Ailanthus Tree – The Take-Down

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Last summer we had weeds. Not just any weeds but weeds that I eventually learned were coming from our super tall ailanthus tree. I did some research and sure enough, this tree is considered an invasive species in many states, including Michigan. One neglected weed grew to over six feet tall within a matter of weeks! Our neighbor pointed it out to me and it was promptly (although not without some difficulty) pulled up by me.


The tree originates from China and was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1700s. It is called the “Tree of Heaven,” probably for the tall heights it can reach, but when you google it, other common names are “Tree from Hell” and “wonder-weed.”

Small ailanthus trees in Detroit

One interesting tidbit that I got from the Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop (where I also got the above image), an organization that makes creates art/items out of ailanthus wood, is that these trees started popping up in post-industrial Detroit when home became abandoned. They say “the quantity and height of Tree of Heaven specimen functions as a signifier for how long a place might have been abandoned.”

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I would have loved to chop it down last year, but after receiving quotes from several companies, realized it was something we were going to have to save up for. It was first on my gardening to-do list this year.

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Our backyard doesn’t allow for larger equipment to come in, so the company we used had one guy climb and cut the tree, and then a bunch of other guys on the ground helped guide him and move out the debris. Large pieces came down with a series of ropes (vs. throwing them down on the ground, which did happen with smaller branches).

Considering what a huge tree it was, they were quite fast and efficient.

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The stump was ground with a machine, leaving us with a huge pile of wood chips, which I’ve been dispersing around the garden

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I was thrilled to say goodbye to the tree. We now have a bit more light and hopefully, a lot less weeds this summer.

Alas, our next door neighbor has an ailanthus tree in their yard and you can be sure that I will be keeping my eye out on that side of the yard to make sure it doesn’t start invading our property as well! Happy gardening.


A New Tree and a Transplant

IMG_1390 (768x1024)In early Spring, we pulled up a bunch of bushes that were blocking the view from the kitchen window. We finally decided on a serviceberry tree (formal name, amelanchier) to help cover the utility boxes and make them less of a focal point.

Other options were some type of lattice covering (which I’ve never liked, at least not as a focal point) or an evergreen. An evergreen probably made a little more sense in terms of coverage, but we (meaning me, and my husband let me have the final say) really wanted a flowering tree.

IMG_1388 (919x1024)Here are the guys unloading the tree. ..

IMG_1392 (768x1024)…and putting it into place.

IMG_1396 (768x1024)Initially the tree was slightly crooked, so someone came back a week later to straighten it. Two weeks later (today), the tree looks a tad unhappy, with yellowed leaves, many of which have fallen off. One of the landscape owners came by to look at it and assured me it still looks healthy, and that it’s trying to adjust to its new environment. We do have a one-year warranty on the $400 tree, but we would like for it to survive, of course.

IMG_1387 (938x1024)While the guys were here installing the tree, they also transplanted one of our Pieirs japonica trees free of charge. I felt the plant was competing with the rhododendron for sun and space, and I also wanted a plant with more foliage that would cover the drain pipe when looking out from the dining room.

hydrangea (941x978)I bought a $50 hydrangea with light purple flowers (the flower in the photo is faded after weeks of being in bloom) and planted it in the pieirs japonica’s spot. Hydrangeas love water and do well in the shade, so I’m told. This plant should grow to about three feet high and five feet wide.

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It’s hard to see in photos, but the Pieirs japonica was moved next to another shorter Pieirs (on the left), that seems to be doing well even in a shadier spot. I’ve been told by several plant people that it’s an old plant, so it is especially vulnerable to being transplanted, but it seems to be doing fine in its new space. I lopped a few hanging branches of the evergreen overhead to give it more sun.

The serviceberry is supposed to produce actual berries in the spring. One of the landscapers told me (after I asked) that the berries aren’t edible (he seemed uncertain), but Mil the gardener says that they are and I’ve found several online sources agreeing with her. I also read that birds often devour the berries as soon as they are ripe, and there are a lot of them around here. Hopefully our tree will survive winter and I will be writing about its beautiful red berries next spring.

Fall: A Gallery

What Grosse Pointe lacks in the food department, it makes up for in beauty (and that’s saying a lot, friends). Fall has been an amazing display of color. The landscape changes a little bit each day, and I can’t stop staring.

The pinks are my favorite. Normally they’re paired with yellow hues, so you have this beautiful combination of the brightest yellow close to the trunk, and then a slow fade to pink. The perfect ombre. Nature gest it right every time.

But the oranges are also striking. So bright, so bold. And the plums! The reds! It’s enough to make you fall on your knees and weep.

There’s something foreboding about Fall that makes it seem more intense than Spring. Winter is coming. There are already whispers of another bad year (Farmer’s Almanac and such). Right now, though, the trees are trying hard to tell us to pay attention. Look around. Enjoy. And I, for one, am doing just that.

San Francisco Weather Report: Cherry Blossoms Confused

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If you haven’t already heard, California is in a drought. We’ve had unseasonably dry, warm weather this winter, and it’s confusing the plants. Cherry blossoms, which usually bloom in early spring, have arrived in full force. They are everywhere and they are beautiful. But I’m afraid they won’t last. The sun was nowhere to be seen today and it’s supposed to be more of the same this week.

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Michigan is known for their cherries. Traverse City in Northern Michigan boasts over 2.6 million cherry trees. And someday I want to drive up there just to see the miles and miles of orchard trees in bloom. I have no doubt it’s a sight to ooh and ahh over.

But there’s something special about seeing them in the City. There’s a wonderful element of surprise…their bright pink flowers against vivid Victorian colors or dull concrete buildings… it’s pretty magical.

And it’s little things like this that I don’t realize I’m going to miss until I come face to face with them. It seems like every other day I find something new. It’s bittersweet. I love that there are so many great things about this city and I love that I’m grateful for all of them. Of course it will make leaving that much harder, but better to have loved, as they say.

cherry blossoms against a blue roof