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Over the weekend we had two warmer-than-normal days. Gusty winds were at play so relaxing and reading the paper at the big stone table in the garden were not really an option. (Thank you, March!)

Still it was nice to be outside without a coat.

Managed to trim the lavender, sage & the multi-stemmed sargent crab and spread a few more of my 135 bags of mini-pine nuggets mulch. As I look around I wonder if 135 will be enough. We’ve created and expanded lots of beds in the last several years!

Headed over to Ohio State to obtain replacements for a couple small trees purchased in November that became fodder for rabbits and/or deer (who knows?). I expected some damage but the sassafras totally disappeared!


Curse you Bambi & Thumper!

Thank you to Dan Struve and Meghan Blake for making this possible!


Welcome back to Nine Pines Garden! 

I fed my tree addiction last Thursday at a sale of native trees by Meghan K. Blake, Research Assistant at the Ohio State University Department of Horticulture and Crop Science and the grower of what appeared to be several hundreds of lovely little containerized trees. 

The sale took place at the site where the trees were being raised, the OSU Waterman Farm at the OSU Container Teaching and Research Nursery, 2490 Carmack Road at the northwest reaches of the campus. Why do all these academic outfits have such long names and titles?

Promotional emails that were sent to the Friends of Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens alerted me to the sale and said proceeds from the 3-day sale are slated to fund nursery research and education at Ohio State. (And, I hope, a few Friday night pizzas for the hard-working Meghan and her buddies.)

 Meghan had lots of cool choices available including medium and large trees (when mature) like Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea), Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica) and at least a half-dozen varieties of oak. Unfortunately for me, Nine Pines Garden already has a full complement of large trees (including 2 yellowwoods, 1 blackgum and 3 oaks). Most are not large as of yet but everyone knows that good gardeners site plants responsibly assuring adequate space to accommodate their mature size and that trees are not furniture and must not be treated as such. Of course, no one is responsible all of the time-least of all (alas!) me.

 Never mind…

Although I didn’t plan to buy anything (r-i-g-h-t!), after 15 minutes my flat cart/wagon was fully loaded with plants. Ultimately, by putting one plant back I was able to get them all on the cart without carrying any in my hand—an arbitrary but necessary limit that kept me from feeling like an undisciplined idiot later on.

 The plants were a good value—healthy and inexpensive. Sure, they’re small, but they look very healthy. I feel hopeful for their successful transition into the Nine Pines landscape. 

Here’s the tally… 

  • 1 Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – I’ve been looking for a sassafras tree for several years (they’re not abundant in local commerce) because of their fabulous fall color. It will occupy a little gap at the west end of the swoosh bed where a seedling kousa dogwood expired last year.


  • 4 Sweetbay magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) & 3 Rainbow Pillar® Serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis ‘Glenn Form’) – The sweetbays and serviceberries will be alternated in a line along the west side of the house (master bedroom and my office windows located there). I had to remove the beautiful but diseased flowering plum this year. (I will miss those gorgeous blossoms next spring.)  


  • 2 Carolina silverbells (Halesia carolina) – The silverbells will join the single silverbell already in place in the middle of the swoosh bed to fill out that space and to create a more pleasing grouping. 


  • 1 American Hornbeam/Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) – The hornbeam will be used as a specimen near the street at the southeast corner of the property by the driveway where bulk mulch and compost have been stored for several years waiting to be distributed. My neighbors will be delighted not to have to look at THAT weedy mess anymore.

These were all in 2- or 3-gallon containers so they were small and easy to handle. I have set them out but haven’t planted them yet. It’s amazing how easy it was to find spots for these little guys.

I managed not to fall for the siren songs of the stunning but temperamental Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese Stewartia) or Franklinia altamaha (Franklinia). My two stewartias both keeled over earlier this year and the emotional wounds haven’t yet healed. How did they get that gorgeous (Stewartia pseudocamellia) specimen to grow in the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

I think I’ll skip the photos of the new trees for now—without leaves, there’s not much to see. We’ll see what they look like in a few months.

 Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment or ask questions.

Trifoliar Maple

Trifoliar Maple

More pictures of seasonal change around the Nine Pines Garden.

Robinson Crabapple

Robinson Crabapple




The crabapples nearly glow with color. Or so I’m told.






Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Our little “Fingernail Japanese Maple”
Black Gum

Black Gum

The Black Gum is one of the more dramatic trees for fall color.
Redbud & Witch Hazel

Redbud & Witch Hazel

BTW, the leaves have started turning. The chlorophyll factories are shut down—abandoned migrant worker camps—left to the vagaries of wind, rain and cold—elemental Nature. Un-restored by productive occupation the brittle little workbenches are dropping to the ground ready for re-purposing or the tender ministrations of the rake. 



Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

The pleasure I derive from viewing the changing colors of autumn leaves is evidently not as great as it is for many other people. I can see color changes but it just doesn’t seem to carry as much esthetic charge. I’ve always assumed that because of my color deficient vision I was missing the subtleties. Perhaps it is. Maybe it’s just that I prefer the exuberance of spring.

Black Gum

Black Gum

2002 was a big year for Nine Pines Garden. It marked the real beginning of the garden. Designs were created, revised and revised again. The basic beds were created and lots of new plants (mostly trees) were added. 

One of our earliest acquisitions has one of the best stories: the redbed crapple tree. 

It started at the “Flavors of the Vine” wine tasting and benefit auction for Recreation Unlimited early in 2002. Claire and I volunteered at this function for several years. It was a worthy cause and we always had a great time. 

There were two auctions in addition to the wine-tasting—one live and the other silent. We never participated in the live auction. That was the province of the high rollers with travel packages and private wine tastings as prizes. We did allow ourselves the treat of bidding on some of the silent auction items which tended to be more within our price range. 

Among the OSU memorabilia and themed collections of wine (several bottles of Italian wine together with tickets for an Opera Columbus performance of, say, a Verdi opera) was what I would have considered an unusual item: a tree. The package consisted of what was obviously a lovely flowering crabapple tree (accompanied by a picture of the tree in flower) which would be planted in your garden by Eden Nursery. 

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa'

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa' 2005

There were no bids on this item when we first noticed it. The value of a tree this size (6-7′) properly planted and guaranteed for a year I knew to be at least several hundreds of dollars. Transport and planting alone would be a significant undertaking—easily worth the $230 minimum required bid. 

I couldn’t understand why no one at the event had bid on what seemed to me to be such an obvious bargain. It was, to be sure, an atypical item for a wine-related auction. But the lack of bidding interest still surprised me—until I took a closer look at the label. It read: Redbed Crapple tree

I showed the tag to Claire. I couldn’t believe it. Redbed crapple? This was dyslexia in high gear! The tree was obviously a crabapple. The rest…well…could it be redbud

As the evening wore on, we kept circling back to check on the bid status of “our tree.” Still no other bidders! As our hopes rose, so did our anxiety. Surely someone else would notice this lovely little tree. Could we be the only gardeners in the crowd? We worried that we would be drawn into a bidding competition that we would have only a slim chance of winning. 

“This is a small display,” thought Evil George, “What if I moved it to an out-of-the-way table so no one else will see it?” The tension was obviously getting to me. 

I left the display where it was. 

Time drew near for the silent auction to end. Nervous but resolute bidders furtively lurked close to their treasures casting baleful stares at anyone they sensed to be a potential rival. 

We needn’t have worried. Apparently no one noticed or cared about our little tree. 

I suppose in the end the combination of the oddness of the item coupled with the bizarre name was simply too much for anyone (except me, of course) to commit to. 

Most of the silent auction items had the advantage of immediacy. They could be carried away by the winning bidder that night (packages of 3-4 bottles of wine together with tickets to some cultural event or a picture of the 2002 National Champion Buckeyes signed by several of the players or some such thing). Maybe people felt that it was too big a risk to invest hundreds of dollars on a picture and the promise of a redbed crapple—whatever that was. 

In any case, when the hammer fell, the redbed crapple was ours! Honestly we couldn’t stop giggling-over the name-and our good luck. 

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa'

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa' 2006

That was in 2002. Today, our redbed crapple, aka Redbud Crabapple (Malus x zumi ‘Calocarpa’) is healthy and happily installed in the front east lawn and blooms profusely, faithfully and beautifully every spring. 

2008 Redbud Crabapple and the Proprietor

Redbud Crabapple and the Proprietor 2008

In addition to its dramatic floriferous contribution to the garden each spring, Malus x zumi ‘Calocarpa’ has performed an even greater service—introducing us to John Wade and Debby Devore of Eden Nursery who became seminal contributors to the development of the Nine Pines Garden—and have grown to be friends as well. 

What a rich bargain for $230!