Glory's Garden

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Catalpa Tree

Catalpa tree in bloom
If you are a reader of Violet's in Bloom, my serialized, never-ending, nearing epic, romance novel, you will know Violet Bennett and her friends reside in Catalpa Valley. But did you know Catalpa Valley was named after my favorite tree? Well, now you do! I probably have told you loads about this tree before, but gosh-darn-it, it is my absolute favorite so indulge me and allow me to tell you anew all the virtues and drawbacks of this loveliest of trees.


Ooh, baby, that's tall!

This is one of four or five Catalpa trees I have on our property. It stand...oh, it must be at least six or seven Glories* high. I'll have to ask Tommy. He's much better at guessing height.
*For a complete guide to the Glory Scale visit Seeds and Weeds where you will find an astonishingly accurate chart--and possibly one invented with the help of a large quantity of vodka.
Last year's seed pod still clinging to the tree

What I love about this tree is the huge heart-shaped leaves, the string bean type seed pods it produces and its lovely orchid-like flowers with a wonderful perfume.
The seed pods are edible and were a staple of the diet of the Delaware Indians Indigenous people. I noticed these pretty trees when I first moved to Pennsylvania many moons ago. They grew wild along highways and at first I just called them string-bean trees which unknown to me was precisely what most other people called them. Aptly named, don't you think?
Pretty catalpa flower
It took some doing but I eventually found its real name and was determined to grow a few Catalpa Trees in our arboretum. I could find them in no garden center or anywhere. Oh, pooh! But I persisted and Arbor Day Foundation to the rescue! They had them and not too expensive either. Only thing was they, like most other trees sold by Arbor Day, were a foot tall and that was it!

Almost like an orchid
Well, you do what you gotta do. We bought two trees and hoped for the best. Our arboretum at that time was a field of dead looking sticks. Ah the good old days! 

So, what's not to like of this tree? It is slow to break dormancy. This means I have to wait until mid-late June for even the leaves to emerge and then the blasted this is the first to shrivel up and protest when the first tiny frost comes around. No, it has nothing of a grand autumn showing of colors. Boo-woo. It also tends to be rather spindly growing tall and lanky.

Unfortunately--or fortunately--the deer took care of that. They didn't mind that they looked like dead sticks. They knew better and they ate them down to nubs. When the trees grew back--oh, yes, they grew with a vengence after that-- they formed nice canopies, wide and multi-branched. See what some good and careful pruning will get you? 

So, that's my catalpa tree. Gotta love it!


  1. I really liked this post, Glory. Wow, I need some of those Catalpa trees. Beautiful! Closest thing we have to a string-bean tree is the flowering Caragana, which has little beans after small yellow flowers. If they are late to break dormancy, they might grow here. Seeds..... ":)

    1. As soon as they ripen, the seeds will make their way to you. Just don't tell the border patrol!

  2. That is one cool tree! But folks, in the interest of accuracy, 7 Glories tall is not er, that tall. :0)


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