It’s the first of the month and for garden bloggers that means it’s time to fess-up and tell each other about the mistakes we’ve made along the way in our gardens. The inspiration for Gardening Oops! (GOOPs) comes from Joene Hendry, a fellow garden coach and author of Joene’s Garden.
My GOOPs this month deals with buying the wrong tree. About 10 years ago, while visiting the Bronx Zoo with my husband and two young sons, I saw the most spectacular tree in bloom. The tree was about 30′ tall and it was covered in bright yellow flowers that looked as if they were dripping off of every branch. It was stunning. I was looking for a new tree for my garden and I immediately fell in love with this one. I figured if it was thriving in the Bronx Zoo, less than 40 miles from my home in Connecticut, then it would work well in my garden. The only problem was I had no idea what kind of tree it was, I just knew it was covered with those yellow flowers.
A few days later, I was looking through a favorite mail-order plant catalog and there was my mystery tree (or so I thought!) – Laburnum x watereri (Golden Chain Tree). Without even so much as a second thought, I ordered one. It arrived, I planted it next to my house in a sunny location and nurtured it through the summer and fall because I was so excited to see it bloom the following spring.
It did bloom the next spring and it was pretty but I slowly realized it was a boring tree the rest of the year. I’d planted it in a prominent spot in my garden and with the exception of the few weeks it was in a bloom, it was a dude. There was nothing special about it – it certainly was not a multi-season plant. I was having buyer’s remorse. I started to feel like I’d made a mistake so I decided to do some research on my tree.
As I learned more about the Golden Chain Tree I became distressed. It turns out the yellow flower racemes are replaced by seed pods which are poisonous to children. I had two small kids running around my garden all day long. I needed to get rid of this tree or, at the very least, move it to a less prominent location in my garden. In the meantime I picked every seed pod off of the tree and up off of the ground and watched my kids like a hawk when they even went close to the tree. As I thought more about it, I couldn’t believe the Bronx Zoo would have a tree with poisonous fruit on it.
Well, it turns out they didn’t! Little did I know there is a very similar tree called the Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) which looks like the Golden Chain Tree but does not have poisonous seed pods – OOPS! Needless to say, I learned a big lesson with that tree.
I have since moved the tree to a less noticeable site in my garden and now that the kids are older I don’t have to worry about the poisonous seed pods. When the tree is in bloom it is beautiful but I have never really grown it love it the way I do my other plants. It’s a constant reminder of my rush to buy the mystery tree I thought would be the focal point of my garden.