small redbud tree installed in lawn

Welcome, redbud tree

This past weekend, I bought and installed a tree in my back yard, an eastern redbud, after years of wanting some kind of redbud. I had been thinking of getting the smaller weeping variety, but this year I finally decided I’d be willing to get the native tree variety. They are supposed to not get too tall as trees go, 15′-30′, and also are supposed to not really be a problem for damaging foundations and pipes, alleviating my larger concerns with getting a tree. They also aren’t supposed to live long as trees go, maybe 30 years, so I won’t have to live with it forever if I don’t like it.

I really like their pink-purple spring flowers and I’m wanting to create a bit more of a private nature retreat in my back yard. I hope to get tall flowers, bushes, and this tree, along with the existing trees at the back of the yard, surrounding a nice sitting area and fire pit.

I found some redbuds at Petitis in the spring, and thought they looked quite nice, if pricey. I hadn’t been able to find them at the closer Grafs or other places I looked. Saturday, I went to a bird event in Twinsburg, and when navigation brought me back on Route 8 to Tallmadge, I decided I might as well go get more details about the redbuds at Petitis. They were a little taller than I thought, maybe 6′ above the pot, which should mean quicker to get to a nice height, but harder to transport. After talking to them and thinking a bit, I decided to buy right then, as a present to myself for recent events. $180 plus a $16 bag of planting mix plus taxes. I asked about getting them delivered and installed. They wouldn’t do installation, but would deliver for $70. I just had my Impreza hatchback and asked about fitting it in that. I decided to try, with a fallback plan of delivery if it didn’t work. Luckily, the two guys were able to help me fit it in, and it worked fine, although I had leaves blocking part of my windshield for the drive home.

When I got home, it wasn’t too bad getting the tree out by myself. It did look a little weary from the drive. I gave it some water. The wind knocked it over once and broke a branch, so I moved it nearer the house, against my garbage can and with some weight leaned against it to keep it from happening again.

With that trip and a generally busy Saturday, I didn’t get some of the stuff done that I wanted. Sunday, I was considering planting some more seeds and getting some other stuff done, but wanting to keep my tree as healthy as possible and knowing rain was coming, I decided to try to go for getting it in the ground. And it took me basically the whole day, probably 4 hours of solid work, as well as a break for lunch and to pick up some soil additives and a helper tool.

My ground is hard clay, and it was especially hard being so dry from the recent lack of rain. Even the worms I dug up were looking pretty dry, like ones you might find drying out on a sidewalk. Since this is long term, I spent some time picking a spot in my yard, not too close to my garage and deck, with providing some privacy, and straight from my kitchen window for a good view.

At my spot, I measured out and marked the 28″ diameter the instructions with the pot suggested. I cut a circle-ish shape in the lawn with my hori-hori and used my full spade to lever out clumps of turf. They were dry and took some working. Then I had a circle of solid clay to dig. This was the part that took most of the time. I attacked it with the spade, but it was really hard and I was just able to break small bits at a time, except for some random spots where it was a little bit loose or had a weak vein. It was very slow going and hard on my wrists. I tried to break it up with my hori-hori, but that only really helped near the edges, especially once I got some walls to attack. Eventually, I took a hatchet in there to break things up faster. It was generally just creating cuts or breaking off small bits. I also tried wetting it, which definitely helped in spots but also sometimes just didn’t soak in or made the clay heavy.

I hadn’t eaten lunch when it got to be around 2. I ate a nice falafel Grecian salad at Papa Gyros.

I then went to Ace to get some soil additives recommended by the instructions and decided to look for a tool to help. I almost bought a full sized mattock, 2.5 pounds, but decided I wouldn’t be doing another tree hole this big anytime soon and it would be hard to maneuver in the size of this hole anyway. I ended up getting a hand mattock / weeding tool. And it definitely sped things up. I would hack away with it until I got a decent loose pile built up, then use the shovel to transfer it out and break up a bit more.

As I had been going a long time and feeling worn, and it had started raining and getting a bit chilly, I was thinking I’d do well to just finish the hole and do the planting later. My hole had been only like 24-26″ diameter though I wanted 28″, so I had to widen it. The walls had been sloped quite a bit as it approached the bottom, so I had to straighten them. I dug into the walls a bit to make the hole I’d be loosening wider than the entrance to the hole, helping get me closer to that 28″. It was slower going getting more depth beyond the 15″ that was the height of the root ball. I pressed on and got it to where I felt it was good enough. I used a post-hole digger in the center to make a small depression a bit deeper to provide a spot for water to go and help with drainage in the heavy clay.

When I had started, it was sometimes sunny and a little hot, and sometimes I was dripping sweat. I had to drink a lot of water. After lunch it started to rain though. At times it was a decent rain. I ended up pretty wet and a bit cold, but pushed on through it. I also had pain building up, especially in my wrists. But I was careful and slowed down when it got bad. Afterward, I did have to take some Tylenol, but have been much less sore on the days after than other recent digging projects.

It was getting a little closer than I’d like to dinner time at my parents, and I still had a few other things to do before heading there, but I decided to try for getting the tree in the ground. I started with putting a mix of my newly bought perlite and sand in the depression and bottom of hole for drainage. I also put in some Plant Tone fertilizer. I then put on some planting mix soil and some compost. I moved the over by the hole with a dolly, put it on its side, slid off the pot, and put it in the center of the hole, then pushed some of the soil under it to level it. I had to go back around adding some more to raise it so it’d be a couple inches above the ground level. I then did layers of the planting mix, perlite, sand, compost, fertilizer, and the more broken up of the clay soil I had taken out, mixing them as I went, until I got a bit of a mound up to the edges of the root ball. I put some leaf mulch on the top.

When removing the soil, I had put it on a tarp-like piece of plastic with plans to drag it across the lawn to my dirt pile in the back. But it was super heavy, so nothing-doing. I folded it over to prevent the rain from getting it too wet, then left it. I quickly moved my stuff out of the rain and put some of it away, and went inside to get ready. I cleaned up, changed out of my wet and dirty clothes, and did make it to dinner.

I came back next day for the soil pile. I had to transfer it from the tarp to my wheel-barrow to move it and reduce the weight. Even after two heavy loads, I struggled to drag the tarp, but did get it moved away.

The tree does look nice. It is fairly small, but once it grows a bit more it will provide some privacy, be noticeable, and be a good spot for the birds to hang out while eating at my feeders. And next spring it should be a brilliant pink-purple lift-up out of the cold, gray winter.