We have all seen that plant… that tree that everyone hates but in my mind I just have to have one… I have to plant it over there – maybe out of the way… but for some reason I just need that tree. I might hide it, might never ever talk about it, but why did I plant that tree there in the first place?
What Are Trash Trees?
Trash trees are those trees that, for one reason or another, have been given a bad name in the plant community at large. Planting them is a garden taboo and, at times, makes you feel like a villain. There is no single set of rules for what makes a tree a trash tree. Some are invasive like the common Mimosa while others are like the Bradford Pears and have weak wood. Still others, like the Mulberry, have great leaves and fruit but they make a mess. So who gets to decide which trees are trash trees and which are not? These and other trees are on most lists but each gardener also seems to have their own personal list of trees that they feel are trash trees. The point is, there is no set list of trash trees and one man's trash is another man's treasure, right? So maybe the first thing you should know is that it matters who is looking at your tree to know if they are truly trash trees or a great tree to grow.
Why Love Them?
So why, even if we have the knowledge that everyone who comes to visit our garden will at first sight think "what an ugly gaudy trash tree" do we plant the trees to start with? Simple. Every time I have seen and talked to people that have planted trash trees in their yard they are like me and plant them for the memories. Many of the older trees that have been common in times past are now no longer loved. Trees like Mimosa are no longer loved but in the past they were used in many urban gardens. These are the trees we remember in our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents gardens. We might plant the great old Oak or Maple... or we might have better memories of the Mulberry or Hackberry. Why we plant them and the memories they hold are personal to each one of us and build a memory that the plant police, who hate them, will never be able to change.
Do We Have To?
So do we have to plant them? Do we really need them in our yard? Maybe you can resist but, for myself, growing a mimosa in my yard really is not a choice I want to make at this stage in my garden life. It hates growing here, is small, and in three years just six inches tall. Why do I grow it anyway? I grown it because of fond memories of my childhood and my wife's climbing these wonderful trees full of wasps and bees with sticky flowers on my clothes. Sounds silly, right? But truth be told, your garden is an extension of you and thus you have to make the hard choices on what you will and will not plant there. If you love the plant and the memories are strong, really think about the plant and after thinking and reading, make the hard choice. This might be the plant for you or maybe you can plant another tree in its place.
What To Do Now?
So you have the tree in place. You know you want it -- you know the risks - what do you do now? Love that tree. Martin Luther said, "sin boldly". Plant it in the garden. Do not hide that tree behind that shed, in the back forty, or on the side yard out of view. Make it a focal point, make it a bold statement and let it stand out. There is a wonderful joy in having a forbidden tree planted in your yard and letting it stand out. Taking the risks and watching the tree for the signs of your tree having problems. Work it out in your own mind and watch it grow with pride.
Thank you to aking1a for the image.
About Mitch Fitzgerald
I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.