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Giving thanks for Shantung Maples

Well, it's taken a long time (I'm not talking about weeks or months, but years) but I think I'm making progress in the department of landscaping with trees.  To being with, I've finally adopted the 'less is more' concept, especially on our treeless high plains.  There are trees that will grow here, and do pretty well if they have a bit of moisture now and then.  But those examples are few and far between.  On the other hand, there are numerous trees that won't grow here for any acceptable length of time, and those seem to be the ones a lot of us continue to include in our landscape plans and dreams.  We just can't say no, and give up on them with a sad goodbye.  (King of like a romantic relationship that is doomed from the start, but that one of the two combatants thinks they can change and save.)  But during the last few plating seasons I've begun to realize that it's much better to work toward a landscape that will be here for the long haul, leaving me time to enjoy trees that are here today-- and also tomorrow.

Some of the most devasting choices in my past efforts have been maple trees.  And a look around just about any neighborhood in our broadcast area tells me I'm not alone in my desire for beautiful, full, colorful red or silver maples to grace my yard.  And that's where I and many others have previously gone down the wrong path, because neither of those trees is meant to live here.

I had given up until I found a recommendation for Shantung maples, and decided to plant one in a family memorial garden I started four years ago.  The tree got off to a great start and hasn't looked back.  it's put on height and fullness, and hasn't required lots of extra treatment or a special diet, although it does appreciate used coffee grounds at the base to help add a bit of acid to our alkaline soil.  Coming from northern China, it knows how to stand up to zone four cold and by all reports thrives all the way down into central Texas.   It sports fairly low-growing branches, so some minor pruning may be needed if you eventually want to spend time beneath its spreading boughs.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I have to say I'm thankful for my two garden girls, Anna and Eva, for their continued help and interest in learning about gardens and growing things.  And I'm especially thankful for finding out about Shantung maples, and welcoming them to our small but sturdy family of trees just made for growing on the high plains.

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit, Skip planted a garden. She began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains.