The chestnut tree outside our house has been slowly dying. It once had 4 trunks, and every year when the branches would leaf out, the leaves on one trunk would abruptly turn brown. They would remain dangling on the branches unnaturally late into the year, until we got sick of staring at stunted, dead leaves, gave up and removed the trunk. The tree was the only shade on the sunny side of the house, and since there is also no insulation in the walls and single pane windows, we were perhaps overly dependent on this tree. The last remaining trunk looks like it's dying now too, but it's a bit unclear since the season is changing.
We planted this Native Sycamore right behind it. It's a little hard to see in this picture because it's so close to the chestnut which is the much bigger tree behind it. The garden book says it can grow 50-100 feet with a 40 foot span. It may be a little close to the house but we are hoping that it will eventually become a source of shade. It was put on irrigation immediately upon planting to give it as much chance as possible. It's also planted in a gopher basket, and has deer fencing around it—we've become ever more practical in our attempts to keep things alive.
The native Sycamores are more susceptible to blight, but we chose it anyways because the hybrid varieties we saw at the nursery that are more resistant to the fungus didn't look as healthy. If you are in the market for Sycamores, call around to different nurseries before you go shopping. They don't do well in pots, so they were a bit hard to come by around here.
We chose the Sycamore because they are doing well at a neighbor's house, but also because of this poem written by Popsey's real dad, the original Popsey, who died in 1965 in a tornado:
by Addison W. Ward
Of 5 things put in mind by sycamores,
I think first of the sad bald-headed man
In a pepper-and-salt tweed suit who knew the trees,
And calling them out on tree-walks in our suburb,
Discovered their myths and virtues with their names,
The sovereign words by which a child takes hold.
I was six the summer that I first got hold
of the white pied spicy word of sycamore
The age when children will incant new names.
That night I dreamt I was a flying man
And could escape the backyards of our suburb
By saying Sycamore, rise through the trees.
Abroad and serious, I found a clump of trees
That over Hopkin’s towery city hold
A hill unspoiled by a view of the brick suburbs.
Jump as the crown a tilting sycamore
Did what a simple thing will, made men
Out of Hopkins, Arnold, Glanvil, once first names.
Fourth, I am summoned as the white trees’ name
To where I lay kissed at the base of soaring trees,
Wondering what on earth could happen to a man
Who had once had such a precious thing to hold.
We made all kinds of love under a sycamore
Huge and tameless as if there were no suburbs.
Old houses stand exemplary in suburbs
With only a little ground but give proud names
To rows of tenements, so two sycamores
King and queen is in my minds’ trees.
They are lean rare candlabra and now they hold
lee high before a soft willow. Thinking man;
And now they are sea-images to a dry landsman
Who would not dare to willingly venture from his suburb,
But that seems the watery pearl fingers hold
To the winter clouds like drogues, he says their names
Familiarly like is changed to a seaman naming the coral trees
That comb the watery sea like sycamores.
It is mere wisdom sycamores should hold
My thoughts. Suburbs eat away the trees,
Years the tissues of a man, and in time his names.