Another one bites the dust

Bug in the heart

I am an Oak Park tree killer, and I’m not (too) ashamed of it. This week, Davis Tree Care came out and removed the gigantic magnolia tree that dominated our side yard. This makes the 4th tree that we’ve had Davis remove for us. I love trees, but what the heck can you do with: a 30-foot high magnolia in a 10-foot wide area between our house and the neighbor’s, an Ailanthus (tree of heaven – say no more), a Siberian elm right by the garage door (and the garage was brand new, too!), and a pie cherry tree right in the middle of the back yard.   Who plants invasive trees like this?  Who puts in a new garage by squeezing it between two existing Siberian elms?  Ah well, I’m sure future owners of this house will puzzle over why we put in a fish pond!

So many leaves...where's the tree?

Do not think that I will leave the side yard empty, although the poor plants that have struggled in the shade of the magnolia and houses might welcome it. I want to plant some shrubs or small trees, but nothing so large that we suffer the same problems that the oversized magnolia caused. Candidate shrubs so far are:

  • spicebush – Lindera benzoin
  • witch hazel – Hamamelis virginiana
  • bladdernut – Staphylea trifolia
  • one or more native Viburnum

I might plant multiple species, but I also have to be mindful that it’s a small space.  I’ve been lusting after spicebush for a while, but witch hazel’s fall blooming sounds really good about now.  Whatever I pick has to be a shade plant that can handle clay soil, and I am going to be sure that they are not going to grow more than 15 feet tall, nor interfere with the neighbor’s sidewalk.  Anyone out there have positive or negative experiences with any of these?  I’m going to keep looking at Possibility Place‘s online catalog too, and dream about replacing our remaining Siberian elm with an oak.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Can’t really offer any advice on the ones you have listed, but did you notice the tree stump is kind of shaped like a heart?


    • Posted by lakechicagoshores on November 1, 2009 at 12:17 pm

      Yep, MBT, mouse over the picture and you’ll see what it looked like to me. There were two intertwined trunks on the tree, which I think is what makes the stump look that way.


      • I didn’t see the bug he first time, it looked like a boot impression to be, but totally see a bug now.

      • Posted by lakechicagoshores on November 3, 2009 at 4:17 pm

        Dang it, I didn’t see the boot until now! I shoulda titled this post “You Done Stomped on my Tree-Lovin’ Heart”….

  2. Witch hazel has a pretty wide spread at maturity – might be a little large for your space. The others you mentioned might be a better fit.

    I love Possibility Place!


    • Posted by lakechicagoshores on November 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

      Linda, I remember you talking about going to PP and I was immediately envious! You’re right about my having to avoid the shrubbier shrubs – it’s a very narrow space and it’s also the primary sidewalk for my neighbor. I should probably look for shrubs that could be limbed up a bit to not have a lot of width at ground level. My first thought was a pagoda dogwood, but I think the area is too clay-ey and dark for those.


  3. Posted by tom on November 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    You could try a Winterberry or a Dogwood (Pagoda/treelike or Red Osier/srhubbier) for a little winter color. If you do want something more compact, Chokeberry or a few New Jersy teas are worth considering. I might suggest Baptisia Australis if you didn’t already have them. Leadplant could be a fit, but I’m not a big fan of its look. I’ve read about shrubby cinquefoil (yellow), but never seen in person.


    • Posted by lakechicagoshores on November 2, 2009 at 9:35 am

      The winterberry looks gorgeous, but this site is far from sunny. I really have to restrict myself to shade-loving plants, although both ends of the side yard could be considered part-shade. You’d think after my tales of tree destruction that there’d be some place in the yard that would be sunny, but it ranges from part-shade to shade to “better just put gravel there”.


  4. I have a spicebush I picked up for $10 at our Native Plant Sale in Wheaton. The specimans available are small but I hear it grows big. And so far it’s doing great in my shade.


    • Posted by lakechicagoshores on November 9, 2009 at 1:10 pm

      Very cool! My cousin lives in Wheaton, so that would be a nice excuse to visit her. Do they tell you whether they’re male or female plants?


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