Thursday, November 27, 2014

Progress Report and Review. Linden Trees. 11.26.14

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When we bought the 2 acres in Battleground, there were few trees.  One of the first things I wanted to do was get some started.  We took possession Summer 2013, July.  Not a good time to plant trees.  I did anyway.  During fall and winter, 2013, I planted 4 Tilia cordata "Greenspire", and 1 Tilia america "Redmond."  The Greenspire trees were close-out end of summer at Home Depot.  Redmond was mail order from an Oregon nursery, bought and planted in Dec 2012.

I had some reasons to choose lindens.    There is some nostalgia.  There were lindens on my street, in my boyhood neighborhood.  My street was named for them.  Linden flowers are used in herbal teas (tisanes), and are fragrant.  Linden flowers are considered prime nectar sources for honeybees.  Given the trees are 3-dimensional, and can grow to very large size, they have potential for far more nectar than 2-dimensional use of land for perennials or annuals.  Lindens grow in a wide range of climates, so they have a chance for a long future, even with climate change.   Planting any tree is an act of defiance against the selfish destruction of environment in modern times.  But I also want the trees to have a chance to contribute in other ways, and be adaptable to potential evolution of local climate.

Ancient linden from
 From University of Florida Extension, '`Greenspire' ...grows 50-75 ft tall, spread 40-50 ft, ...normally seen 40-50 feet tall with a 35-40-foot-spread...faster growth rate than the species...dense pyramidal to oval crown which casts deep shade...prolific blooms...small fragrant flowers appearing in late June and into July. Many bees are attracted to the flowers..."

Redmond American linden has similar growth characteristics, but with wider spread and much larger leaves.  Redmond is also considered an excellent nectar and pollen source for honeybees.  For American lindens, " When flowering, the trees are full of bees, hence the name Bee-tree; this species is favored by bees over others and produces a strongly flavored honey."

Linden flowers from
I had bought the Greenspire trees on deep discount, end of season.   This is almost a worst-case scenario.  At end of season, the roots are wound around the pot, increasing risk for self-girdled, self-killed trees.  Cutting off the winding roots, which I did, leaves the top out of proportion to the roots but is necessary for good future root spread and to prevent girdling.    In summer and fall, it's hot and dry, risking killing the trees shortly after planting them.  I did water frequently, and mulched generously.

All 5 trees settled in without a hitch.  Last year growth was so-so, enough to know they were establishing, but not super-fast.  None bloomed the first year.  The second year, they all grew much faster, putting on about 2 to 3 feet of growth.  I did give them organic nitrogen boosts in winter and spring, which may be why.  I watered frequently the first summer, but only a few times in summer 2014.  That is important - I read Greenspire and Redmond do not tolerate drought well.  They did fine.  The second year, none of the Greenspire trees had flowers.  The Redomond linden had several flowers.  Not dramatic, but I got to see some bloom on my own tree.
On the issue of nitrogen supplementation, there's this:  "Basswood is classified as a nitrogen-demanding species because it grows poorly on sites deficient in nitrogen. With increasing nitrogen supplies, basswood growth increases markedly, approaching a maximum radial increment when 560 to 670 kg/ha (500 to 600 lb/acre) of nitrogen are added. Basswood leaves have high contents of nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and potassium at the time of leaf fall and they contribute most of these nutrients to the forest floor."  In my case, the added nitrogen was "pee cycling", with 2 liters, diluted to 2 gallons, and watered into the soil once in late fall and again in the spring.  From the same site, it is noted that basswood trees (Tilia americana) rate of growth is faster than other northern hardwood tree species.  That is important for me.  I want to see my trees grow.

Based on the first 2 years' experience with Greenspire and Redmond lindens, they settled in very well, had no summer or winter damage, and have made great starts.  Last winter, they tolerated the coldest winter conditions in local memory, without any damage at all.  If they continue to grow as well, I hope they will provide a little honeybee forage next year, and in the long run, will be my heritage as majestic trees for a future generation.

I haven't tried them yet, but basswood / linden leaves are edible for humans and animals, and reported as "tasty" "Edible raw or cooked you can make a salad using the leaves as the main ingredient like lettuce. Cooked they lose flavor and shrink in size considerably....  the flowers are edible raw or cooked a tea can be made from them. Two tablespoons per cup."  The author notes that the leaves have a mild flavor, slightly sweet, and tender.  He eats them at a small size.  The author also notes that the cambium is tasty as well, with a cucmber flavor.  Which reminds me, I need to check on the trunks to make sure they all have protective hardware cloth sleeves.  I wonder why deer didn't eat the leaves. 

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