Planting a Tree

Our newest tree, a Northern catalpa on the corner of W. 40th and Sheridan Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

Our newest tree, a Northern catalpa on the corner of W. 40th and Sheridan Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

We planted a tree yesterday. Of course, when I say “we” I mean the guys at the tree service came to plant our tree for us. Trees are simply too important to leave to the amateur skills of homeowners like us.

It’s a Northern Catalpa, a hardy sort for a climate like Minnesota’s, yet also a pretty tree with elephant ear-like leaves that wave peacefully in the breeze.   When it grows beyond its stick-ly present, it will sprout big showy white flowers and produce dangling seedpods – the fun kind that make great rattling sounds when dried.

Trees are a big deal in Minnesota, so much so that the city of Minneapolis offers up trees to homeowners each spring for a nominal fee, as long as we pick them up and cart them home. It makes for a weekend spectacle of cars and vans sprouting stems and leaves driving away from the tree lot. But Minnesota’s Tree Trust achieves its goal of maintaining the urban tree canopy by sending out saplings into the community.

We planted our new tree near the empty space where a big old maple used to stand. When the kids were little, that maple and its pair, the remaining oak tree, were the perfect distance for tying up a badminton net for games in the front yard. 

We weren’t living here when the maple came down. It had finally succumbed to a very windy thunderstorm and dropped another large branch of its awning onto the sidewalk. The tree guys let us know it wasn’t strong enough to withstand another big storm and was at risk of breaking nearly in half, so we thought it wise to protect passersby by saying goodbye to the tree.

Frankly, I’m glad we weren’t here when it came down. Trees are so miraculous in all they provide and that tree had memories associated with it. Its shade cooled the front yard from the heat and humidity of summer. It was a hiding place when the kids were little and the “go seek” part didn’t require serious hiding. And its role in lawn games was important, providing an imaginary line for soccer balls and goals with the oak.

When we came home this spring, it was odd to see that open space on the lawn where the maple had once stood. There was a yawning space of sunshine where shade once reined.

So it’s not a surprise that we planted the catalpa near the site of the former maple. We want to ensure future generations have the option to tie up a net or plot a goal line in the front yard. And there’s something wonderful about charting time through the growth of a tree.

We’ll remember we planted it in the spring of 2015, and as it grows and matures we’ll recall this summer of transition and homecoming. In a few years, we’ll laugh about the Charlie Brown tree we planted and marvel at its growth. And when we finally downsize to a place by the river, we’ll drive by the old neighborhood to check up on our towering catalpa on the corner.