Planting Sugar Maples

Labor Day was the perfect day to plant our two new sugar maples.  We planted two of them last fall, but for some reason they both died.  We speculate that the holes weren’t big enough, the soil was too hard, or we shouldn’t have unwrapped the root ball (although we did for our 30 white pines, and they were all fine), but whatever the reason, we had to get new ones.

My brother Nathaniel helped by lending his truck, mini-excavator, and time on his day off! We picked up the trees, took out the dead ones which had developed no root system, meaning they died shortly after we planted them, and planted the new, bigger trees.  We hope that with these bigger trees, digging bigger holes to loosen up the soil, and taking the advice of the garden center by leaving the wire on the root ball and slashing the burlap, that these trees will make it through the winter and we’ll see leaves next spring. 

Ed and Nathaniel unload the two sugar maples.

Ed and Nathaniel unload the two sugar maples.

Nate digs a hole for the first tree.

Nate digs a hole for the first tree.

We get the first tree in the ground.

We get the first tree in the ground.

A picture of the first tree and our house.

A picture of the first tree and our house.

Nate let's Ed dig the hole for the second tree.

Nate lets Ed dig the hole for the second tree.

Ed digs the second hole.

Ed digs the second hole.

Nate and Ed plant the second tree.

Nate and Ed plant the second tree.

Our new sugar maples!

Our new sugar maples!

Today reminded me of a chapter in Michael Pollan’s Second Nature, which is the wonderful story of Pollan’s gardening adventures in Connecticut and throughout his life.  While many people prefer his more recent books, I’m a big fan of this one because his stories are similar to my own, he’s gardening in my home state, and I can relate to moving to a new place and making your own mark with your gardens.  While Pollan started with an old farm, I have a blank slate, piece of my great-grandparents farm.  This book was a great read to make me think about what kind of gardens I wanted, and I would suggest it to anyone who lives in my area or is new to gardening. 

Regarding planting a tree on his property, Pollan writes:

A great tree changes the look of the landscape, of course and not only from a distance; it shapes space in the third dimension, too.  An old sugar maple–that was the tree I had in mind–sponsors a distinct kind of light and air around itself.  Its shade is dense, but always sweet, I think, and never oppressive.  The space that a maple articulates seems particularly hospitable to people–it’s an intimate, almost domestic space, more imposing.  No matter how large it grows, a maple never drops its tie to the human scale; a few of its boughs invariably reach down to us so that we may climb up into them, if only in our imaginations.  Maples suggest haven.  They always look comfortable next to houses, in summer gathering the cool air close around them and then ushering it toward open windows.

A single great tree can make a kind of garden, an entirely new place on the land, and in my mind I was already visiting the place my maple made, resting in its shade.  I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, probably not even in my lifetime, but wasn’t that precisely the point? To embark on a project that would outlast me, to plant a tree whose crown would never shade me but my children or, more likely, the children of strangers? Tree planting is always a utopian enterprise, it seems to me, a wager on a future the planter doesn’t necessarily expect to witness…

‘To plant trees,’ Russell Page wrote in his memoir, ‘is to give body and life to one’s dreams of a better world.’



Filed under Gardening, Home, Outside, Review, Sustainable Living

7 responses to “Planting Sugar Maples

  1. Lovely post, Abbie. You and Ed are building a future together. Planting a tree is about the most GREEN thing you can do as well as providing for a loving, hopeful future. Especially nice is the wonderful relationship that your husband and your brother share; they love to work together, you can just see that in their faces and they love to share their equipment! Your are so lucky–and so are they! I know that Nate looks at Ed as a true brother. Thanks so much for sharing; I know these trees will flourish because they were planted with great technique and great love!

  2. Jon

    so if the trees should be left wrapped up, how do all the native trees survive without wire and burlap wrapped around their roots??

  3. I love the placement of the trees. They should be able to spead out nicely. I hope these survive. I sometimes think the nurseries should admit the the trees were probably stressed when you bought them. I’ve had the same experience with pulling a dead one out, and realizing it never rooted at all.

  4. Marie

    THose are beauties!!! I am sure the second time will be the charm.
    And they will look gorgeous.

  5. Enjoyable post and pictures. The choice of Sugar Maples was a good one as they are so attractive and have some wood strength.

  6. farmersdaughterct

    Mom- Thanks. That’s such a typical comment from a mom, haha.

    Jon- I know… you would think that we would dig up wild trees and find them wrapped in wire and burlap… somehow they survive without it! Here’s my real answer: In the wild, few of the baby trees survive to be big, beautiful trees. Many of them don’t make it, and I think that would be the case for the trees that we plant, too, unless we baby them. They’re weakened from being dug up and if we rip the wire and burlap off, it will stress them more and they’ll die. I think. I just reasoned that out (aka made that up). But I want my trees to live, so I’m taking their advice.

    Joyce- I agree. The first clue should have been when their leaves fell off before any of the other trees. Oh well, live and learn.

    Marie- I hope so! And I forgot to mention in the post that the first two were a gift from you guys!!!

    Jeff- I agree that sugar maples are a good choice. Our families have strong ties to them, and both Ed and I grew up collecting sap and making maple syrup with our families.

  7. How beautiful!!! We’ve planted a bunch of trees on our tiny suburban lot with that in mind – that we won’t be here to enjoy their shade as they’re full grown but that others will and hopefully they will appreciate it.

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