Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

A Forest Pansy Redbud of Hope

emerging dark red heart-shaped forest pansy redbud leaves

Hello Fellow Readers, The printed version of our column in The Press is back on the stands. It’s nice to see some things returning to how they used to be. Others will never be the same, which is always the case. A sure thing in life is it’s ever-changing. May a rainbow of Hope, Peace, and Love follow this storm, which brings me to a story of a Forest Pansy Redbud Tree planted in memory of an extraordinary young man.

Forest Pansy Redbud’s make a remarkable memorial tree.
A woman checking to see if a tree being planted is level

Margarita is carefully planting Myles tree.

In the fall, we planted a tree at Morristown High School (NJ) in memory of Myles, a remarkable young man. Myles of smiles is the contagious phrase that describes how he brightened the world with his presence and kindness to all that had the privilege of sharing a bit of his life — no matter our walk in life.

Myles loved bright colors, especially reds, which is why we chose a Forest Pansy Redbud for its glorious colors throughout the year. From the hot pink blooms that coat the branches in spring to the unfurling leaves that grow into shiny reddish-purple hearts that deepen to maroon as they mature. Then the canopy turns into a flame of reds, yellows, and orange come fall.

A spring frost damaged the leaves.
withered up emerging leaves on a tree

Frost Damaged Leaves

Margarita, a knowledgeable plantswoman, organized the planting and continues to take loving care of Myles’ tree. Earlier it was doing beautifully, she said. The flower buds formed and were ready to burst into bloom, and the leaves were beginning to emerge. Then upon her next visit, there was a devastating decline. She sent photos of the withered leaves that I forwarded to the nursery, who confirmed that it was frost damage from the two nights below freezing.

redbud tree wiht hot pink blooms coating branches

Myles loved bright colors.

Redbuds decline if too wet.

Cercis canadensis’ Forest Pansy’ is native to eastern and central North America. This deer-resistant beauty is hardy in zones 6 through 8 growing about twenty-five feet tall and wide. Redbuds prefer full sun in milder zones like ours and part shade in hotter climates. While they can tolerate clay soil, the soil must drain well as they decline quickly if too wet. Once established, Redbuds will tolerate occasional drought, but during its first few years after planting, consistently moist soil is crucial. And so Margarita installed a nifty tree-gator- a slow-release watering bag that drips water over five to nine hours with each fill. One fill will typically provide enough moisture to last a newly planted one to two-inch caliper tree for up to seven days. There are larger bags for more significant trees. FYI- the caliper is the width of the trunk.

A newly planted tree with a green tree gator bag for watering

A Tree-gator can simplify watering.

Tree-gators can simplify watering a newly planted tree.

Using a tree gator takes management. If there’s plenty of rainfall, don’t fill the tree-gator. Soil that’s too wet for too long depletes oxygen to the roots, which can eventually kill a tree.  And if it’s accessively hot and dry, the bag may need to be filled more than once a week. For now, Ben Jansen of Jansen Nursery advised that we only let nature water the tree.

“Too much water will add stress to an already stressed tree that needs to put energy into pushing out a new set of leaves,” Ben said, adding, “Redbuds are particularly finicky about too much water.”

Margarita reports pliable twigs and branches showing the promise of life. Once the leaves emerge, we will test the soil with a moisture meter and reinstall the tree gator should Mother Nature not provide enough rainfall.

I’ve witnessed two fall-planted Japanese maples whose leaves froze, shriveled, and dropped after the two-night freeze. They’ve rebound beautifully. There is indeed Hope. Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

Mary Stone wiht the parents of Myles in front of a memorial redbud tree.

Mary with Hector & Judy on planting day.

A poster of photos of a young man titled Myles of Smiles

Dark Red heart-shaped Forest Pansy Redbud leaves

6/24/20 update – new leaves are emerging – there is HOPE! :^)










This story is featured in Episode 21 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

You’ll enjoy a previous column about healing and growth titled A Butterfly Garden of Growth

as well as the “coincidence” of the heart-shaped leaves of Redbud featured at a recent Hospice Butterfly Release

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Diane Faige Dellicker Reply

    So interesting! My, has my H.S. changed! Miss the old look, but love that tree.

    • Mary Stone Reply

      Hi Diane, It sure is an impressive place. Far fancier than our West Chester PA High School was long ago. Since then, it’s been enlarged and renovated and looks like a college campus. Comforting the Forest Pansy Redbud remains the same magnificent tree. Thanks for reading my column :^), Mary

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