Stayman Winesap Apple: The Successor

(Malus X Domestica)

Stayman-Winesap-Apple_1-741[1]The Stayman Winesap is unique to other apples for its exceptional characteristics. It was developed in 1866 by Dr. Stayman and believed to be an improvement over its parent tree the winesap. The Stayman was popular to pioneers for its ability to keep long during the winter and its wine-like taste that lingered. It is a high-yielding tree and produces medium to large apples which are great for baking. What makes it even more gripping is that it is a triploid, meaning it has three sets of chromosomes instead of the usual two. The Stayman quickly became favored over other fruit trees for these unique qualities.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • The Stayman Winesap grows in deep, moist, well-drained soil, although texture is not critical. It is not drought tolerant, but does tolerate clayish or sandy soils as well as loam or sandy loam (hardiness zones 5-8).
  • Slow growing tree, growing up to a foot a year and reaching 10-25 feet at maturity. Check out our fruit spacing guide to ensure it has plenty of space to flourish.
  • Prefers full sun, preferably 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms pink flowers midseason, distinct from other apple trees that bloom white.
  • Available in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes. Standard size bears fruit 6-10 years.
  •  Note: the Stayman cannot pollinate other apple trees. But it does require a second tree to pollinate. Plant with yellow delicious, red delicious, red Jonathan or early harvest.
  • Bonus: has a long storage life, able to keep for six months if refrigerated.

Have an awesome apple recipe? We’d love to hear it!

Chinese Pistache: There’s More Than Meets the Eye

(Pistacia chinensis)

112_lg_3[1]Sometimes nicknamed the ‘ugly duckling’ in the tree world, the Chinese pistache is often snubbed because of its unattractive and misshapen early stages. Although born into rough beginnings, the tree develops into an impressive specimen. It’s a hardy tree and commonly used in dry landscapes.

As the name predicts, the Chinese pistache is related to the pistachio tree, although it does not produce any nuts. Not only is this tree heat and drought-tolerant, but it is also winter hardy AND pest and fire resistant. Talk about resilience! Here are a few things to note if you’re looking to add one to your yard.

112_lg_2[1]Environmental Factors

  • Grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, silty loam, well-drained and clay soils (hardiness zones 6-9).
  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-35 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least 6 hours of direct unfiltered sunlight a day

Physical Attributes

  • Produces panicles of greenish flowers in April & May.
  • Withstands heat quite well and tolerates urban conditions.
  • Provides vibrant fall foliage with shades of orange and red.

Do you have a Chinese pistache? Share a picture!

Sourwood: A Sweet Surprise

(Oxydendrum arboretum)

What if there were a tree with scented flowers and tart leaves that shaded you from the sun’s heat in the summer and amused you with vibrant foliage in the fall, would you be interested? The sourwood tree does just that. This tree is exclusive to North America and isn’t found on other continents unless planted there. Named after the tangy flavor of its leaves, the sourwood tree is full of wonder. Sourwood blossom

Mountain climbers and hikers quench their thirst by making tea with sourwood leaves, and pioneers used the sap in a mixture for treating fevers. Agonizing from mouth pain? Early settlers chewed the bark as relief from mouth ulcers. Additionally, bees make honey from the nectar of sourwood flowers—rumor has it sourwood honey is among the best quality. Aside from the natural remedies sourwood boasts, this tree is a natural beauty. Check out a few of these tree care tips if you’re considering adding a sourwood for your yard.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year, reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Although it is native to the south, it will grow in a variety of hardiness zones (5-9).
  • Prefers normal moisture but has some drought tolerance. Grows in acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained and clay soils. Avoid alkaline or compacted soils.
  • Does best in full sun, getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day, but will tolerate partial shade.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, white flowers in late summer (June to early July) that resemble lilies-of-the-valley.
  • Can live up to 200 years if planted at the right site.
  • Bees produce high quality honey from the blossoms of the tree that is said to have a caramel or buttery flavor.
  • Offers vibrant fall color with leaves turning crimson, purplish-red and sometimes yellow. The numerous uses that stem from the sourwood give this tree some merit. Its shorter height make it a great contender to plant in your yard, or in front of a backdrop of taller trees.

Do you have a sourwood? Share a picture below!

Washington Hawthorn: A Blossom Amongst Thorns

 (crataegus phaenopyrum)

Washington-Hawthorn_1-846[1]If you’re looking to fill in the open spaces in your yard, or just add a bit of color to your landscaping, the Washington hawthorn is a great option. First introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, the tree earned its name because of its prominent thorns.

Legend has it that Paul Bunyan used the Washington hawthorn’s branches as a back scratcher. Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your landscape.

Environmental Factors

  • Grows 1-2 feet a year reaching 25-30 feet at maturity.
  • Versatile tree, growing in a wide variety of hardiness zone (4-8).
  • Prefers full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight a day).
  • Drought-tolerant, grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms white flowers with reddish-purple leaves.
  • Produces bright red berries that hang until the winter. It is popular amongst birds.
  • Develops thorns on its branches, making it an effective barrier.
washington hawthorn berry

Flickr | Taryn Domingos

Do you have a Washington hawthorn in your yard? Share a picture below!

Is the western soapberry the tree for you?

(sapindus drummondii)

Western Soapberry full tree

Flickr| David Elckhoff

Named because of the lather the fruit gives off when mixed with water, western soapberry is a North American native and an excellent shade or ornamental tree to adorn your landscape. If you’re looking to add a little more green to the yard and want something drought tolerant, then this tree may be the tree for you. Below are a few attributes that make the western soapberry stand out.

Environmental conditions

  • This tree grows well in a variety of soils with dryer climates in the South and Southwest (hardiness zones 6-9). It prefers full sun and partial shade, meaning a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day would suffice.
  • Tolerates wind, drought, compacted soil and infertile soil
  • Transplants easily and establishes with minimal irrigation

Physical traits

  • The western soapberry will grow two feet a year and reach 25-50 feet in height with an equal spread
  • Blooms May to June with loose panicles of yellowish-white flowers
  • Produces orange fruits that resemble cherries and lather when mixed with water. Fun fact: Native Americans used the berry-like drupes as a soap substitute.
  • The western soapberry is a favorite of butterflies in early summer


western soap berry

Flickr| David Elckhoff

If you’re looking for something unique to add to your landscape then the western soapberry may be a good choice.  It requires little care and offers great shade from the summer heat. Check out Inviting all butterflies! Create an oasis designed for them! If you’re looking to attract more butterflies to your garden.

Do you have a western soapberry? Share a picture below.

Designing Underneath a Shade Tree

The Arbor Day Foundation approached me about designing several plant combinations that their members and fans could use to create plantings of aesthetic interest and which provide function in the landscape.  Over the next few months I will be sharing information behind these plant combinations and how they can be used as “do  it yourself landscape designs”.  Previously I outlined the Hedgerow Bird Shelter, aka the Bird Magnet planting.  Let’s now explore the Shade Tree Planting. 

Shade Tree Planting

While working on the design for the Shade Tree Planting, the primary goal was to produce an attractive planting that could be installed below a mature shade tree.  Often times the area below a mature shade tree becomes problematic for the homeowner due to the canopy of the  mature tree shading out the turf below as well as the trees surface roots sometimes becoming unattractive.  The Shade Tree Planting is designed to be installed below the canopy of a mature shade tree and offer months of flowering interest. Read more…