Volunteer Tree Becomes a Member of the Yard

Forsythia (left) and Birch (right) remain close friends.

Forsythia bush finishes its display of yellow blossoms for the spring season. I’m planting flowers nearby. I happen to look up then stand up startled. I’m staring at a smooth reddish-tan trunk of a tree about one and one half inches in diameter. Whaaatt? My eyes follow the trunk up past branches, past the top edge of the six foot wooden privacy fence. Finally my eyes stop at the leafy summit five feet or more above the fence. Clearly a tree. And clearly I’m not paying enough attention in my small yard to know what’s growing in it.

I’ve been surprised many times before by volunteers. Usually seeds from other cultivated plants like begonias, cannas, maple trees, honeysuckle bush (the invasive kind), and cone flower catch me off-guard in places I know I didn’t plant them or expect to see them. Weeds of course are perpetual masters of surprise.

Depending on what the plant is I remove it or transplant it if I can find a spot. Or I give it to a neighbor – minus the weeds!

Volunteer tree gets by me for several years. Forsythia grows near our privacy fence. The grey wood provides a back drop to the beauty of forsythia’s yellow flowers, one of the first spring bloomers. It gives shelter to birds and soaks up the water that runs down from neighbors’ yards after a heavy rain. And within its branches it harbors a thriving little tree.

The bark on both the bush and young tree are similar. So are their leaves. The first year I feel concern when one of the branches doesn’t bloom in yellow flowers or leaf out like the rest of the plant in spring. Maybe it’s the lead branch because it keeps growing taller than the rest of the bush? A good thought. It seems healthy, getting its leaves a little later so I don’t cut it back. I just let it grow – for several years.

This early spring, again, no flowers on the branch and there are other non-flowering branches. I should take the hint, right? It still looks healthy so I let it grow. And later in the season – surprise!

Through identification sources I think it’s a birch. But I’m not sure. Maybe from a similar tree in a nearby neighbor’s yard? From a seed or maybe an outgrowth of a root reaching into my yard? The neighbor removed his tree while clearing his property edge for a fence. I admired the tree’s smooth bark and was sad when it was cut down. Young volunteer tree could be a replacement.

Since it continues to play on my sympathy this new tree gets a pass. It isn’t too close to the house. It won’t really give us shade but that’s okay because it doesn’t change the current design of the yard. Digging up forsythia and moving it a little further away, gives them both room to grow. They thrive near each other as friends. After all, forsythia covered for baby birch. Volunteer tree is a member of our yard.


Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried


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Juli is a content writer and serious gardener. She gardens a small yard in an older suburban neighborhood. Lots of problem-solving and fun on a small property. Always something new to try!

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