal pruning - just eliminating crossing branches, really - as I'm curious to see what it will do.  Thanks to an old tree across the street, it also gets seed pods.  We'll see what next year brings and if the branches finally reach the ground.

Very distinctly alternate, this redbud has a mind of its own.

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