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!

  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.

  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…

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.


  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

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