Category Archives for Shrubs & Trees

Catalpa Tree

May 26, 2010

We’ve got a good-sized catalpa tree by the sheep shed.  It wasn’t supposed to be a catalpa tree.  It was supposed to be a “Princess Tree” (Paulownia tomentosa) because  I wanted something that grew really quickly with big leaves and flowers.  The Princess Tree is an import from East Asia, and considered an invasive species in some places.  However, I knew it couldn’t do much damage by the sheep shed and fields, because the sheep and goats would graze it down.

Anyway, after the tree grew big enough to bloom, it became clear it was NOT Paulownia tomentosa, in spite of what the nursery said.  Here I was showing pictures of my Princess Tree to a homesteading list, and a couple of them were going, “Ahhhhh, that’s a Catalpa Tree.”


So it turned out we have a catalpa tree.  Which is okay, just not what I expected.  (I do like for a nursery to ship what I ordered!)

Booming Catalpa tree

Catalpa Tree (Catalpa speciosa)

The goats trimmed it back when it was younger, but it grew back from the roots, so it’s a pretty tough tree.  It’s purported to withstand wet, dry, alkaline soils and hot, dry environments.  Well, good thing it likes hot.

I’m not sure how tall it is now, but it grows to 40′-60′ with a 30′ spread.  I’d say maybe half-way there?

The neighbors have a full-grown catalpa tree in their front yard.

Full-grown Catalpa Tree

Some years, the trees have lots of catalpa caterpillars on the leaves.

Catalpa caterpillars (Ceratomia catalpae)

Catalpa caterpillar (Ceratomia catalpae)

These caterpillars love to munch on catalpa tree leaves, hence the name.  But when they grow up, they become a Sphinx Moth.

Not very impressive looking.  But if I were into fishing, I’d love the catalpa caterpillars, because they make great bait!

As for the tree itself, it looks pretty when it’s in bloom.  And it provides shade.  Guess that’s all we need!

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A redbud tree, or not a redbud?

April 2, 2010

Redbud tree or not redbud tree, that is the question!

There are a lot of redbud trees blooming in the spring.  Most of what people seem to call redbuds are like this tree. . .

It’s an Eastern Redbud tree. They don’t really have what I’d call red buds, but more of a light purple-pink sort of deal.

However, we had a tree growing at the edge of our woods that DOES have a true red bud.

It’s a pretty tall tree, taller I think than most Eastern Redbud trees.

Here’s a closer look at the top of the tree. . .

And here’s a closer look at one of the stems with the red buds. . .

So, my question is…. What is this tree? 

And no, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke.  I seriously do not know what kind of tree this is, and if anyone out there does, I’d love to hear from you!

Comparing Walnuts To Apples

September 2, 2009

I just took a letter out to put in the mailbox.  On the way back, I was kicking walnuts out of the driveway.  It occurred to me as I was doing this, “These things are as big as apples!”

So I decided to compare walnuts to apples and see if I was right.  I got a Red Delicious Apple and a Jazz apple, and put the walnut smack dab between them.

Comparing Apples To Walnuts (

Yep, I do believe I’m right. Those walnuts ARE as big as apples!

It looks like we’re going to have a bumper crop of black walnuts this year.  These came from a smaller tree along side our driveway.  We have 4 or 5 HUGE black walnut trees in the back yard.  It’s like trying to walk over a carpet of tennis balls or something out there!

Too bad our fruit crop isn’t as good.  Our fruit trees don’t have near as much fruit as they did last year.  My dad was mentioning the same thing about his fruit trees back in West Virginia.  They were positively loaded last year, but not much fruit this year.  Maybe they decided they needed a rest.

But walnuts, we’ve got lots of those!

History Of The Sumner Pecan Tree

July 30, 2009

I’ve got a special treat today, a guest post from someone who knows a lot about the history of Sumner Pecan trees.  Hope you enjoy it!

By Edker H. Mc Donald – 2009

The Sumner tree is rated by most experiment stations and research people as one of the top two pecans in the Southern United States.  It is known that it is the most sought after tree from the nurseries of this area.

Here’s how I learned about the Sumner pecan tree.

Sometime around August of 1939, Mr. Wallace Childs, the basketball coach at Nichols High School in Coffee County in Georgia, asked me if I would be willing to go with him and Randle Kirkland (another student of his) to Mr. Walter L. Sumner’s place.  He lived across the branch from Wallace’s dad’s house, at a little place called Waterloo, where Wallace was raised.  All of these places are in Tift county.

I told Wallace that I would be glad to go.  We left early on Saturday morning and was at Mr. Sumner’s Nursery about the time to go to work.

Young Sumner Pecan Tree
“Newly planted Sumner Pecan tree”

Mr. Sumner took the three of us to his young pecan nursery and started showing us how to bud pecan trees.  His pecans had been planted in rows like corn about 15 inches apart.

The young trees were about 18 inches high.  He showed us how he budded the young trees about 4 inches above the ground.  Mr. Sumner seemed to take a liking to me and Randle.  He asked us to come back the next Monday and work with him all week and he would teach us how to bud pecans.

We both went back to Chula, Georgia, on Sunday and budded pecans all week.  You can learn a lot from a person like Mr. Sumner when you set on the next row to him all day for a week and bud a pecan tree every time that he budded one.

Mr. Sumner was a very jolly fellow and even though it was the middle of August and hot and dry, he made it a pleasure to be out in the heat.  He liked to joke and tell little stories while working.  He was one of the better teachers that I have ever met.

The following year I received a letter from Mr. Sumner asking that I come back and help him bud trees for two weeks in August of 1940.  He said that the trees that I budded lived a lot better.

I was very interested in learning every thing that I could about pecans and I knew that I had run into a fellow that would spend the time with me to teach me what I needed to know.  So when the time came, I went back to Mr. Sumner’s and stayed in his home.

Mr. and Mrs. E. H. McDonald

Kathleen (Kat) Carter and Edker McDonald

Mr. & Mrs. Sumner had 6 children: the two boys and three of the girls had already married and moved out.  They had one daughter, Pauline, who was my age.

She later became my wife for well over 60 years.  She was like Mr. Sumner – she loved life and people.  Whenever you saw her with a group of people she usually would be in the middle of them and every one would be laughing.

After studying, budding, and evaluating a large amount of seedling pecan trees, and after years of hard work, Mr. Sumner liked one special tree in his orchard.

This one tree stood out to him not only in the size of the nut, but the taste, how they shelled out, the number it took to make a pound, the percentage of meat they hulled out, the trees resistance to diseases, most of the nuts would shell out with the halves whole instead of all cracked up, and the fact that it started bearing earlier than the other trees. All these good traits had caught his attention.

from University of Georgia

from University of Georgia

He started budding and selling this one tree. This took many years but it was not too long before every one was calling it the Sumner tree, and the name has stuck until this day. It is a shame that Mr. Sumner didn’t get the patent on the Sumner tree, but he just didn’t have the money at the time to get the patent. The Sumner pecan tree was patented by another nursery after Mr. Sumner’s death. He was in his 50s when he died.

Another person who deserves a lot of credit for the development of the Sumner pecan would be his daughter, Mrs. Roy Ford.  In a time when there was no money on the farm, Mrs. Ford worked at one of the Tifton Department stores and furnished Mr. Sumner with whatever money she had so that he could develop and sell the Sumner tree around the country, with a big part around Albany, Georgia.

It was quite a job to plant, grow, bud, dig and sell a pecan tree, and very few people in those days tried to.  Mr. Sumner had what it took to do all these things, and delivered the young trees all over the state.

Mr. Sumner also developed a grafting knife , which consisted of two 1x1x6 inch long blades, hinged together at one end. There were four blades, one on each side of each 1×1 so that when you took the hinged knife and put it around the tree the four blades cut one inch apart. You first made the cut on the young tree, then split the back from the two 1-in cuts and snapped the bark off between the two cuts around the little tree about four inch off the ground.

Budding Knife with Bark Lifter

Example of a budding knife, NOT the one Mr. Sumner developed.

This left the bark off the little tree for 1 inch. You then took the same budding knife and went around a bud on a new growth limb, which had been cut off of the original Sumner Pecan tree that morning .

Then you snapped the 1 inch piece of bark with the new bud on it off the Sumner limb and put the new bark with the bud on it around the bare place that you had prepared on the small tree then you wrapped it with a strip of cloth dipped in bee’s wax, tar, and tallow. This piece of tape was wrapped around the new bud that had been put on the little tree.

The seedling tree was allowed to grow from August until December.  During this time the little bud would come out (if every thing was right and the season was any where right).

Commercial 4-blade Budding Knife

Commercial 4-blade Budding Knife

Example of a budding knife, NOT the one Mr. Sumner developed.

If the new bud that had been put on the small tree had come out and was still living, the young tree was cut off just above the new growth from the Sumner bud.   The Sumner tree from the bud up was allowed to grow for a year and one half, and then the tree was dug up and sold.

Getting the tree dug up and ready for sale was a lot of work, for it had to be dug by hand. Most times the tap root was four foot or more down in the ground.  You were not allowed to cut any of the tap root off.  It all had to be dug up and the hole it was placed in had to be the same depth.

I believe that if Mr. Sumner was living today that I could show him where grafting works better than budding. But the thing about it was that what Mr. Sumner did worked for him.
by – Edker H. Mc Donald

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Pecans Future

April 7, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about The Farmer discovering his pecan tree hadn’t let him down like he thought, but actually had quite a few pecans on it the past year.

Those were the “Pecans Past“, but we are also working on pecans for the future!  Yep, since The Farmer was going on and on about wanting more pecans, I bought him a couple more trees for his birthday. 

The Cave Geek supplied the manual labor and dug the massive holes needed for these pecan trees. 

Hole dug for one of the pecan trees.

They each came in two huge pots, stacked on top of the other.  In other words, the roots were two pots deep.  (Thought I had a picture of them, but can’t find one anywhere… another senior moment…)

Considering the cost of a good sized pecan tree, I’d originally thought to purchase just one, but there was a problem with that.  Though we started out with two kinds of pecan trees here, there was only one left and I wasn’t sure which variety the surviving tree was.  It had to be Schley or Colby… but which?

Now pecans are wind-pollinated and can cross-pollinate with trees up to 1/4 mile away and one of our neighbor’s up the road a piece has a big pecan tree.  However, at the time I bought the new pecan trees, I didn’t know our one little pecan would bear, nor did I know what type of pecan tree the neighbor has.

Since pecan varieties do only a fair job of self pollination because some varieties shed pollen early (before female flowers are receptive) while others shed late (after female flowers are receptive), that means it’s best to have one of each kind of tree for the best pollination.

And that was the crux of the matter – were the two pecan trees of different varieties, or did they both shed pollen at the same time? 

I figured to be on the safe side, I’d better bite the bullet and buy one of each variety.  I mean, who wants to get 5 to 7 years down the road, and discover the pecan trees aren’t bearing much or at all, so they must all be the same type!??!

I bought a  Pawnee pecan tree. which is an early shedding variety.

Pecan tree - Pawnee variety.

The nuts of the Pawnee Pecan tree are large with a thin shell, somewhat elongated and shell out 52% kernel.  The pecans on a Pawnee tree mature early, sometimes around the last of September or the first of October.

Then I also bought a Sumner pecan tree, which obviously, is the late shedding variety.

Pecan tree - Summer variety.

Yes, I know that label says “SumMer”, but it’s a misprint.  There was another label on the tree:

Pecan Sumner Label

And that’s the correct one.  I doublechecked the different varieties, and there is NO SumMer variety, but there is a SumNer!

According to the nurseries, the Sumner Pecan tree can grow into an enormous tall tree that can produce hundreds of pounds of pecan nuts each year around Thanksgiving.  It’s supposed to grow quickly, and shell out 55% kernel.

The Pawnee tree hasn’t shown growth yet, but the Sumner is showing promise!

Buds on Sumner Pecan tree.

Hopefully, all three pecan trees will grow well this year!

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