Earth Day Tree 2020 - Chanticleer Flowering Pear - Sideyard

One of the traditions that I've enjoyed keeping up with each year with our kids is the annual Earth Day planting of a tree in our yard.  We started with one - a Dawn Redwood in 2017 - that we planted in our new lot while our house was being built.  This was a few months before the construction was going to be done.  

The next year - 2018 - we planted three Earth Day trees. One for each kid.  We did a weeping cherry (that we lost), a Red Maple Sun Valley tree that we planted all the way in the back and a flowering pear tree that we planted on the south fence line.  Those two have survived since then, but they were VERY small trees.  I wasn't measuring them at the time, but when I measured them in January of this year (which would have made these 1.75 years *in the ground* at our house), the maple was just .87" caliper and the Chanticleer Pear was up to 1.20".   They were similar when we put them in, so guess it was something like .65" or .70" when purchased.

And last year, I bought six TINY Canadian Hemlocks.  We planted three on Earth Day in the far back and the other three a couple of weeks later.  We lost one and a few of them were ravaged by rabbits this Winter, so I'm not sure they'll be making it.  

Overall, our Earth Day tree planting survival rate isn't great.  If we're counting the 2 rabbit-eaten trees as 'gone', then we're just at 50%.  5 out of 10.  If we're not, then it is a little better:  Just 3 of 10.

That brings me to this year.  Earth Day was a few days ago and we ended up planting a tree.  But it wasn't simple and I'm kind of surprised where it ended up.  Due to the whole 'social distancing' and 'stay-at-home' orders in place in Illinois, we haven't been doing too much going out and shopping.  Buying trees isn't super easy when you don't go out.  So, knowing that Earth Day was approaching, I went online to find a nursery that has a tree or two that we'd want and tried to order them.  I placed the order on April 16th.  Cutting it close, I know.  I'm not naming the online nursery because I'm not interested in shaming them.  But, the trees didn't arrive by the 22nd.  Listen...not their fault.  In 'normal times', I'd think that a couple of small trees would have arrived.  But, between the (I'm guessing) short staff PLUS the slowing of all non-essential deliveries...they just didn't arrive.  

I'll post about each of those trees shortly - they're destined for our yard in the coming week.

But, knowing that we weren't going to have our online trees on hand, I decided to head out to Home Depot one morning.  I got there before they opened and looked around.  They were running a 50% off sale - not sure if it was Earth Day-related or just a sale.  Pretty good.  

Guess what?  I showed NO restraint.  I bought a bunch of trees.  Some bigger ones.  Some smaller ones.   And one of them has become our Earth Day tree:  a Flowering Pear 'Cleveland Select' Chanticleer Pyrus calleryana.   Those of you who follow along here in the [garden diary] know that we have a couple of these trees.  

Are they awesome trees?  Yes and no.  I like them due to their fast-growing nature, their narrow (dare I say..."columnar" form), their marscence and how they put on a little Spring show (with sometimes stinky flowers).  

I've had mixed results with these trees:  good and bad.  The largest one we had put in our front yard died.  And the replacement struggled.  I tried to fix it by digging through the 'clay bowl' that I think was drowning it, and it appears to be back on track this year - after flowering in the Fall a couple of seasons ago.  

These flowering pear trees have something of a bad rap.  They aren't super long-living and are susceptible to diseases.  It appears that the Chanticleer is the best of the bunch and is a big improvement over previous "cleveland pears".   

I ended up planting a few of them in our old house in Elmhurst - in places that were tight - like between our house and our neighbors and they've done well.  Here's the first post showing one I put in the front yard back in 2009 and flowered for the first time in Spring 2010.  It was a $5 tree bought on a whim.  I liked the blooms each year and posted about them.  Here's 2011.  By 2012 it had grown quite a bit and was becoming a real tree.  

The last time a Streetview car went by our old house was in 2018, so this can give you a sense for what a $5 tree that was probably < .50" caliper and four feet tall looks like after eight years.  It is taller than the house.


So, back to this year.  The 50% off deal at Home Depot was going on.  If you've shopped at Home Depot for trees, you know they're not chock'd full of super exoctic varities.  They have a pretty standard set of trees they offer:  plenty of small fruit trees, some conifers and in shade trees they have a maple or two, a river birch clump, an oak and that might be it.  In flowering trees, they usually have a redbud, a few crabapples and the Chanticleer Pear.  

I've discussed my history with Chanticleer Pears as screening trees (or potential screening trees) here in this post from May of 2017 - while our house was under construction.  At the time, our landscaper was talking about using them to form a screening hedge of sorts - because of the grade, we needed something.  

We (thankfully!) changed lanes after coming across these Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam trees and had eight of them planted in 2018.    Last September - their second full growing season we were already getting some of the benefits of their screening.  I'm so glad we went with the Hornbeams, but that doesn't mean that the Chanticleer pear isn't helpful here.  

I've been very happy with the hedge and was thinking that this year - their third year - we'd see the most benefit and the gaps between the trees would start to close in even more.  But, then...the house next door got torn down.  And they're building a big house.  Right next to our screened porch. And the framing started this past week.  That means that the view from our screened porch changed big time.  Now we're facing a house - fortunately with just one window on our side, though. 

But the location of that window?  It was in a spot that is outside the *edge* of our current hedge.  Here's the view - below.  See that window on the right?  And the last Hornbeam just to the left of it? 


Earth Day tree to the rescue.  I know that these Chanticleer Pear trees grow fast and narrow and that with the Home Depot 50% off sale, I can get a 'good sized' tree for just $25.  Yeah...a $50 tree - that was marked half off.  I could get it in the ground immediately and get it working for me.  

Why not a hornbeam?  Well...first of all...the price.  Second:  availability.  And third...consistency.   At the other "end" of the Hornbeam hedge is another Chanticleer Flowering Pear.  I thought that I could kind of mirror that end on this end by installing another one.  You can see the other flowering pear in the photos on this post when they were installing the Hornbeams

So...going into this with my eyes wide opened, I bought another Canticleer Pear tree.  To help with a quick screen on a budget, this was going to have to do for now.  


Measuring the tree's caliper - at "about" six inches high (note...I just estimated, so I'll do it properly soon) - is 1.38".  That'd put it third of four.

2018 Earth Day tree:  1.20"
Other 'end' of the hedge:  2.68"
Front yard:  2.80"


When I was taking the caliper measurement, I found the base of the trunk to be interesting.  And gave me pause (once again).  Is this a grafted tree?  I'm not super knowledgeable about grafts, but this certainly looks like a different rootstock, right?


I got busy - taking Ralph Snodgrass' advice into consideration.  This might be a cheap ($25) tree.  But, that doesn't mean it should be a cheap hole.  The soil in this side yard is heavy clay.  Remember what I found out with my Dawn Redwood?  If I dug deep enough (in just part of the hole), I'd eventually reach loam and would then have a little bit of water 'relief' to avoid drowning.   

So, thanks Ralph.  I tried to dig a $5 hole for a 50 cent tree.  I took A LOT of clay out of the hole and use the post hole digger to go deep in some parts.  I went about 2x as wide as the root ball (it was in a 7 gallon nursery pot) and tried to slope the sides.  Here's some of the clay that I removed.


Now...I know that there is mixed info on what to backfill the hole with:  use the clay you removed? Or amend the soil with something that is more rich.  I chose to go with amended soil.  Took a mix of 1 part existing clay, 1 part compost and 1 part loam and first put down a base in the hole.  The surrounded the tree ball.  Covered the whole thing with mulch.  

Once I put the tree in the hole...well...it shrunk.  Barely above the fence.  What was an 8' tall tree in the pot?  Now like 6' 6".  Womp womp.  But, it'll grow, right?  

Here's the new Earth Day tree below.  I planted it slightly BEHIND the hornbeams know that it will be broader than those.  I'll also limb-it up once I see some growth on top (ahem...the apical meristem).


Here's one of the kids next to the tree they helped plant on Earth Day 2020 below:


Most importantly, how does it look from in the screened porch?  Like a shrimp.  See below.  You might see a small tree.  What do I see?  Promise.  Promise of that window being screened in the next year or so.  That will benefit both us AND our new neighbors. 


Like I've done over the years, I'll keep tracking the trees that we've planted.

This is tree #36.

30 trees currently alive and adding to our landscape.

2017 (9 planted. 3 Died. 6 of the original annual total alive now):
1. Flowering Pear in backyard on north side.
2. Flowering Pear in front yard by garage. (LOST and replaced)
3. Japanese flowering cherry
4 and 5: 2 Lindens that I espalier'd and placed by the south fence line near our kitchen windows.
6. A Dawn Redwood from Earth Day 2017 (LOST and replaced)
7. Nat's Saucer Magnolia in our front yard
8. A Corkscrew Willow all the way in the back (LOST)
9. A Crimson King Norway Maple near the trampoline

2018 (17 planted. 2 Died and weren't replaced yet. 2 were replacement from 2017. 15 of the original annual total alive now):
10. Another flowering pear from Earth Day 2018
11. Red Maple Sun Valley tree from Earth Day 2018.
12. Weeping Cedar tree - our first evergreen.
13. The weeping flowering cherry tree that the Babe planted for Earth Day 2018.
14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. These Frans Fontaine Hornbeams
22. A replacement Chanticleer Pear tree (3" caliper) out front by our garage
23. Our second evergreen - a short Fraser Fir Christmas Tree out by the trampoline. (LOST)
24. This Canadian Hemlock that is the first of nine that our landscape plan calls for in the backyard. (LOST)
25. Our replanted/replacement Dawn Redwood. Same spot as the first.
26. This teeny-tiny Bald Cypress that I planted in the front yard, in between our driveway and our neighbor to the north.

2019 (9 planted.  1 confirmed dead.  2 troubled. 8 of the annual still alive.):
30, 31, 32.  This second set of three small Canadian Hemlocks along the north fence line.
33.  My new Weeping White Spruce that will only grow about 4' wide placed near the fence line alongside the espalier'd Lindens.
34.  A NEW Dwarf Alberta Spruce planted near the south fence line.  Our first "dwarf" tree.
35.  This new Hakuro Nishiki Willow (Dappled Willow) tree planted close to the flowering cherry on the southside.  

2020 (So Far):
36.  A small Chanticleer flowering pear on Earth Day 2020 outside our screened porch.

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