Tag Archives: arbor day foundation

2016 Arbor Day Order

My trees are here!! I am so excited!! $55 into my $300 budget, and hopefully worth it!! So far I have spent $70 on roots, bulbs, a bag of gardening soil, fertilizer spikes, and seeds. Bluestone didn’t charge me for my $15 order until it shipped, so that leaves me with a total of $140 spent. I have $160 left in the budget, and with most of my spring planting essentially done, I don’t see me dipping into that amount until its time to plant tulip bulbs in the fall.

IMG_2727Hubby was doing some yard work and came through the back door with this long, thin cardboard box. I knew what to expect since this is what I received last year. Tiger boy immediately got to work pulling the tape off by hand. He eventually decided to get himself a pair of blunt scissors from his craft box. I don’t know if he remembers doing this last year, but he was nonplussed when he opened the box to “a bunch of sticks,” as my husband put it.

IMG_2728You can see that the “sticks” are wrapped in brown paper. Under that paper, the tops of the trees are bound together with a twist tie, and the roots are thoroughly covered in a hydrating gel and wrapped in plastic. They are also bound together very tightly to minimize drying.

IMG_2730The Orange paper in the middle is an envelope that states “Open Immediately.” Naturally I did this (Tiger boy is a protocol man, so I as long as he was helping out, I didn’t really have any other option). The contents were a return envelope, an order sheet, the “Tree book” (its basically a catalogue), a double sided pamphlet explaining the benefits to bareroot, and the specifications of a dormant trees, a “thank you for supporting arbor day” insert, another letter, and my order form.

The “dormant trees” pamphlet was my first go-to. I had Tiger boy read it so he could better understand what we were about to do and why (he is such an eager student, and a voracious reader), while I ran to get a large bucket in which to soak the tree roots.

Dormant trees, unlike live mail order plants, don’t need to be kept out of the sun to prevent shock, but they do require an extended period of soaking. This is to rehydrate the roots and prepare the trees for “waking up.” They also need that time to allow the gel to dissolve completely so the roots can actually access the water. The gel is hydrating in and of itself, but it is also water repelling, so it needs to be completely removed prior to planting. I didn’t remember the use of recycled paper and fabric pulp around the gel with my last order, but it looks like that is also present as extra insulation during shipment to further prevent loss of water through condensation.

IMG_2736My first step was to fill a 5 gal bucket about 3/4 full of water. After which, I removed the twine that held the plastic together, removed the plastic, and set the bundle in the bucket of water.

I then worked to remove the twine from the roots themselves,  removed the twist tie at the top of the bundle, and briefly removed the bundle from the water to separate the roots before placing them back (I prefer to remove most of the twine while the roots are soaking to minimize exposure to air).


Tiger boy had fun helping me through this process. He tried to cut the twine himself . . . still doesn’t quite have the fine motor strength for that. But I love it that he tried-that’s what I want, a self-motivated worker! What mom wants to spend her time nagging her kids for help? I’d rather he showed up already excited and full of initiative.

IMG_2742At this point we were done. The pamphlet advised a 3-6 hour soak. We had finished the process at 3:00 pm. There was nothing else we could do but wait another 3 hours until the trees were ready. By that time, Tiger boy was watching some documentary and advised me that he was “bored with gardening” and would not be planting anything else that day . . . so the initiative was a little short lived, but it’s a work in progress. Not every 5 year old wants to help mom in the garden!


I couldn’t remember what I purchased, so it helps that The Arbor day Foundation has labels attached to the stems. There were the 2 free forsythia (about 18” each), the free maple (3′), and finally the Dwarf trees I intentionally ordered-Peach “Belle of Georgia” (self-pollinating), Cherry “Bing”, Cherry “Black Tartarian” (they need to cross pollinate in order to bear fruit), and Plum “Methley” (also self-pollinating).


While we were waiting for the trees to rehydrate, I measured where I wanted the trees, spray painted the remaining designating circles, and had hubby dig the holes for me (I’m 22 weeks pregnant, digging is kind of out of the question right now). He wasn’t too thrilled with it, but he did it anyway.

The Dwarf Cherries were going to go near the back of the house, eventually hiding the A/C unit. The shorter Peach and Plum trees, were perfect for the Forsythia corner because that is also where the power lines are, and they don’t grow any higher than 10ft. I don’t want to buy a fruit tree that will be topped off by the power company the second it reaches mature height. Since the Dwarf Cherries can reach a maximum height of 15 ft, this was not an ideal spot for them.

We had a get-together with a neighbor down the street, so I hastily finished planting, and took the following pictures the next day:

IMG_2751She’s difficult to see, but here is my Georgia Peach. She has a lovely green tinge to her bark, something I should get a picture of later. I have a feeling she will be the first to “wake up” and bud out. I placed her by the fence between myself and my next door neighbor.

IMG_2752Next is the Methley Plum. This little guy was the smallest of the bunch, and was placed right by the back fence. My husband is always telling me he feels like he is “in a fishbowl,” because our house is on a bit of a hill, and it backs up against a cup-de-sac. Our only privacy comes from a bush planted right in the middle of our fence line. When this little guy is more mature, I suspect my husband will feel a little less “exposed.”

IMG_2756The two concrete forms house the Cherry trees “Bing”, and “Black Tartarian”, both sweet cherries.  They are difficult to see right now because they have no leaves, but once they leaf out in about three weeks, I will have a better idea of what they look like.

Surprisingly, this lot actually came with a lot more branches than last years trees. The Crabapples I received last year have now grown the same amount of branches these trees arrived with. In a sense, it feels as if they were ordered at the same time.  I expect they will all reach their mature height around the same period of time-roughly 3-5 years. I’ve never waited so long for fruit before.

Oh, right, and about that maple . . . I may have accidentally left her in the bucket for two days before emergently transplanting her into a large pot. If she survives, she will be a house warming gift for a friend who wants to purchase her first home.

If she doesn’t, she will likely become a horsewhip in the hands of one of my boys . . .


DIY Landscape Part 4: The Arbor Day Foundation

Continued from Part 3.

Now that I had designed the part of the yard immediately next to the house, I needed to find a design for the yard portion in the front of the yard, leading up to the street. It was all dirt, and erosion was becoming an issue.


Unfortunately, I am intimidated by designing around emptiness. Its one thing to have an existing structure. It provides limitations, which help create inspiration through problem-solving (something I am good at). But what if there is no obvious problem to solve? How can I create something out of nothing? That has never been a strength of mine.

I googled “free landscape plan”, expecting to find a bunch of books or designs available by purchase. Fortunately, I found something better: a free landscape plan (“knot garden”) on the Arbor Day Foundation website. It consisted of an oval with a yoshino cherry on either end, a hydrangea in the middle, and Korean boxwood surrounded the lot in a snug little island. Just needed to replace the cherry trees with something small enough to fit my space, and I would be done!

IMG_2397Having never been to the arbor day foundation website before, I did some exploring. I discovered Arbor day sold smaller, less mature trees for pennies compared to their larger, big box counterparts. Did you know that you can buy trees from them for as little as $10???? And they are a not for profit, so what they receive is given right back to the community to “help keep America green” not that this is a big priority of mine, but Im not against it. I plan on making the Arbor Day Foundation a yearly go-to as I slowly build my landscape.

However, there is a bit of a catch to the trees you receive from arbor day: they are sent “bare-root“. Meaning you don’t get them in a pot of dirt. They don’t even look like trees. You receive them, trunks only, main roots only, bare and leafless. Or, as Tiger boy put it “Mommy, they’re naked!!” They look like dry, “naked”, lifeless sticks. My neighbor across the street thought I was nuts. “You won’t be able to enjoy them until you move out!”  I wonder when he thinks Im moving out?


They look like sticks because they are sent in a dormant stage twice a year, once in the spring, once in the fall, to reduce shock. They must be young to reduce the length of the shock and the cost of shipping. Older stock means longer shock and longer recovery times. The roots are shipped in a hydrating gel so the trees don’t dry and die in transit. Once received, they must be rehydrated in water for a few hours, then immediately placed in the ground. This should give you enough time to dig holes (if you haven’t already done so) for a handful of trees, but if you order more than 6, you may find yourself, as I did, seriously pressed for time.

I had done a lot of reading and research about the benefits of bareroot (see right sidebar in link, past the planting instructions), so I decided that, for less than $40 for 4 trees and 3 bushes, I could handle less than mature merchandise. After all, I was on a budget. I couldn’t afford $90 a tree, $60 a bush. That would have given me 8 ft trees and much larger bushes for about $550. Instant curb appeal, but at a cost I couldn’t afford. Plus, that wouldn’t even cover the cost of additional plants, and busted my $300 yearly landscaping budget.

I ordered 2 prairie fire crab apples, one Ann magnolia tree, and a blue hydrangea. After joining (for a $5 yearly membership), I received discounts along with a free red maple and two free forsythia (I did actually want the additional forsythia). The red maple I didn’t need (I have a small yard), so that was going to go to the neighbor down the street to whom I had given a box of Iris.

I knew the shipping dates for my zone, but was not given a warning about when they would be shipped (that is one of my complaints). So one day, a long, thin, cardboard box just showed up on my doorstep. Knowing I had no time to lose, I planted immediately (I wasn’t ready yet, so this required prep time with the measuring tape, which took me about 30 minutes). Then I waited.

IMG_1034And I waited. And waited. Two weeks later, the “Crabs” finally started to bud. And then tiny pink blooms burst forth. Followed eventually by very slow growth. They were very hard to see, so I grabbed this tacky garden border that came with the property, then filled it with dark mulch to keep in moisture. Eventually I bought enough mulch to create my oval shape, and sodded in the remaining bare spots with grass I was still digging up from my stone path.

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Last fall, I noticed the crabs were about twice their size. This morning I was happy to note they had leafed out beautifully. Im excited to note their progression this year, since I have read they can double in height for several years until they reach their final, mature height, which may well be 2 years from now if they continue at this rate. The trunk width will take a little longer.


The Hydrangea . . . well, its lagging. I’ve read in several places it may or may not do well planted bare root. It’s a fickle plant. But I haven’t given up on it yet. It sent up a six inch leafy stem last year, but did nothing else. This year, so far, I have seen some green, but I think I removed the mulch too soon, because we had another frost come in last week, and the green has turned yellow. I haven’t given up hope, though. There’s still plenty of time for this little baby to catch up.


The Magnolia, on the other hand, didn’t make it.  It took me a month to decide that it was, in fact, dead. The broken twig test confirmed it-no green at the break. The Arbor day Foundation does have a return policy but I didn’t want to pay half the price of shipping + the plant (even though shipping was free with my original order), and wasn’t sure that a young sapling was a good idea with such poor soil (Missouri is notorious for a lot of hard clay soil).


Instead, I decided to go on ahead and order another Magnolia (different kind) through fastgrowingtrees.com. I had a strong feeling the clay soil was the problem, and hoped a more mature tree would be able to tough it out better than a young bare-root. I simply didn’t have the budget to buy new top soil for my entire yard.

Through Arbor day, I had ordered an Ann Magnolia. Through fast-growing-trees, I chose the Jane (I don’t think they had Ann). Jane had purplish flowers, which would contrast well with our house once we painted it a buttery yellow (my husbands choice, not mine). It was my most expensive plant so far-$80. And it ate up a lot of my budget.

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But Jane is making it. She did shed more than half her leaves in the initial transplant shock period, but snapped out of it with regular watering within about a month (older specimen, longer recovery). This spring she had a few purple blooms, and is sending out some nice leaf buds as we speak. I wish I had paid more attention to her growth, because a few of the reviews had mentioned that she didn’t grow very quickly, and I think that may be true. There seems to be little, if any, discernible growth-something I want to track this year.


As for the Forsythia? One of them is being “heeled in” (placed in a random spot until I can move it to its final home), and the other one I accidentally stepped on while mowing the yard. It broke deep in the ground, and never recovered. I called it a loss, but Im getting two more for free with this years order, so with three forsythias to heel in, I think Im good in the forsythia department. If I get two more next year, they may be gifted out.

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These pictures are from last year, and this little guy is already more than twice that tall. However, he only has the two branches and is truly in the awkward teenager stage of forsythia growth. I really hope he branches out more this year. Puberty does not look well on him.

See part 5 for more.