Accidental Landscaping

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Surprise! We find ourselves well into December without any appreciable winter weather so far. Couple this with a mostly favorable forecast and its all the more reason to spend some bonus time in the outdoors as 2015 comes to a close. I was doing just this last weekend and was pleased to see a number of new trees that have come up from seed.

Now, I’m the first to admit that trees coming up from seed usually means trouble for the landscape. Seedling elms, maples, cottonwoods, mulberries, and of course eastern red cedars are especially troublesome in our area. However, don’t be too quick to judge every tree that comes up unplanned as a weed problem. And while we are on the subject, it’s worth noting that a weed is simply a plant out of place, regardless of species or size.

Right now, and again in the late spring is a great time to inspect your landscape carefully and see if some of these seedlings might actually fit into your existing landscape if allowed to grow. Obviously, proper identification is important as you don’t want to create a problem by allowing a problem tree to become established, and that can easily happen. Begin the identification process by looking for clues close by-what else is growing in the area? While this is not a fool proof method of ID, it’s a good start as more often than not, the parent tree will be within viewing distance of the new plant.

If you locate some trees that are possibly worth keeping, it is a good idea to mark them with a stake or wire flag as it’s easy to lose them in the spring cleaning shuffle.

This idea may seem a little bit “out there” for you, and indeed, it’s not applicable for many landscape situations. However, it is something to keep in mind as you get better acquainted with your landscape. If nothing else, it can help you to improve your identification skills. Speaking personally, my landscape is currently benefitting from two eastern redbuds and two loblolly pines that I simply allowed to grow.

All four of these trees have come up during the severe drought of the last few years and they share the common trait of having never been really cared for, I simply left them alone to fend for themselves. Once they reached a decent size, I’ve done a bit of corrective pruning (on the redbuds, the pines have not been touched) just as you would do for any landscape plant.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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