When we bought this place we loved that it had a lot of mature trees. Trees give beauty and shade, fruit and firewood.
Shel Silverstein wrote a great book years ago called “The Giving Tree,” and it’s true. Trees give a lot.
In our back yard we have a gigantic fruitless mulberry tree that makes the whole back yard a more pleasant place to be when it’s hot. Without it the yard would be intolerable when it’s over 100 degrees.
Our southern facing front yard has a large Deodar Cedar but it’s off to one side and does not cover the whole area in shade, so in the front yard we planted a Raywood ash that does well in the extreme heat we have here in summer. These existing trees are all planted appropriately which means not close to the house and in such a way that when they mature they will give shade and a natural air conditioning effect.
The rest of the property also needed a few trees here and there especially on our lane and to replace dead tees we had to take out on the perimeter fence. I did some research.
I wanted trees that grew fast and that were tall and thin for our borders so as not to take up open space! What I found surprised me.
The poplar tree, also known as the Lombardy poplar, grows almost 6 feet a year in the right conditions and this was a tree that I remembered with fondness from my childhood. My grandmother had some in her yard. As a wind break and privacy screen they excel.
Photo by Getty Images/xeipe
I love how they sway in the wind and that the leaves “quake” like their cousins the aspen and cotton wood trees. It’s like they’re waving at you. Little flags in the breeze.
On the Great Plains growing up we had a huge cotton wood tree on our back property. I love the aspens you see in the mountains.
I looked around and could not find any poplar trees in any nursery. Apparently they are not very “poplar” now (sorry). They have a reputation for short lives (15 years) and for being disease-prone.
I did not give up but now I did not want to spend a lot of money for a short-lived tree that might die on me. I looked online and I found some there but those were too expensive.
Then we visited some friends who lived in the foothills near here. Lo and behold, they had some full grown poplar trees on their property. Could I have a branch or two I said? I know they can be propagated easily. Yes, they said. Have as many as you like.
So I chopped off some branches about a foot long and took them home and put them in water. I kept them in water for a few weeks and then roots started to form. After I got a good amount of roots I planted them in pots with good soil. I kept them from completely drying out all winter and, of course, they lost all their leaves.
In the spring I was happy to see that they over-wintered just fine and were now sprouting new leaves. When the weather was past frost, we dug holes and layered it with natural soil and soil conditioner (we have heavy clay soil here) and then I watered every other day.
This growth is just after a few weeks. Here’s one and it’s 3 feet tall already. I predict by fall we’re going to have a 6 foot tall tree or maybe even taller!
Next year they will take off and we’ll have pretty good size trees. Free. You can do it, too.